The Blackstairs Challenge consists of a distance of 31 km with 1700 metres of ascent along the Carlow-Wexford border.
It’s one of those walking events where you can choose how much of a challenge you want it to be by simply varying your speed. A slower pace makes for a very enjoyable leisurely walk. Pushing the pace on this walk turns it into a very hard challenge to rival any serious competitive event.
Is this a walk and or is it a competitive challenge? It’s hard to say, but allow me to indulge in some subjective reasoning here. I would say that completing this event in a time under six and half hours makes this a seriously hard challenge, whereas in a time over seven hours, I would classify it as challenging walk.
Johnny’s subjective classification:
- Serious Challenge: < 6.5 hours
- Respectable Walk: > 7 hours
- Leisure day out: > 9 hours
Note that this classification is only my own humble opinion.
The walk itself doesn’t have the climbing toughness of the Maamturks Challenge or the bog drudgery of the Lug Walk, but nevertheless it’s a beautiful walk and one that can be taken at a leisurely pace or turned into a very serious challenge by doing it at speed.
The walk is organised by the Wayfarers Association who do an excellent job every year in organising what is probably the most enjoyable challenge hike in the province of Leinster.
The walk takes an average time of nine hours to complete. Though the last time that I did this hike, two years ago, I clocked in at four hours and fifty four minutes, a record for my club, bringing me in as the fastest hiker or fourth place overall after three runners.
But it’s not all about speed or who’s first, it’s a beautiful walk for its own sake. Apart from being a challenge event, this is a wonderful solitary walk that can be done at anytime when you need time alone for contemplation. Contemplative walking is a whole different ball game where focus switches from objective measurements, like distances and finish times, to subjective qualities and experiences. Which is better? In my view both have a place, like two sides of the one coin, the yin and yang if you like. It’s like the weather, you can’t appreciate the sunny calm days without experiencing the wet and stormy ones.
For 2019, the ending of the challenge has changed. I have had the great pleasure of reccing the new route with the Wayfarers Association and have included the GPS route below.
To give you an idea of the terrain, I have included my route from 2017. Please note that this includes the 2017 ending, which differs from the 2019 ending.