Out­doors en­thu­si­ast Clare is an in­spi­ra­tion to us all

Bray People - - Bray People - Mary FOG­A­RTY

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.

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