A Galway man is undertaking a 350 mile trek along the Arctic Circle while pulling a 20 kilo sled for eight days in temperatures plummeting to -25°C.
Described as the coldest, windiest ultra marathon on the planet, at times along the route the wind is so severe that lorries are regularly blown over and any human battling the elements could quite literally be forced to crawl.
But for Gavan Hennigan, a native of Knocknacarra, the race may seem like a walk in the park.
As a commercial diver in the North Sea, he spends much of the year underwater, sharing a room the size of a large bathroom with three other divers.
On his downtime, he likes to relax by engaging in some form of extreme sports, be it off piste snowboarding in the Antarctic and Alaska, trekking and trail running on Mount Blanc and surfing where the waves are higher than skyscrapers. He is part owner of the Irish Surf clothing company Emerald Surfwear.
“Whatever hardships I go through in the baron wilds of the Arctic, it isn’t anything compared to the suffering of cancer patients and their families,” remarks Gavan on his fundraising page. So far he has secured donations of €2,873, which he will hand over to Cancer Care West.
To prepare for the 350 mile or 563km trek from Eagle Plains, Yukon, in the wilds of Canada, to the banks of the Arctic Ocean at Tuktoyaktuk on March 20, he decided to put in a spot of training along the west coast.
He trekked from Galway along the Wild Atlantic Way to Westport and then onto Achill via the Great Western Greenway. His walk in January spanned 230km, taking him 67 hours to complete, which he did in sub-zero temperatures and snow. By night he camped out in an old church ruin and atop Croagh Patrick.
For the race called the 6633 Ultra, the rules state he must be self sufficient, carrying all food, cooking equipment, shelter and survival gear in a 20kg sled.
“A true Arctic experience – this race really does enter the Arctic Circle and can quite genuinely claim to be the toughest, coldest and windiest extreme ultra marathon on the planet,” according to the organisers.
“This race is only for big boys and girls – unless you’re mad!!!!”
Checkpoints will be spaced along the route at between 23 and 70 miles apart, where racers will be able to rest and prepare their own food. Hot water and shelter are the only things guaranteed at the checkpoints.
Race organisers promise “the most awesome views of the most stunning, remote and inhospitable landscape our planet has to offer”.
But they leave participants in no doubt that the challenge is not for the faint hearted. There have been just 11 finishers of the 350 mile race in 7 years.
“It will without doubt test your mental strength to levels you never knew you had. “
Entry costs £2,850.
Gavan was uncontactable this week as he embarked on yet another training session – this time a jaunt across across the French slopes.
Donations can be made to his fundraising page
Water outages across Knocknacarra and Barna due to burst watermain
Galway Bay fm newsroom – There are water outages across Knocknacarra and Barna this morning due to a burst watermain
The burst is in a rising main from Clifton Hill in Galway City to Tonabrucky Reservoir
The city council and Irish Water says while every effort is being made to maintain supply to as many customers as possible, the burst has caused water levels in Tonabrucky Reservoir to deplete
Houses and businesses in Knocknacarra, Barna and surrounding areas will experience low pressure and outages.
Dedicated water service crews have mobilised and repairs are underway and are expected to be completed by mid-afternoon.
Traffic management will be in place and Letteragh Road will be closed between Sliabh Rua and Tonabrucky Cross until 6pm.
Householders and businessses are being asked to conserve water where possible to reduce the pressure on local supplies and allow reservoir levels to restore.
Woman sustains serious injuries after being struck by firework in Eyre Square
Gardaí are appealing for witnesses after a young woman was struck in the face by a firework in Eyre Square in the city overnight.
It happened shortly after midnight and gardai say it’s understood the firework had been launched from close to the Tourist Information Kiosk.
The young woman suffered serious injuries and was hospitalised as a result.
Gardaí understand there was a large group of people in Eyre Square at the time and are now asking that any person who may have witnessed the incident make contact with the investigating team.
In particular Gardaí are appealing to anyone who may have video footage of the incident, either on mobile phone, CCTV or dash-cam to make contact with them.
This incident comes just days after a policing committee meeting was told of increasing concern about anti social behaviour around Eyre Square.
Garda chief suggests closing Eyre Square to curb anti-social behaviour
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Closing Eyre Square at night-time was among the radical suggestions put forward by Galway’s top Garda this week – in response to claims that the city centre’s famous landmark had become a ‘no-go area’ after dark.
It comes as Gardaí confirmed that since January they issued almost 500 fines for breaches of the city’s alcohol bylaws, which prohibit the consumption of alcohol in public spaces.
Responding to claims that people were afraid to visit parts of the city centre at night due to anti-social behaviour, Chief Superintendent Tom Curley said that the authorities might have to look at closing Eyre Square at certain times.
Chief Supt Curley also said that improved lighting and better CCTV were other tools that could be used to deter anti-social behaviour and to detect crime in the city centre.
“I’d need another five officers in there – and I haven’t got them,” said Chief Supt Curley of the requirement for more Gardaí on patrol in Eyre Square.
He was responding to a charge by former mayor of Galway, Councillor Frank Fahy, who said Eyre Square was dangerous at night. “It’s a no-go area,” he said at a City Joint Policing Committee (JPC) meeting this week.
Cllr Fahy said that the illegal activity and anti-social behaviour in the city centre was a product of the Covid-19 pandemic and people socialising outdoors. Eyre Square was safe pre-Covid, he said.
In a written reply to the JPC, Chief Supt Curley said that anti-social behaviour issues had been ‘de-escalated’ along the city’s canals, Woodquay and Spanish Arch ‘as a result of extra Garda patrols’.
“The resulting consequences have led to crowd movement from these areas (and they) are now congregating at Eyre Square. Garda attention is concentrated on Eyre Square, however the return of students and the continued restrictions has led to increased numbers,” he said.
(Photo: a scene from Eyre Square at night this week taken from a video circulated on social media)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.