Father and son duo Shae and Andy Maguire conquer all 36 of Ulster’s mountains

Derry father and son duo Andrew and Shae Maguire have been to the very top in Ulster - quite literally!

Friday, 9th July 2021, 11:58 am
Shae with the wreckage of a Sunderland Bomber from World War Two on the slopes of Croaghmore.

Over the past two and a half years they have climbed every single mountain on the Vandeleur-Lynams in the province. That’s 36 peaks, all over 600 metres, in total.

Andy explains that the idea for their epic mountain-climbing journey came to them in November 2018 when they were looking up at their home peak of Sawel from their house in Claudy.

“We took the notion that we would hike Sawel Mountain in the Sperrins. This came about partly due to boredom, but we were fascinated with a dominating peak that we could see from our home,” says Andy.

Shae inside a stone ‘igloo’ on Muckish.

Despite being aged only eight-and-a-half at the time young Shae, who attends St. Eugene’s Primary School in the city, battled through the cold and the wet to reach the top and take in the beautiful views with his father.

Standing 678m tall between Park and Cranagh, Sawel is the highest point in both counties Derry and Tyrone. From the summit Shae and Andy could clearly see all the other mountain ranges of Ulster Filled with an immense sense of achievement they decided to tackle Errigal in the Derryveagh mountain range in north west Donegal two months later.

Once they had conquered Errigal there was no stopping the Maguires.

“With two peaks in the bag we decided to research how many mountains there were in Ulster,” says Andy. “We established that there are, in fact, 36 officially recognised mountains in the province that are 600m or above (known as Vandeleur-Lynams).”

They set about the long and arduous task of ‘bagging’ all 36 Ulster peaks, which took them approximately 26 months to complete.

From Down to Donegal, from Muckish to Meenagh, they battled through all the elements to reach their goal.

Andy remarks: “Some of the most memorable hikes were in Donegal, with the Bluestacks providing some of the most challenging terrain. When we were hiking Croaghgorm [the tallest peak in the Bluestacks which rises to 674ms in remote south west Donegal] we came across the wreckage of a Sunderland Bomber from World War Two.

“The wildlife was also interesting. We saw deer, birds of prey, dragonfly, and even a lizard - although we originally thought it was a snake!”

During their adventures, they covered 195kms, climbed in excess of 42,000 feet, went through six pairs of boots and consumed a few tins of beans!

“The plan is to hike every peak in Ireland of which there are 273, with Connacht the next province on the list,” says Andy.