I’ve led three walks recently – and after each one I was mightily relieved to get everyone back safely.
In July I led a wonderful walk for Leadon Vale Ramblers in the Radnor hills, catching the bus from Kington to Llanfihangel Nant Melan and walking back via Caety Trelow, Glasbury and Hergest Ridge. As we crossed near the top of Caety Trelow a short but violent thunderstorm hit us, with thunder and lightning pretty well overhead. There was no cover. So there was nothing we could do but put on our waterproofs and keep going. After 20 minutes or so, the storm subsided and we carried on our walk. Shortly afterwards I received advice from the Ramblers about what to do in such a storm, which seemed to include rolling ourselves into a little ball. I don’t know if that is the safest thing to do but it psychologically difficult to carry out. Just for that short time we felt extremely vulnerable.
Two weeks ago I led a party of 11 (not Ramblers) on the Three Welsh Peaks Challenge – to climb Snowdon, Cadair Idris and Pen y Fan in 24 hours. Despite a good weather forecast the rain soon came down and when the remaining nine of us (two turned back earlier) reached the top of Snowdon at 9.00 a.m., those with less good waterproofs were getting very wet and miserable, despite the elation of the summit. Soon into the descent one lad started shaking violently and his speech was incoherent. He had hypothermia. This being Snowdon, I decided to return to the summit and the cafe was fortunately just opening. We were able to warm him up and get a seat on the train down. Thank goodness for the cafe and mountain railway! After that, things improved, including the weather. The ascent of Cader was straightforward and that of Pen y Fan at night with our head-torches positively inspiring. A great achievement, but enormous relief on my part.
That brings us to today, a gentle seven miler with Leadon Vale Ramblers in the Mortimer forest and Herefordshire Trail. What could possibly go wrong? Well, the Vinnals car park was completely closed because of a moto-cross rally!! We had to re-group nearly two miles further away. We duly set off on an un-checked forest track, recommended by a helpful jogger. The track was lovely with stunning views and pretty level as well, so spirits were high, when we eventually linked up with the Herefordshire Trail at Burrington. But our return, we knew, involved crossing the race-track. We were on a bridleway which didn’t appear to have been closed for the day. There was however lots of red tape blocking our path and some fierce warning notices. So we waited while a few cars roared by at enormous speeds, drivers helmeted, but us defenceless. Anyway we crossed the track and reached the summit, High Vinnals, with its glorious panoramic views. Here it was strangely quiet, which was good because we knew we had to cross the racetrack again. But then we heard the racing was over and we could complete our walk (11 miles not seven) in peace. And another huge sigh of relief for the walk leader.