Maamturks Challenge

Leenane Hill

The Maamturks Challenge is an annual linear hiking event organised by NUI Galway Mountaineering Club. The route is a tough 25 km hike with 2300 metres of ascent that traverses the Maamturks Mountain range in Connemara.

The official event is held in the Spring of every year, with those participants who successfully complete the course, by reaching specified control points within the given cut-off times, receiving a certificate of completion. It should be noted that not everyone who attempts the challenge will actually complete it. The traverse is also attempted outside the official event by groups organising their own logistics, but still attempting to hit the same control points.

The distance and ascent may seem less daunting until you consider the terrain and elevation. It’s not a gradual climb on a waymarked trail, but rather it’s a very hard slog over rough open mountain. It consists of a series of steep energy-sapping climbs followed by steep descents. Then there is the difficulty of the navigation in very unpredictable weather.

According to Mountain Views, a respected Irish mountaineering website, it is the second toughest challenge in the country1. An article in the Irish Times newspaper reported it was harder than climbing Kilimanjaro2. In hillwalking circles it is spoken about with great respect.

The unrelenting steep climbs and descents are what characterises this hike and garners so much respect for it. Even the names of the locations can conjure up ominous visions of what awaits. One such name is “the col of despondency” which might have been taken out of some puritanical book such as “Pilgrim’s Progress” as a gauge of how you feel at this point. At this point the fatigue from the day’s unending ups and downs and the rather uninviting view to the next seemingly insurmountable climb towards Leenane Hill will lead a strong feeling of despondency. Here you will see people panting, falling, and crawling – in fact anything to get themselves up that last pull. Should you consider quitting at this point, well the available options are pretty unattractive also. 

The following points (with Irish Grid Coordinates) must be hit in the following complete the challenge:

OrderNameIrish Grid Ref
1Start L 964 497 (GPS N53.489,W9.560
2Corcog summit L 953 492
3Mam EanL 904 504
4Binn Idir an Da logL 888 528
5Loch Mham OchoigeL 879 536
7Binn BhriocainL 855 551
8Binn BhanL 856 568
9Leenane hillL 861 598
10Finish L 909 554

Eventually, having made it to the finish, you will cast your weary eyes on the quaint village of Leenane, where you can relax in the satisfaction of having completed the second toughest hiking event in the country.

Experienced hikers tend to take between ten and twelve hours to complete the traverse. The walk is already challenging enough in itself, but when you add speed to the equation you bring a new dimension of suffering. Most participants are happy to complete the challenge within the standard cut-off time, but there is a small cohort not content on just finishing, but want to push the limits of human endurance and stamina by adding the extra burden of a time constraint.

The challenge starts at a non-descript pull-in on the side of the R336 road about four kilometres from Maam Cross, at the Irish Grid Reference: L 964 497 or GPS coordinates N53.488 W9.559.

A route of the challenge can be viewed from the following View Ranger site. A GPX of the route can also be exported and imported into the GPS device of your choice.

A GPX of the route can be viewed and download from View Ranger.


1 The Toughest. (2020, Quarterly May). The Summit. Retrieved from

2 According to this trip report,

How Many Calories Does Hiking Burn?

Hiking is a great way to lose weight and keep that weight off. It’s great fun, has a lower impact than running and can burn just as many calories under the right conditions. How many calories you burn depends on a number of factors.

The factors include: 

  • your weight; 
  • the weight of your backpack;
  • amount of climbing;
  • the type of terrain; 
  • the distance walked; and
  • the time taken to walk that distance. 

These are lot of factors to consider, so I’ve created the following fun calculator to give a general estimate of the amount of calories burnt while indulging in your favorite pursuit. 

The calculator gives the amount of net calories burnt.

Click here for the hiking calorie calculator.

I also use this calculator to plan the amount of food that I will need to carry for a multi-day hike. 

In a future article I will discuss my food choices for a multi-day hike to optimize the most amount of calories for the least amount of weight. 

Welcome to my new blog

Over the last few years, people have suggested that I should start some kind of a blog to document my travels and life musings. I have never thought that my life was in any way extraordinary or that anyone would be in the least bit interested in what I have to say. After some reflection, I guess I have had a few adventures and for some reason people find my musings on life, the universe and everything, slightly interesting or at least entertaining. Setting up this blog may be an indulgence in allowing me to talk about what I’m passionate about. It is certainly are welcomed outlet for talking about hiking when I’m away from the trail. For me, hiking, walking, sauntering, rambling or whatever you want to call it, is not just some recreational activity, it has much greater significance. It is a metaphor for life itself.

If what I have to say is of any interest, I credited that to my fellow hikers and non-hikers alike with perhaps a little blending of my own mix of philosophical thought.

The Name of The Blog

With all the best and most memorable domains name already taken, especially under the “.com” top-level domain name, trying to find a catchy name is no easy task.

Eventually, after hearing the Chuck Berry oldie, “Go Johnny Go”, I opted for the name “Walk Johnny Walk”, as it seemed to fit my passion.