I was reminded of the good advice in the title of Hillwalking Stories when I was on a walk recently. Over the past twenty five years of walking the mountains, I have had a number of falls but have been fortunate not to have sustained injury – until that is, the 1st of March 2015!
On previous falls, my experience has been that they were a great surprise to me. They happened in the blink of an eye without any warning. I can remember the first one, not the date but the circumstances. I am ashamed to say I was walking alone! It was a beautiful, crisp winter’s day. It was dry and bright but there were icy patches on the ground. As it happened, I was within hailing distance of others at the time. The next thing I knew, I was on my back having slipped on some ice. The scary thing was my head missed hitting a rock by barely inches! If I had been unlucky the other scary thing was, although I was within hailing distance of others, they were not coming my way and if I had been unconscious, I would not have been found for some time! Thankfully I was lucky and all was well but I have always remembered the experience and have been reluctant to walk alone ever since. I have done so on a very few occasions but only on routes that usually attract many others so if assistance was necessary, it would likely be available.
Anyway, this is what happened on the 1st of March. It was an appalling day with heavy rain and sleet from the start. The four of us in the group had decided to keep low to avail of as much weather protection as possible. We set off from the visitor centre car park at Glendalough and made our way to the Upper Lake car park. We then climbed the steep ascent of the E Spur of Camaderry Mt. This is so steep that it seems like it is nearly vertical! The ascent is through trees which gives some weather protection. During the climb the rain and sleet were quite heavy and when we reached the top of our climb, where the track links with the main path that leads to Camaderry summit, the ground was covered with sleet and was very slippery.
We turned E downhill and very soon I had one minor fall without consequences. But a bit further on, my right leg slipped from under me, I landed on my back and started a slide down the path. Unfortunately, my left foot caught a rock, my left foot and leg stopped sliding but the rest of me didn’t and I heard a ‘crack’ and felt the pain of my left ankle! After some moments, the pain eased and I stood up. A good sign as if it had been broken, I could not have done so! At this stage, I was receiving considerable ‘first aid’ sympathy and advice from the others, as one would expect in such circumstances! However, I insisted on continuing to walk in the hope that this would render my ankle better again! We continued the planned route which was to take us back through the Upper Lake car park. It took us about 20 mins to reach the car park and I can remember every step of my left leg! It didn’t make the ankle better! By the time we reached the car park, I decided that discretion was the better decision and two of the group continued on to get a car for me! After some recuperation in Lynham’s of Laragh over a bowl of soup the group parted company for home. Well, if the short walk after the fall was painful, it paled compared to the experience of depressing the clutch to change gear on the 45 minute drive home!
I was ‘off games’ for five weeks and by the time I got back again to my beloved hills, I was like a caged lion!
So what basic lessons can be learnt from the experience? 1) One is well advised not to walk alone. 2) Preferably bring a paramedic in the group, but failing that somebody should have first aid experience! 3) At least one in the group should have included in the day-bag a First Aid kit, survival bag, a foil blanket. Everyone should have a whistle to attract attention. 5) Some extra warm / change of clothing.
Of course there are a number of other considerations and if anybody would like to discuss the matter further, please contact yours truly.