Oooh, is that a MAP?
I was descending Lugnaquillia through the Ow Valley recently. I was floundering about in steep, marshy forest where each footstep fell through a moss covered roots or clear-felled debris. Flailing about it was no use reaching for nearby tree branches, as they inevitably snapped off in my hand or proved so slimy and wet that my hand slipped away and propelled me into some quagmire or other. Ducking, diving, sliding, plunging, wading and sploshing – all while trying to avoid the sharp jagged remains of tree branches that poked and prodded, tore and shredded. (yes, the very same tree branches that were too weak to be held)
I was trying to locate a tenuous track deep within the forest. This track would lead to a Coillte track for the final 4km hike out of the valley. I didn’t find the elusive minor track, and after further exploration I eventually emerged onto the Coillte track like a wild man, spluttering and removing the contents of the dank forest floor from my mouth, ears and nose. All very enjoyable. This area of Wicklow can be a lonely and forgotten place. It offers a 7 hour round trip where the only people you might see will be in the vicinity of the Lugnaquillia summit.
Which is why when I thought I heard voices from the jungle above me I wrote it off as imagination. (or the sound of a forest creature trying to get out of my ear). Imagine my surprise when a few moments later 4 people emerged onto a ridge above me, about 700 meters away. One of them waved at me. Not a wave of greeting. The person was holding a stick and was waving it slowly to and fro in the air, in a universal gesture of ‘help’. I took out my binoculars. Yep, 4 people. One man and three women. I headed up the difficult, broken hillside and guided them down to the forest track. They needed water and the man needed one of my sticks to aid with a sore knee. They commented with awe on my provisions. They ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ on each new item that emerged from my rucksack, and gathered excitedly around my map, compass and GPS. I felt like a real Mountain Man as they giggled admiringly at my water, food, raincoat and walking boots, and marvelled at my hat and gloves. I had to show them how lost they were by using a wonderful device I own called a MAP, but I might as well have being showing them a plate of spaghetti.
Their story? They had set off from Glenmalure. The man had gone up that way years ago and ‘remembered it well’ and didn’t need a map. They had come down the opposite side of the mountain by mistake. They were in good condition all things considered, and even the fancy blue leather handbag one of the ladies carried was without a scratch. (and me covered head to toe in wet moss and forest gank)
I guided them the 4kms out of the forest, drove them back to Baravore and wished them well. It’s not the first time I’ve helped lost folk out on the mountains, and it won’t be the last.