News 2014

Autumn Gathering 2014
Title: Mountaineering Ireland Autumn Gathering 2014 (inc. Members' Forum report)
Date: 22/10/2014
System Date: 22/10/2014

Autumn Gathering 2014

The 2014 Mountaineering Ireland Autumn Gathering was hosted by the Spartan Red Sox at Tollymore National Outdoor Centre in the Mourne Mountains from Friday, 17 to Sunday, 19 October 2014.

Spartan Red Sox's Nigel Whiteside and David Flinn welcomed everyone on Friday night with a photographic journey through the Mournes, Antrim Hills and the Sperrins. With spirits lifted and the rain pushing off, everyone got into action on Saturday taking to the mountains and participating in workshops. With youth being a focus of this years Autumn Gathering, amongst other things, Mountaineering Ireland hosted the Scout's Mountain Pursuit Challenge, which included two nights camping and navigation in the Mournes and it culminated in a fun climbing comp at the Hotrock Climbing Wall.

The Members' Forum took place on Sunday morning and items discussed included:
  • Helping the Hills, in particular Slieve League, concerns regarding inappropriate developments at Cuilcagh and a call for members to contribute to the Upland Path Survey
  • access in the Antrim Hills, Ulster Way and progress towards an indemnity scheme for landowners as part of the Comhairle na Tuaithe (Countryside Council) Mountain Access project; 
  • fencing in the uplands and concerns expressed regarding Department of Agriculture officials misdirecting landowners that fencing is a requirement when the Minister for Agriculture has clearly stated it is not; and, 
  • 2015 Mountaineering Ireland Meets and Gatherings - Scottish Winter Meet (08 - 15 February 2015); Spring Gathering (07 - 09 March 2015); Summer Alpine Meet (Saas Grund, 05- 19 July 2015) and Autumn Gathering (17 - 19 October 2015).  
Mountaineering Ireland would like to thank all those that helped organise and supported the Gathering, especially the Spartan Red Sox, Dr. Peter Wilson, the staff of Tollymore National Outdoor Centre, Tory Bush cottages, Scouting Ireland, the Talent Development Squad coaches and everyone else who helped out.

If your club would like to host a Mountaineering Ireland Gathering or a winter lecture, please, email us at

A little bit about the Spartan Red Sox

Back in 1989 a group of friends, late teens- early twenties, decided to go to the hills. They had little experience, not much gear but bags of enthusiasm.  A couple of second hand Mini Minors carried them to their adventurous weekend trips to the mountain ranges of the North of Ireland and as their numbers grew they roamed further afield to explore the mountains of Wicklow and the numerous ranges of the western seaboard.
A small basic cottage in the Mourne Mountains near Annalong became the main base for trips to the home range and it was here in 1981 that it was decided to become a proper club. Various names were bandied about but it was a comment about the string of wet red socks hanging up in front of the fire and associated comments about the Boston Red Sox baseball team which produced Red Sox. As they had aspirations to big hill days the idea of tough Spartans came to mind, and so the whole lot was stuck together to give them what they thought of as a very trendy name - The Spartan Red Sox walking club. 

The club continued to grow through the Eighties and members went on courses to the then Tollymore Mountain Centre to improve their mountain skills, especially the techniques of navigation in adverse conditions as their early adventures had exposed their lack of knowledge in this department.

Other social activities, included ball room dancing for a while (they were well ahead of the times, or is that strictly true?) and raft building for local raft races, the highlight of which was winning the prestigious Portrush raft race. Another activity which was proving very popular was romance and marriages and the club is responsible for bringing many couples together.

As the club matured, groups of members set off for more exotic destinations but the annual trip to the west coast during July still remains popular. For many years they had a winter trip to Scotland for the New Year. The club started organizing an annual challenge walk in the Mourne Mountains in 1992. The Seven Sevens has been attracting walkers from near and far ever since, offering them an opportunity of a big day out in the hills in the company of like-minded souls.

The age profile of the club has moved along with the members and club activities have adjusted to suit. There are walks most weekends for all levels of ability and plenty of trips away. There are also popular mid-week walks, as the club now includes plenty of energetic retired members; as keen as those teenagers thirty five years ago to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Long may it continue.