The History of Sport Hillwalking in Ireland
The idea for an All-Ireland hillwalking competition was first conceived by Kieron Gribbon in 2010 while he was writing his book Ireland's County High Points: A Walking Guide. He could see how many others were undertaking this particular challenge and recognised the potential for a national-level competition to be developed from it. Since then, he decided that the County High Points Challenge on its own was not enough for an All-Ireland hillwalking competition. After his book came out in 2012, Kieron set to work on developing a more diverse High Points list for Ireland. In addition to the County High Points and its Province High Points subset, he researched and compiled 6 new primary sub-lists which would comprise the overall list of Ireland's Major Geographical High Points which he published in 2015. The full list and five of its primary sub-lists were the first original hill lists to be published in the 21st century.
Sport Hillwalking officially became a true sport in 2016. This came about through the introduction of the first-ever All-Ireland hillwalking sports competition: the All-Ireland Highpointeering Individuals League. This ground-breaking points-based competition was delivered by High Point Ireland and have been run every year since. 2017 saw the introduction of the clubs, counties and provinces leagues. In 2020, we created the All-Ireland Mountain Race for experienced challenge hillwalkers wishing to introduce a time-based person-versus-person competitive element. The Race also has club, county and province team categories. The Highpointeering Leagues and the Mountain Race now run in parallel as two separate competitions between the Spring Equinox and Autumn Equinox each year. At the end of the 2020 season, the combined results of these two competitions allowed us to identify the individual, club team, county team and province team champions in the first-ever All-Ireland Hillwalking Championships: the ultimate achievement in Irish sport hillwalking. In 2021, due to the Mountain Race being cancelled due to lack of interest, the Championship results were based exclusively on the Highpointeering Leagues. As a result, it was decided to abandon the Highpointeering Leagues in favour of a new Hillwalking Championships format.
In 2022 and 2023, the All-Ireland Hillwalking Championships were based on the Irish Sport Hillwalking List of 355 locations which includes all 209 Irish mountains and all 187 Major Geographical High Points. In 2024, the Irish Championship Summits list was introduced to include only summits with at least 30m prominence. These new derived lists were compiled by Kieron Gribbon for the All-Ireland Hillwalking Championships. The four-month-long Sport Hillwalking season starts on 1st May and ends on 31st August.
High Point Ireland is global founder of Sport Hillwalking and is also the All-Ireland governing body for the sport. Our All-Ireland Sports Competitions are the first-ever national hillwalking competitions to be hosted anywhere in the world. As such, they provide the perfect template for other countries to replicate. In time, if other countries choose to follow our example, we could even look at the possibility of setting up the first-ever Hillwalking World Championships.