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In 1989 the school printed a 25th anniversary annual, here is a history of the Mountaineering Club taken from the annual. Thanks to Kevin Forde for digging up the article.
It is still dark maybe four in the morning, but the two of us had been awake for at least three hours. Breakfast consisted of coffee, chocolate and fried bread. It was pretty much all we had left. Outside it was minus 15 C, but once we began to climb we removed the warm layers which had cocooned us at the start. We had climbed about 2,500 feet from the last camp towards the summit and I was down to thermal vest, a woollen jumper and a pair of pants. lt was just a steep plod up a snow face, but at 16,000 feet it was tough going. The main problem was probably the lack of caution: it tends to go out the window when you are tired. Sure we were roped together, but both of us knew that if one went the chance of the other holding on was fairly slim and it was a long way down.
It was the last climb for my Indian friend Aamir and me. After this I was heading back to Ireland, back to college. We were in Kashmir in the Indian Himalaya climbing a mountain called Kolohoi. We swore beneath breaths as we climbed and stops were frequent and short. We knew we had to keep on going because once the sun's heat softened the snow and ice, progress would be practically impossible. It was nearly dawn when we came to the section we had dreaded. It had looked small from down below, but it turned out to be about fifteen feet of sheer rock blocking our route. There was no way around it and we hadn't the right equipment to tackle it safely. We looked for all alternative route up. But we were tired; tired from the last five days of ten-hour marches; tired of four months in the mountains; and I don't know about Aamir but I was homesick and just a bit scared. We both knew it was plain sailing if we got past the rock barrier. Was it worth the risk? We stood there and decided it in the usual manner. Two thumbs up meant we went on, one or both thumbs down meant we quit. Both thumbs went down and so did we as quickly as we could. Neither of us regretted it. We'd both done a lot of silly things up to this, but when it doesn't feel right, you don't push it.
It was a far cry from those mad days climbing with Spioraid Naoimh. So many times since I've come back people have said that climbing with C.S.N. must be boring after two expeditions to the Himalaya. Far from it! Different certainly, but both enjoyable and for the same reasons. Someone said once that there are two reasons why people climb; firstly for the challenge, and secondly for the companionship. I used to thank I did it for both reasons, but now I think the challenge isn't worth it without someone to share it with. At least with C.S.N., there were always guys to share the jokes and the laughs, the bad moods with all your clothes saturated and your hands and feet numb and good conversation with three or four miles of bog between you and the bus. The Mountaineering Club was always the club to join. Besides the fact that it was unusual, it also gave you the opportunity to wear those big climbing boots and to listen to Bob Dylan and Neil Young without people mocking you for it. Barry Keane's more rabelaisian ditties were avidly learned by successive generations of budding mountaineers.
Besides the mandatory climbing clothes and packed lunch one soon found out that grandfather shirts and waistcoats were a must. Mountaineering trendies were soon in full bloom and though not ready for Vogue, they were greatly admired by the younger students especially when full mountaineering rig was worn at school discos. Of course anyone who could hold his pint was held in great esteem as we got older and if anyone sprouted any bit of hair on his face it automatically meant a place on the committee. (A good stubble Could mean a Place as secretary or chairman, although this tradition has been broken in the Jubilee Year with the election of Alan Power as a clean-cut chairman). In my time it was Paul McCarthy who was our hero. He was probably the most envied of all the climbers and on some weekends away, one might catch the glimpse of a razor sticking out of his rucksack.
I must have been climbing for four years before I actually came across the sun. Four years of plodding through mist and rain, never knowing where we were going: indeed there was often a deep suspicion that the leaders didn't know either and I can still picture Johnny Sheehan and Barry Keane and a host of other hairy leaders huddled over their maps and compasses, anoxiously debating the next course to take. It dawned on us eventually why all mountain leaders wore beards - it made it harder to see the worried looks on their faces! And then, one magical day the sun did shine and we saw for the first time some of the lunatic ridges that we had crossed in blissful ignorance or the dramatic depths beneath our feet. From then on our luck seemed to change and we had many a glorious day ambling along the 'tops' in glorious sunshine. The problem with that kind of weather is that you have no stories to tell to cap the adventures that the leaders would relate of early days in the club. My story of having to keep a hold of young Diarmaid O'Leary because his rucksack was being turned into a hang glider by strong winds would quickly be surpassed by tales of high drama on the Reeks in winter, hair-raising moments in gullies from the Galtees to Brandon not to mention encounters with love-lorn puck goats.
