Pic: Cormac Looney
Is there a word for that chilly, clammy feeling, that sensation of cold water up, under, here, there, in and out, as you trudge across a rain-soaked hillside in early November?
There is, and it came to me as it descended Lugnaquilla amid gales and driving rain last Saturday afternoon. Visibility, if not my whole world outlook, was so limited by the worsening conditions that I’d little else to do but retreat into my own head.
I found myself there on foot of an invite I’d thrown out to friends earlier that week. It was optimistically sent, of course, during a sun-lit lunch on the last Sunday of an Autumn mild snap.
Six days later all bar one of my pals, being wiser and possibly more distrusting of the weather than I, were nowhere near the rain-whipped slopes of Wicklow.
But P and I were, and more than once we came close to winding up face-first on them.
We should have known. Because all the hopeful weather forecasts and crossed fingers in the world weren’t going to prevent the very, very typical outcome of a winter day in the Irish mountains.
Rain. In all its forms. Starting at the car, gently drops on a wispy wind. A little mist on the low slopes. Then – beware false prophets – a break halfway up. No need for raingear, even! We should do this more often!
Lugnaquilla, November 2014.
Pic: Cormac Looney
Scratch that. Scratch that and then run to the nearest boulder, or the muddy lee-side of it, and try to pull on a pair of outer-shell trousers while balancing on your one booted leg as, in seconds, every exposed piece of underclothing is drenched.
And so it was. Our best-laid plans started to sink into the waterlogged turf of Camara Hill.
It’s often struck me that Eisenhower put a year’s worth of planning into D-Day, commissioning and monitoring long range weather reports, agonising over the launch date and kitting his troops out for an inclement sea crossing.
I wonder how he would have handled the logistics of a winter day in the Wicklow mountains?
The sun forecasted for noon didn’t show. The rain that was set to clear by 10am had returned. And that unheralded north-easterly gale was the weather gods’ practical joke on two hikers naive enough to believe weather reports.
We bore on, of course. On and up, walking a trail which became a river bed in parts, finally cresting onto the final plateau and on to the summit cairn itself.
Well, we were wet, cold and hungry, and about to get wetter, colder and hungrier, but we were hikers in the Irish hills. In November. Masochists who carry on.
Finally, that word. The one that occurred to me as another tablespoon of icy rainwater slid down my neck, across my back and on down to wherever it else it wanted to freeze.
It’s where cold meets clammy. Where wet meets damp.
Wamp. Just another wamp day in the hills.