My most recent excursion was spending the first three weeks of September in Ireland. Last year, I'd been invited to speak on wilderness EMS and Wilderness EMT Training at the 1995 Annual U.K. Mountain Rescue Conference. I remember, after the days' talks were over, being at the bar at Cardiff University with a beer in my hand, when I noticed some of the Irish Mountain Rescue Association contingent (Republic and Northern both) frowning and walking out. About 45 minutes later they wandered back in with big smiles on their faces. They grabbed me and a couple of other folks, from Wales as I remember, set down our beers, and forcibly marched us out the door. We walked about a mile along residential streets with virtually no explanation except for some laughter. Aha! We finally came to a pub that served Guinness.
They tell me I agreed to con some of my cronies into coming over to this fall's 1996 joint U.K./Irish Mountain Rescue Conference and giving talks again, and what's more offering WEMSI Wilderness EMT and Wilderness Command Physician courses and an instructor course as preconference workshops. And somehow, due to lots of work on the part of WEMSI staff members Sam Chewning, M.D., Owen Gormley, EMT-P, Jack Grandey, EMT-P, and Don Scelza, EMT-P, and Gerry Butler, Joe O'Gorman and many others of IMRA, the courses came off. I won't mention what the !?!@#! students did every night after the 8 AM - 10 PM class schedule as they closed down Dougherty's Pub.
And now Ireland and the UK have some WEMSI instructors, and plan to continue developing the WEMT idea there. Gerry and Joe and particularly Nora (who didn't take the course this year but essentially ran the thing) were nice enough to give the five of us presents at the conclusion of the course: pile jackets with the offical course emblem embroidered on them:
The conference committee also honored me by allowing me to give the keynote address ("Why we do mountain rescue"), followed by an official opening address by Mary Robinson, the President of Ireland. I was formally introduced to her and had a chance to chat at a reception after her opening the conference.
After the conference, Betty and I spent a week exploring Ireland; a day in Dublin, highlighted by a 2.5 hour historical tour led by a history grad student from Trinity; a visit to the Lowe Alpine Systems factory store in central Ireland; a night in Kinnitty castle ("welcoming visitors since 1209"); a visit to the Aillwee commercial cave and some hillwalking (=day-hiking/scrambling) in the Burren area of karst in County Clare; and some very fine hillwalking in County Kerry's Iveragh Peninsula and particularly in Killarney National Park -- and the weather was perfect. We used our raingear only for sitting on at lunch-time. Some advice for others from the U.S. planning walking holidays in Ireland:
1. Ireland has a marine climate -- expect rain and wind, but not much in the way of daily or seasonal variation in temperature compared to the U.S. mountains. But Gerry Butler of the Dublin-Wicklow Mountain Rescue Team emailed me to say:
> Regarding Ireland's climate. We do not have a climate
here - just
> weather (i.e., it varies a lot). I have been in a snow blizzard in
> June on the mountains in Kerry and (mild) hypothermia is not an
> uncommon complaint of injured persons in the mountains all the year
> round. I must admit never having heard of heat illness in winter
2. Don't expect to be able to follow the long-distance paths (Kerry Way, Burren Way, Wicklow Way, etc.) without a guide -- the Irish haven't discovered paint blazes for trails, and the marking is nonexistent in many places.
3. Don't expect all paths to be well-maintained -- along Torc Mountain in Killarney National Park we found the same trail in places both beautifully maintained and so overgrown we had to get on our hands and knees to get under the rhododendron.
4. Go to an outdoor store or big bookstore and get Kevin Corcoran's Kerry Walks, West of Ireland Walks, or West Cork Walks -- excellent guides (the map above is an example of his wonderful sketch maps).
5. The new Ordnance Survey maps are much better than the old ones, but we found Corcoran's sketch maps entirely adequate.
Kinnitty Castle, County Offaly (a bargain B+B at 60 pounds a night!):
Aillwee Cave and the surface of The Burren, County Clare:
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