Outdoors enthusiast Clare is an inspiration to us all
CLARE POWER has achieved what most of us can only dream of, having made the challenging climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro, at the age of 65 - reportedly the oldest Irish person to reach the top of the African mountain!
Clare, well known as the owner of the Clare Elizabeth Creche on Sidmonton Road, undertook the task to raise money for Barnacoyle ABA school for autistic children. Clare paid all the expenses of the trip herself so any money raised goes directly to the school.
‘I thought it would be six days of walking and two days of challenge, but it turned out to be eight days of a challenge,’ remarked the keen walker, who spends her weekends roaming the Wicklow hills with the ‘Knockadosan Dozen’ walking group.
When her husband Eric passed away two years ago, Clare found that her weekends were empty and she needed a new interest to fill that gap in her life, so she joined the walking club and has been a member ever since.
She began timidly enough with Bray Head, never thinking that she would be able to scale one of the highest peaks in the world before two years had passed.
‘The Wicklow Mountains are very good basic training,’ she said. ‘And the group is wonderful, they tick all the boxes. They are fine company and the club is composed of males and females of all ages. The craic is always great when we are out walking.’
Clare has a mobile home in Glenmalure and bases herself there, at the heart of the mountains, when she has a weekend of refreshing walks ahead.
Her children Niamh, Cormac, Ciaran and Brid are very much behind her, as well as her four grandchildren and all of the families who’s children attend the creche.
‘I was always fond of walking, but didn’t do the big hills,’ she said. ‘It turned out to be a logical move.’
Although she said that she does not expect to go for any higher mountains than the African giant, Clare has so far tackled Ben Nevis in Scotland, Snowdon in Wales some of the Andoran peaks, and a number of Irish mountains too.
‘It was a wonderful experience and quite a challenge,’ she said, adding that she and a group of strangers also taking part in the hike had camped for the duration of the journey in extremely cold conditions.
She said that the climb requires an enormous amount of will power as the high altitude can have a tough effect on the system.
‘There were nine of us in the group and we were all affected by it in different ways,’ she remarked.
High altitude can have a number of adverse effects on the body, including sickness, headaches, wobbly knees and the heart pounding when not actually exerting one’s-self that much.
Clare, who swims every morning and is very active in her work with children, said that such a challenge requires a certain level of fitness to complete.
‘It was freezing at night,’ she said. ‘I didn’t know the people at first but we became great friends after doing the climb together.’
Clare said that the approach to the summit, which was started at 12 midnight on the last night and finished at 9 a.m., was daunting. ‘Everyone in front had headlights on and they mingled with the stars, but you knew looking up that some of the stars were actually people who had reached the top.’
She said that the challenge was as much psychological as physical in the end, as you had to keep yourself going as much in your mind as in your body.
‘The first G&T and shower were brilliant afterwards, and sleeping in a bed seemed like sheer luxury! We had to sleep in our clothes and woolly hats up there and it was still very cold,’ said Clare, who spent three days relaxing in Zanzibar afterwards with the rest of the group.
Clare puts her love of the outdoors and determination to complete what is ahead of her down to her mother, Aine Aherne, who is 95 years old and still walks every day.
‘Her motto is “one step at a time” in life,’ said Clare. ‘That’s how I got up to the hard bit of the walk.’ She explained that her inspirational mum, who has lived in Bray now for 30 years now, walks from the Dargle to the Holy Redeemer every day, does her shopping, walks the promenade and even does a bit of gardening.
‘You need to keep fit to do it,’ she said. ‘And pay a little extra attention to your diet.
‘After that it’s all willpower - you have to want to do it.’
Clare, seen here on top of Kilimanjaro is a keen walker who spends lots of time hiking in the Wicklow Hills.
Clare ponders which direction is home during her Kilimanjaro expedition.