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Taking on the Mourne Seven Sevens Challenge

Posted on August 12, 2015 @ 11:26 AM in Walking

Organised by the Spartan Red Sox walking club taking place in August each year the Mournes Seven Sevens Challenge sees walkers climb all seven peaks in the Mourne Mountains, Co. Down that are 700m or more above sea level. A distance of 18 miles and 2,495m to climb this is no mean feat!  We caught up with John McKenna who recently completed the challenge to get a first hand account of what it takes to complete such a challenge.  

Mournes Seven Seven

*All heights are taken from the 1990 edition of the OS 1:25000 scale map. Other editions show only 6 peaks of over 700m  

Are you an avid walker?
I've been walking for years now, Mournes, Wicklow, Donegal & Belfast Hills. I've been over to Snowdon, Ben Nevis and Scallfell Pike several times as well. The Mournes though are my favourite. If it's a 6 hour hike with several peaks or just a short leisurely walk, it has the lot. It also helps that its a stunning place to be at any time of the year especially winter.

Mournes Seven Sevens

How did you prepare / did you do much training for the event?
To be honest it kind of crept up on me. I knew it was coming up but was distracted by other things. So I hadn't really been putting in the miles to be ready for it. I'd been doing a lot of cycling of late so I figured that would help.

Have you done the Mournes Seven Sevens before? What made you decide to do it?
No, I've never done it before, but this last year I've been looking for different things to try. The Sevens in terms of a walking challenge is definitely a box to be ticked if your a walker.

Mourne Seven Sevens

Did you do it alone or as part of a group?
I did the challenge with my old friend Aidan Connelly from Dublin who comes up for regular Mourne walks. It was great to have company on such a tough walk, someone to spur you on when it got tough. I have to say that everybody we met along the walk were great, all sharing the same tough experience with good craic.

What was the highest and lowest point of the challenge? (figuratively speaking!)
I'm not going to lie, I found the later half of this challenge extremely tough. The long boggy part from Meelbeg to Bencrom really drained the energy out of me. Any energy I had left for Binnian and Lamagan was gone. So from that point on I was digging deep just to complete the challenge. I had to have a few hard words with myself on a several occasions!!! The high point was just the scenery and the amazing weather. When I was exhausted I rested and took in the views, a great lift, and I suppose thats the whole point of being there.

Mourne Mountains

What was in your bag? What food/kit did you bring?
I pack light when walking. A fleece, waterproofs and a peaked hat to keep the rain from my face. Lots of water, a flask of coffee and sandwiches. My secret weapon though are a large packet of jelly beans. Guaranteed to pick you up when the energy levels are ebbing away.

How long did it take?
It took 11 hours and 45 minutes. The longest day I've ever spent walking in the Mournes.


Do you have any advice/tips for those thinking of completing the challenge next year?
Apart from getting your head seen to for doing it in the first place, good advice would be to put in the miles beforehand. LOTS!

Would you do it again?
Maybe in a few years time, but I think I'd need my arm twisted a bit.

Mourne Mountains

Now you’ve completed the Mournes Seven Sevens what’s the next challenge (or was that one enough?!)
My next challenge is a 1.5K swim at Glendalough open water festival, Wicklow in September. Something different, challenging and surrounded by mountains from a different angle, should be good!

What is your favourite summit in the Mournes?
That's a hard one. The views from each are all so different but I love Slieve Binnian, especially in winter with snow. Hot coffee & a bar of chocolate, 360 panoramic views all around, amazing!

John Mckenna

John McKenna (right) with friend and fellow walker Aidan Connelly 

John McKenna
John McKenna  Walker and lover of the outdoors

When not working or running after his kids, John walks hill, swims in the sea and rides his bike out onto the countryside. Every now and again he likes to challenge himself and do something he thinks he’s completely incapable of doing! This year this included a sprint triathlon at age 45, now on his third he is totally addicted! He lives by the motto: "Yeah, why not, what could possibly go wrong..."

13 comments have been posted in reply to this article

Posted by Dan Mulholland on August 18, 2015 @ 10:06 AM

Inspires me to get back into the Mournes, but not the seven summits challenge - yet!

Posted by Damian hamill on January 18, 2016 @ 3:34 AM

Every time i go to the mournes i love it but i only just started getting back into it . And im going to go for the 7 peaks. I just need someone to do it with.

Posted by Majella on February 3, 2016 @ 10:05 AM

Well most days I need my head seen to anyway, so I'm going for the seven this Aug. Not an avid walker but I'm going to put in the miles beforehand. Just need a walking group now to join.

Posted by Majella Quigley on February 3, 2016 @ 10:05 AM

Well most days I need my head seen to anyway, so I'm going for the seven this Aug. Not an avid walker but I'm going to put in the miles beforehand. Just need a walking group now to join.

Posted by Louise Brady on February 4, 2016 @ 6:14 AM

A group of four of us completed the sevens sevens two years ago. It rained from the moment we set of from Donard park. It never stopped the entire day. After 11hrs 35mins we enjoyed a well deserved beverage in O hares bar. However it was still one the most enjoyable days of my life and a huge feeling of achievement. I will look forward to doing it again in much better weather!!

Posted by MARIA KEE on April 23, 2016 @ 5:16 PM

I remember doing the Mourne Wall Walk nearly 30 years ago. Funny that I don't remember it being so tough!! I wonder what has changed??

Posted by Tracy on July 28, 2016 @ 2:17 PM

I'm really wanting to do the 7 peaks this year and not sure if I can convince any of my friends to join me! They aren't as crazy minded as me when it comes to climbing the mournes! But... Do I really need a map and compass? Could I not tag along with part of the group? Many thanks

Posted by Darren Caldwell on August 2, 2016 @ 11:33 PM

Did the challenge last year for first time in 8 hours 45 mins.Said i would never do it again but here i am a year later preparing for it again. I'm doing it this year to raise funds for young Zak Brennan from Belfast who is fighting a brave fight against stage 4 neurobalstoma. That will drive me on.Anyone wanting to tag along with me your more than welcome.Look me up on facebook for any advice.

Posted by WalkNI on August 4, 2016 @ 2:59 PM

Hi Tracy, event organisers Spartan Red Sox state that “Participants must have the following: hill walking boots or fell shoes; whistle; waterproof coat & hood/hat; 1:25,000 map of the Mourne Mountains; compass. Food and water are the responsibility of the individual participant. Refreshments will be available at the finishing point.”

Posted by Martyn Lyttle on August 16, 2016 @ 2:40 PM

Having completed my first seven sevens in 2015 and with no prior training other than been a keen cyclist, decided on a complete whim on my drive home from work and seeing the mountains in the distance, was tough took me 9hr 30 and legs where wrecked for days , so to make amends I've put in some miles for 2016 and achieved 8Hr 8mins, on Saturday.

Tuesday and Legs still throbbing as I type ..well worth it though.

Posted by WalkNI on August 17, 2016 @ 10:32 AM

Well done Martyn!

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Posted by David Green on January 13, 2019 @ 2:50 PM

Seven friends average age 63 ish hope to do the Seven Sevens in June 2019 and raise some funds for 'Alzheimer's Society'. Looking forward to it very much; we love the Mournes.

Great to read the above article and pick up a few tips.

Many thanks John ! D

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