This summer, Dermot Cosgrove is hiking a section of the GR10 – and hopes to raise €15,000 for Irish Dogs for the Disabled. In this interview, Dermot talks long-distance walking, bird watching, and why a puppy was named after him…

Please introduce yourself. Who are you and what do you do?

“I’m Dermot Cosgrove, a 47-year-old security consultant working overseas.

“On my current project, I work month-on, month-off rotations, which gives enough free time to pursue my outdoor activities like hiking and bird watching – often combining the two.”

What’s your background in long-distance walking?

“I suppose my experience of long-distance walking started while I was in the French Foreign Legion. The Legion loves to walk, and walk far, and I spent quite a bit of time in both the Pyrenees and the Alps. The unofficial motto of the Legion is “Marche Ou Creve” – “March Or Die” – which originates from its service in North Africa. After leaving the Legion I became more of a day hiker / bird watcher and, living in the west of Ireland, which has the lion’s share of wild areas, I get out and about quite a bit.

“My interest in long-distance walking was rekindled in 2016 during a conversation online about geese with Huw Thomas, who is part of the Greenland White-fronted Goose Study and is an avid long-distance walker, having walked the Arctic Circle Trail and around Greenland 8 or 9 times. Huw agreed to mentor me for a solo walk of the ACT as long as I was serious. I successfully completed that objective last July, and since then the bug has just been there. I’ve spent a lot of my free time at work looking at guidebooks and maps.”

July 2017 standing at the Russell Glacier, Greenland

Tell us about your planned walk on the GR10 through the Pyrenees.

“I’ll be setting out from Hendaye on Saturday June 9 to tackle the first section as laid out in the Cicerone guidebook, with the aim of making it to Borce / Etsaut. It’s a total of 221km, which in the book is broken down to 12 day stages, but I plan to do it in 10 or so. I would love to do the entire route but I’m constrained by time so I plan to do it eventually section by section.”

What’s the objective, and what made you want to do this walk?

“It’s really a twofold objective: 1) to get some long-distance time in again in preparation for next year, and 2) to kick off the Walk for the Dogs fundraising effort I started before Greenland to raise as much as possible for Irish Dogs for the Disabled.

“I was looking for a good long-distance trail closer to home, and, while researching online for trails I came across some spectacular photos of the GR10. Also as a bird watcher and wanting to combine the two activities there are some exceptional bird species in the Pyrenees such as eagles and vultures.”

What challenges do you anticipate on the trail?

“I think one of the main challenges this year on the trail is that it’s been quite wet, much more so than other years, so this combined with some rather steep climbs in the last days as I get further into the mountains are the main challenges I expect.”

Tell us a bit about your gear and your preparation so far.

“I’ve gone for an off-the-shelf North Face Terra 65-litre pack; this was more a financial decision, but it is a very sturdy comfortable pack. I would have loved to have gone for one of the ultralights but I had to balance out costs with other gear. I’ll be bringing a 3-season Big Agnes Slater UL2 tent, which I previously used in Greenland. I’ve also been lucky to have my rations sponsored by Outdoorfood which is a great addition. My two favourite pieces would be my Hanwag Alaska boots and my Jottnar Hymir lightweight jacket, which was fantastic in Greenland. My prep so far has been at home to get out and walk, mostly in the hills and woodlands not far from home. At work I was walking but because of the temperatures where I work I’ve been spending more time in the gym doing cardio and leg work.”

Training in Ireland

Why is Irish Dogs for the Disabled an important cause for you?

Assistance pup Kossie

“I first learned about Irish Dogs for the Disabled via my sister – who fosters dogs during the socialisation phase of their training – but it was really after I decided to raise funds for them that I learned the real extent of fantastic work they do. They don’t receive any supplementary funding from the Irish government so they rely on fundraising and donations. Each dog, from the time it’s born to the time it’s assigned to a person, costs about €15,000 – it’s a massive investment. Roughly 9 out of 10 recipients of a dog are children, and they receive their assistance dog completely free of charge. So when you hear a 6 or 7-year-old say that they can’t wait to get a dog because then they can get rid of their wheelchair and walk, things hit a whole new level of importance.”

What do you hope your fundraising will achieve?

“The Walk for the Dogs campaign in 2016 / 2017 helped raise €11,000. The charity honoured me by naming a pup after me (Kossie) so my hope is to go one better and raise the full €15,000 and cover the cost of one assistance dog.”

What can you tell us about future objectives?

“I’m going to be finishing Walk for the Dogs-2 in Iceland in July next year by doing a solo unsupported crossing from Husavik in the north to Vik in the south (about 450km). The plan is to haul everything I need for the entire journey using a Trek-Packer trekking cart built in Germany by Ben Groble.

“I have a few ideas for 2020 but the plan is to do a long walk every year.”

How can our readers find out more and support you?

“I’m quite active on Twitter @dermotcosgrove and the Facebook page www.facebook.com/walk4thedogs where I plan to post regular updates throughout the walk. This is the link to the donation page: https://give.everydayhero.com/ie/walk-for-the-dogs-2

“Also if anyone has any advice on Iceland and or adventure film-making I’d love to hear it!”

All images © Dermot Cosgrove