St Patrick’s Hill

November 23, 2009

London-based Swiss photographer Stefan Wermuth recalls his battle against the Irish rain….and a hill:


Before I left London to cover the three-day cycle race TOUR OF IRELAND I got some last minute advice from colleagues in the office – “It’s wet there!” they told me, “take wet weather gear.”  I thought it can’t be wetter than London can it?  –  but I was very wrong.

 After checking in to my hotel near Dublin I met up with some local photographers for dinner where I first heard the name of St. Patrick’s Hill in Cork. Stories were told of its 23% gradient, cyclists giving up with spinning tyres, and it being an unbelievably steep climb in the middle of Cork.

Although it’s a hill – I come from Switzerland where we have real mountains and very steep passes, what are they talking about?

After a two-day journey through the country I finally arrived in Cork for the last stage of the tour where I got to see St. Patrick’s Hill. I was very impressed. It is really steep!


 The photo position was located some distance below the top of the hill. Hundreds of fans lined the route and it was tightly packed. The riders had to climb the hill three times, so I was ready to try different shots.

Surprisingly the weather forecast was for rain!!  Ten minutes before the first riders arrived it the heavens opened

and rain crashed down. Despite wearing world famous rain gear I got soaked to the skin and a torrent of water flowed through my shoes. Having survived the first round of rain, one of my camera bodies made a strange sound, before dying a few seconds later.

I had only ever experienced such weather once during the Euro 2008 soccer game between Switzerland and Turkey in Basel.



 As the view from my position could not show the steepness of the hill, I decided to take pictures showing the emotions of the riders – all my lenses were covered with rain and I had nothing that was dry to clean them.  The rain was relentless and coming horizontally.

It was amazing how the riders reacted, some gave up, others fought on and it’s true about the spinning tyres, some wheels just span round and round.


 After the second round of riders passed I surrendered to the weather and made my way to the finish area. As soon as the first rider arrived the sun came out!

The result of my stay on the hill was one broken camera, one broken Blackberry, a lot of wet clothes and an unforgettable memory.

My conclusion: Yes Ireland can be wet and never underestimate a hill!


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