The older the leader the more dramatic his story seemed to be! One wondered whether the stories were embellished to impress us or whether things were indeed wilder when 'Shakey' was young and Doc was still on the rum! I suspect the latter to be the case. Jack Walsh's Climber's Inn in Glencar was always the place to go for weekends.No annuals of C.S.N. mountaineering would be complete without mention of his famous hostel with its superb pictures of Jack's Alpine exploits. Rules were few and far between; "Just leave everything as you find it" Jack would growl and that was an easy enough task as Jack does not believe improvising too many home comforts.
The greatest feature of the club has always been the fact that a core of loyal past pupils have always been available to lead on the climbs. As well as their climbing ability these characters with their vast worldly experiences could be counted on to give advice on the weighty problems which troubled the adolescent mind. There was "Uncle" Don Bowen who always had to be dragged out of bed at the last minute but who never actually missed a climb when he was in town. "Big Joe" Dunlea was always in front with compass in hand and no one ever went the wrong way when he was in charge. He always came on climbs with "Tiny Terry" O'Connor, our most dedicated tail-ender. Paul "Romeo" Dennehy only came on climbs so that he could have a chat with Deccy O'Brien about engines and gear boxes. Johnny Sheehan has sadly left us for foreign fields but he returns now and again to remind us now he got his reputation as 'the artist with an ice-axe' and his recently acquired nickname 'the bloodhound! What more could we ask of a guy whose ambition in life is to grow fish? 'Father' Ray Burke occasionally appeared to lecture us on our nocturnal excesses. Rumour has it that he played a major part in the reformation of 'the boss' for which evil deed he will never be forgiven. A host of other names float down on the mists of anecdote, Liam and Eamonn Begley, John Lynch, Donal Halloran the Lemasneys, the O'Donoghues (employment in whose garage gave many a mountaineer the means to go on an expedition) Tony and Paul Heneberry, Peter Buckley, Mickey 'Hotlips' Hurley, Dinny Barry Murphy, "The Kennefick Bitterness", John Lyall (and Ann), all the Marrons, Mick Philpott, Anthony Sullivan, Peter Atkinson, Mark "Hot Water bottler" Lohan, Richard "Chef" Murphy, Peter Buckley, Don "PE" Buckley, John ''The Fonz" Desmond, Rory McCarthy (Specialist in upside-down abseiling), Eamonn (I've a bad knee but i'll go for the crack) Hughes, Con "Old MacDonald" Sullivan, Conor "Jump" O'Donovan, and many others who will never forgive me for not mentioning them, but early club records are a bit vague for reasons which we can only guess at ! Staff members were always present on climbs. The most famous in club annals is of course Kieran "Shakey" O'Mahony, whose exploits from Africa to Alaska have gone down in C.S.N. history. The ever- friendly Eamonn Young, who even formed a nodding acquaintance with the rocks on Galteemore was often on hand to organise platoons before he took of up the hill like a tank in overdrive.
Paddy Meehan has been a stalwart on many a climb. Ever a resourceful man, Paddy has used his time on the mountains to ensure that the school cameras never become obsolete. Indeed virtually every member of the staff has turned out on more than one occasion. Paddy Sullivan holds the record for the fastest time on the Reeks Walk as well as the record for being the only man to do the Walk in tracksuit and wellington boots while carrying his lunch in a Roches Stores bag. Goretti Keane holds the record for being the only woman to cross the Beenkeragh Ridge with a sausage dog, while Br. DeSales is the only man to have done the same ridge in golf shoes!
Of course, Tony 'Doc' Doherty the club's founder, has always been the 'boss' and strict discipline is the norm - on the hills at any rate and when his sleep is interrupted. He's seen C.S.N. Mountaineering Club through those youthfully unruly days to its present status. I'd make a guess that he's never missed a climb, tho' not through lack of trying. He's brightened up many a dull school day with that familiar, stomach- tightening, announcement on the school P.A. "Would those members of the Mouniaalneering Club who are interested in a climb next weekend, please meet me in the Geography Room at four o'clock". We are very proud of our reputation of being the first School Mountaineering Club in the country. We are proud of the fact that C.S.N. Mountaineers went on to found the U.C.C. Mountaineering Club, The Cork R.T.C. Mountneering Club (now known as C.I.T) and The Thomand College Mountaineering Club (now known as U.L). We are proud to have had many successful expeditions at home and abroad and hopefully in the future one further afield......that's if the boss every gets around to it.
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