What It’s Like To Go On A Sionnach Adventure

The Spring is awakening in Europe and many Scout Groups are returning outside for their weekly activities. It is also the start of the new hiking season in many countries in our Region. And in Ireland it is the period when many Scouts review their camping material and hiking equipment: it’s time to get ready for the Sionnach Adventure! Read the story from Jack, a young Scout from Dublin, to find out what a Sionnach Adventure is and why you should not miss this experience.
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I have written this article to describe what a Sionnach Adventure is and what it is all about. I would highly recommend going on a Sionnach Adventure, as words really can’t do it any justice, you just have to do it yourself! I have been a Scout for almost four years and I think it was one of the best decisions of my life joining Scouts. I have participated in a Sionnach Adventure in the Wicklow Mountains and am a PEAK (Patrol Expedition Adventure Kamp) graduate. PEAK is a highly recommendable training offered by Scouting Ireland similar to a Sionnach Adventure but with a focus on learning and orienteering, taking place over a week in the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks (in Gaelic: Na Cruacha Dubha), a mountain range in County Kerry, in the South West of Ireland, home to some of our tallest and most formidable peaks.

Where and when are the Sionnach Adventures held?
The Sionnach Adventure is a weekend activity that is held three times a year; they start on the Friday night and finish on the Sunday morning. They are held in a selection of different mountain ranges across Ireland. I have been to one in the Wicklow Mountains, on the east coast.

Why do people go?
Scouts from all over the country go to the Sionnach Adventures to learn new skills, gain valuable experiences, make lots of new Scouting friends and most of all have some craic* along the way. They are a great way to get out on the hills and explore. Sionnach Adventures are open to any Scout in the age range of 12 to 17; they usually participate in small patrols of four with a young adult Leader accompanying them.

What do you learn and do during a Sionnach Adventure?
During a Sionnach Adventure you learn many useful skills, which you can then bring back and share with your Scout Group. You learn about the geography and geology of the area, map reading, feature recognition, emergency skills, orienteering, how to use a compass, the natural environment, leave no trace and how to be a better Scout. 

The main part of the Sionnach Adventure is going on the expedition, as a patrol you walk from base camp to high camp and then hike a route around the high camp, usually taking in some summits and fantastic views! All along the route you drop into ‘checkpoints’ where you learn a variety of scouting and hillwalking skills. Personally, I think the expedition part is the best of it, but – when I did it – we also had a cooking competition where we all made a banofee* on a trangia* in the mountains!

What is your best experience?
I think my best experience was when we were hiking up and around the Devils’ Punchbowl (a cirque) and it was ice cold, there was a solid layer of ice covering the ground with snow at the top, but at the same time the glistening sun shone down. The slipping and sliding of trying to get up and then finally getting there and looking down at all the others trying to get up as well, was just amazing!

Who organises the Sionnach Adventures?
The Sionnach Team – a Scouting Ireland national events team – organises the Sionnach Adventuress, but it is really the staff – who go on the events - who do it all. The staff team members are some of the nicest men and women I have ever met in my life, they really are great and you could not meet a friendlier bunch of people!

What badges do you get?
At the end of the Sionnach Adventure we all gather around to get a Sionnach Adventure badge, it has a fox on it and says “Sionnach Adventure”, the word sionnach meaning fox in Gaelic! You can also get different levels of adventure skill badges depending on what you achieved.

But the badges do not really matter because there is no badge for having a good time or getting to keep a memory, which you will remember for the rest of your life. That’s why the motto of the Sionnach Team is: “Leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but memories” (and maybe some photographs).

I think my time as a Scout and going on the Sionnach Adventure as well as passing PEAK will be forever remembered and I often think back to how great these events were! Now I have the chance to help out staffing Sionnach Adventures and PEAKs, which is a great way to stay involved and to further develop my hill skills!

* craic, banofee, trangia: Want to know what these are? Then grab your Scout friends, pack your gear, lace your hiking boots, and join one of the upcoming Sionnach Adventures in 2014:
- Sionnach 1: Sléibhte Chill Mhantáin (Wicklow Mountains), 26-28 September 2014
- Sionnach 2: Sléibhte Chnoc Mhaoldomhnaigh (Knockmealdown Mountains), 10-12 October 2014
- Sionnach 3: overseas adventure in Cymru (Wales), 24-27 October 2014

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For more information:
- Scouting Ireland’s Sionnach Adventures on the Internet and on facebook

© Text: Jack Manning, 
59th Johnstown (Dublin) Scout Group, Scouting Ireland 2014
© Images: Sionnach Adventure Team, Scouting Ireland 2014

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