Tenna Gates

I instantly fell in love with mountains. From hiking in the Wicklow hills to hiking the stunning, beautiful, craggy Carrauntoohil, my love affair with hiking and trekking brought me to meet new people and see new parts of the country that I would never have found myself visiting before. Being at one with the wildness of the planet was like a workout for the soul. I have never been able to lose the magic of seeing those spectacular views and being moved and refreshed and re-energised.

With the help and guidance of Pat and Tony Nation, and Ronan Friel from Wicklow Mountain Rescue, and Rosaleen from the Hope Foundation, the mighty Mike O’Shea and mountain goat, Con Moriarity, I hopped all over those mountains and began to try some rope work and climb a few rocks along the way.

Pat was right, I decided I was able to do Everest Base Camp, and while my brain was convinced, my body just had to follow. While I was in the Himalaya, I also climbed a Island Peak, which is 20,305ft high in the sky. Standing on the tiny summit watching the birds fly below, I knew I was invincible, the way a teenager knows they’re invincible, but better—because I appreciated it so much more!

Other big mountains followed. I climbed Elbrus in Russia, Kilimanjaro in Africa, Grand Paradiso in the Alps, and Mount Elgon in Uganda, where I also cycled 200 kilometres and kayaked down a white-water rapid in the Nile. I joined a kayak club, got my Level 2 kayaking cert, bought a couple of kayaks and went kayaking across Ireland’s lakes and rivers. This went rather nicely with my next adventure— long-distance swimming. In the past couple of years I’ve completed Dublin’s Liffey swim, Cork’s Lee swim, and a couple of very exciting ‘island’ sea swims around Ireland.

Then my 50th birthday finally caught up with me. I celebrated by buying a bike and some new running shoes and competing in 10 triathlons in one year. Like my adventure on the mountains, the sport of triathlon embraced me and introduced me to a whole new range of people and outlooks. It also introduced me, once again, to beautiful towns and villages across Ireland that I would never have known about if I hadn’t ‘got out there’ and got active and alive.

This year, my weight is threatening me again. A couple of months of probably working too hard, a change of routine and a lack of activity and it’s jumped straight out of my past to risk smothering me again. But this time I can see it coming. With the help of mountains and wild Irish countryside, I previously lost ten stone in a year, and I know I can tackle this sleeping dragon. It’s a bit annoying to find myself at this spot again and I’m finally realising that, for me, and perhaps many others like me, battling my weight is probably going to be a lifetime affair. But when I think of all the joy and adventure I’ve had along the way, I look forward to the challenge.

Losing weight and being fit and active isn’t doesn’t have to be just a chore; it’s an adventure, a new way of life, and an opportunity to make friends and enjoy new experiences. I know what I have to do—do what I can and then do a little bit more. Put one foot in front of the other and watch those fifties fly!

I am really looking forward to seeing all the mischief and fun I can get up to during this next decade. I’ve just bought a new pair of running shoes and, hey—Pat Falvey’s invited me down to the Mountain Lodge in Kerry…

Follow my ‘flying fifties’ adventures on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or on my website: www.teenagates.com 

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