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Magnificent seven: James scales Mourne peaks in just half-a-day

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James Gilpin trekking the Mournes

James Gilpin trekking the Mournes

James Gilpin (right) on the Mourne Wall walk

James Gilpin (right) on the Mourne Wall walk

James Gilpin trekking the Mournes

James Gilpin trekking the Mournes

James Gilpin trekking the Mournes

A farmer who had never climbed a mountain nine months ago managed to conquer all seven of the Mournes' highest peaks in less than 12 hours at the weekend.

James Gilpin (31) swapped his wellies for walking boots to complete the gruelling Mourne Seven Sevens challenge - an 18-mile trek across the range.

The Comber-based sheep farmer told how his fellow walkers spurred him on, and revealed his surprise on hearing he managed to beat the time of Cool FM presenter Paulo Ross.

James said he first started hillwalking in preparation for a charity challenge with Co Down Young Farmers in April, when he was one of 23 members who completed the Mourne Wall Challenge in 15 hours.

But the pressure was on for the Seven Sevens event with a cut-off time in place at Ben Crom dam along the route to ensure walkers finish before nightfall - meaning James would have to be faster than he was in April.

The event run by the Spartan Red Socks sees competitors take on the peaks of Donard, Commedagh, Bernagh, Meelmore, Meelbeg, Binnian and Lamagan.

Alongside his friend James Smyth, he finished with a time of 11 hours 13 minutes.

"There was one bit I hadn't walked at all until Saturday," he said.

"It was quite a difficult bit through the bog - you really had to look at where you were putting your feet; my friend James got a bootful.

"We just had to jump where we could and try to walk across it as best as we could.

"Donard was hard in that everyone was leaving the start point at around the same time and there were a lot of people running and walking a lot faster than me.

"But when you're in a group if someone behind you was walking at a good pace it really pushed you on, and once we got on to Bearnagh - the third mountain - we were going well.

"As you were going people would start talking to you, and there was a bit of buzz, which kept you going. Because you knew you'd already done the biggest one - Donard - first, I think that was a big boost."

Belfast Telegraph