It’s Sunday morning at 7am, and a few hardy souls are stamping their cold feet and looking out over a leaden coloured lake in East Clare. It’s the morning of SportsTech Ireland’s first Network Hike, and the organisers (that’s us:) are going through their checklists one last time. Would everyone find the rendezvous? Was 7am too early? We’d soon find out!

By around five past 7, the gang assembled. A super mix of founders, leaders, coaches, innovators, athletes, and educators from the Midwest region, with plenty of introductions to be made and stories to share.

Our hike leader made some brief introductions. Mike Jones, a professional adventurer, and mountain guide is often to be found far-flung; climbing Kilimanjaro, trekking in the Himalayas, kayaking crazy waterfalls or traversing glaciers. Today we were attempting something tamer – the highest peak in Clare, Moylussa. Mike, the CEO of Ireland’s Association of Adventure Tourism, had prepared some icebreaker cards and questions to help people get to know each other. But as he noted fairly quickly, everyone was far to busy laughing and chatting to have time for that!

Moylussa is about 1,745 feet high, and its situated between Killaloe and Tuamgraney. It’s to the West of Lough Derg and the River Shannon. The climb offers up some fantastic views, on a clear day. We took off at a brisk pace, with the aim of getting up and down in under two and a half hours. It’s about a 12K round trip – from the bottom car park at Twomilegate.

On the way up we chatted to Paul Dillon about the formation of Nexus, the co-working space in UL, where a number of startups in the region had found their first home. Indeed, it was where the founders of SportsTech Ireland first came together. We also chatted to Rebecca Walsh, who after a decade with Analog, most recently heading up Global Workforce Planning and Mobility, had decided to step out as an entrepreneur and founder with her own business.

We chatted to Ross Redmond from Northern Trust about how automation and robotics are turbocharging workflows, whilst simultaneously driving career engagement for key staff. Topics that flowed as we walked included entrepreneurship, parenthood, corporate wellness, work-life balance, innovation, and change. Then the steep bits happened, and some of us saved our breath for a bit. Others, like George Kennedy, Snr Partner at HOMS solicitors, seems to have no problem chatting through it! But then as a cross-fit fanatic, he has somewhat of an advantage. Carl Widger, Director of Metis Ireland took the biscuit when he volunteered to go back down for a late arrival and to run back up to meet us. Which they did, in no time, flat. Fair play!

The steepest shale paths soon took us into the open moorlands. Originally, this followed a bog road, but Coillte had laid the shale, for the likes of hikers like ourselves. Later a wooden track, with studded grips appeared like magic to guide us to the summit, saving us from having to wade through the sticky bog. We made it to the top in less than 80 minutes, including one short stop to greet our runners and admire the stunning views of Killaloe and the lakes. The top was shrouded in mist, the smell of boglands, peat and rain wrapped around us as we huddled at the marker for one quick group photo. Still, we were all smiles to have made it to the top, and we stopped a quick (and blurry!) selfie.

We took no time in turning around and beginning our descent – because hot breakfast snacks and teas and coffees were waiting for us at basecamp, from Killaloe’s Wood and Bell Café and Restaurant. We sped down in well under an hour, and groups broke up into different bunches, swapping stories and chatting. Suggestions flew for other hiking routes, or different activities that could take place next time – and lots of people found themselves swapping contacts to continue conversations into the future.

Our guide Mike Jones (CEO of IAAT) munching a well-deserved breakfast, with Ross Redmond of Northern Trust.

On the way down, the sun broke through the clouds and lit up the lakes below, with the bridge in Killaloe a familiar slight between the Clare hills. The sunlight bounced off everything, and on the way down, the green forest glowed.

By half nine we were back at ‘basecamp’, getting stuck into egg and avo rolls, and hot coffee. Fitbit and Apple Watch stats we compared. The sun came out once more, turning skies and waters a multitude of blues. The morning was just getting started, and the first of the day’s more relaxed hikers began to arrive.

And then it was time to bid our farewells, Some of us headed home to pyjama-clad sleepy heads, some of us were heading to our respective offices. Some were heading for the coast, but we all agreed that the few hours were well spent; a super stretch for the legs, with great company  –  and a chance to learn and grow. Thanks to all who made it on the day, your insight, effort, and support was very much appreciated. 

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