“Ah, you made it,” said a particularly lively man in a pair of shorts and knee-high socks, as the mist quickly enveloped the 2,365 feet-high summit of Slievenamon on Sunday afternoon.
As I blew out my cheeks, the man, surely twice my age, was breaking out his sandwiches while a group of hill-walking colleagues shot the breeze at this most breezy of locations.
They discussed everything from the speed of the falling mist hitting the mountain’s heathery slopes to the walking human car crash that is the bee-hive haired British chanteuse, Amy Winehouse.
Behind me, a group of Americans were also enjoying a snack before beginning the descent out of the mountain top mist into the clarity of Slievenamon’s famed foothills.
One of the group was lamenting her food allergies when comparing her lot to that of a friend who can “like, totally eat anything”. It’s funny the things one hears on a mountain top.
Sadly, the mist prevented me from fully enjoying one of the region’s most remarkable vistas.
With Clonmel to the right and Waterford city to the left connected via the patchwork of fields which form the Suir Valley, one can almost view the entire circulation area of this newspaper.
On a clear day from the summit – the fabled burial place of Fionn Mac Cumhail – there’s a clear sight of the Rock of Cashel to the north, and the Devil’s Bit beyond it.
On the ascent facing south, one can see the twin wind turbines near Portlaw, the steam venting from the stack in Belview Port and, albeit much closer, the entire Merck Sharpe and Dohme plant in Ballydine.
Beneath me to my left as were the slopes leading to Ahenny and the Tipperary/Kilkenny border, while directly to the east lie the Blackstairs Mountains that straddle counties Wexford and Carlow.
Beyond Cruachan Hill and the Comeragh Mountains, the sea, looking decidedly grey from this vantage point, remained visible.
“It is shaped like a beautiful female breast and on its summit sits a cairn of stones, like a nipple,” Liam Clancy once famously wrote of the mountain overlooking his native Carrick-on-Suir.
To those of us who grew up with Slievenamon as a firm fixture of childhood, returning to tread upon its rock-strewn path made for a most pleasing reunion.
Near the summit lies a marble carving that marks the spot where a Kilkenny man in his 50s passed away a few years ago.
It lies at the base of a pile of stones which, one would hazard to guess, has been added to considerably by those walking by it since first it was placed there.
The friendliness of fellow hillwalkers on the day reminded one of the camaraderie that exploration, even of this relatively minor nature, tends to stir in the soul.
I hazard to guess how many different nationalities were on Slievenamon last Sunday, but all whom I encountered, irrespective of origin or lung capacity, offered a friendly “hello”.
Some powered up its slopes, others stopped to draw breath and slug water before moving on – for this is a mountain which offers equal opportunity climbing.
And that sense of kinship, of a shared experience, of a link created by nothing else other than being there brought everyone on the hillside together, if only for a few seconds.
Near my car, the man in the shorts and knee-high socks was by his own motor, stripped down to his shorts, laughing loudly while drying himself off after his mountainous exertions.
He, like everyone around him, had clearly enjoyed his time on the ‘mountain of the women’. I for one won’t leave it so long to call upon lovely Slievenamon again.