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padodes
2009-02-13 19:55:06
"Weekend snow in Wicklow" from padodes Contract pics
Picture: Weekend snow in Wicklow (Contract pics)

Lost on Lug
The recent elaborate rescue of two men stranded overnight on Lugnaquillia gripped the headlines for a while on Monday last, but there has been no analysis of the reasons that led to this situation. From the point of view of hill-walkers, we have good reason to try to understand what went wrong.

From the little detail that was given in the media, it appears that the two men chose to climb up rather late in the afternoon (around 3pm, it was reported), and, if true, that was probably ill-judged, since it left little more than two hours of light before dusk, so sorting out any problem – such as losing one’s way – would be on borrowed time. The slowness of progress over deep snow doesn’t seem to have been duly reckoned with either.

The main problem, however, seems to have been one of navigation, or the absence of it. It was said that the men lost their map at some point, but a map can be pretty useless in foggy or whiteout conditions – such as those that arose towards evening – unless one has a compass to go with it, and that does not seem to have been the case. It is true that the cliffs that ring Lug in several places are very dangerous, yet it is also true that there are several broad exit routes from the summit plateau. If one knows the mountain, and knows approximately where one is on the mountain, a roughly calculated compass bearing can take one out of harm’s way and down. (It is even easier if one happens to have a GPS with a contour map.)

Perhaps I am mistaken in expressing an opinion that would need to be based on more precise information. Nonetheless, although the two young men were said to be "experienced", I have a feeling that in this case it was as Oscar Wilde once quipped: experience is the name we give our mistakes.


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