Wet, is the answer. I am blinkered when it comes to weather – maybe everyone is. If I’m packing for a trip, I only pack stuff that matches the weather as I’m packing. So, although a little grizzly, it was very useful that yesterday it rained all the way through a six-hour walk around Cader Idris – Wales’s second highest mountain.
Not just drizzle either, but pouring, and windy too. A full morning walking into it, followed by a full afternoon with it testing the back of my clothing. Hiding inside my hood I saw almost nothing of the misty, atmospheric Welsh vistas (mossy hills fading to thick, low white cloud, sodden sheep amongst the upland colour pallet of rusty orange, dry grasses in old paper colours, full-voiced greens, and flamboyant gorse bush yellow). I had my head down, partly thanks to watching my step in the sodden ground, and partly because the rain was pouring off my glasses and I couldn’t see through them.
The newly rewaterproofed clothes were faultless. What a relief! It’s hard, somehow, to trust something you did yourself in your mum’s washing machine, but – praise be to Nikwax! – I stayed completely dry. One shoe drowned in a bog early on, full icy immersion up to the ankle, but remained comfortable once my foot had warmed the water up – no rubbing.
My crappy old bag let a lot of water in – my spare t-shirt (brought, along with suncream, for the bright, hot afternoon I was convinced we’d have) soaked up its full capacity of rain at the bottom of the bag, doing the admirable service of mostly keeping the water off my map and chocolate. (I almost put the damp chocolate on the radiator when we got home…)
What about when I can’t go home?
It was this thought that made the day a little bit stressful: soon this is for real, for a long time, and with a cold, wet donkey to encourage. Getting home – bushed and cold to the bone – to a roast dinner, radiators, wine, shelter, and a jumble-sale quantity and mismatch of warm clothes (more in one go than I was intending to take on the walk altogether), made me acutely aware that soon I won’t be able to just go home. Home will be on the back of my ass, also pretty sodden.
I worked my way through what I would do on such an evening in ‘the wild’. First of all, we wouldn’t have walked so far in such bad weather – we’d have holed up much earlier. And we won’t be doing much in the way of high plateaux – that way stiles lie. The tarp I have been wondering whether to buy is definitely going to be bought today so that we can just stop, and have some shelter while we wait. Little Chico will have to learn to deal with it – I’ll put it up in his field soon after he arrives. It will also mean I can pile up the saddle and bags under the tarp, and put my tent up with the head-end under the tarp, to shelter my stove. It’s not a crackly tarp, so hopefully Chico will come under it too.
So, tarp up, Chico unloaded, dried off (note: buy travel towel for me and for Chico), his waterproof sheet put on him, and two handfuls of food in his collapsible bucket (note: buy collapsible bucket). Then, tent up, wet clothes in a plastic bag, dry clothes on and get into sleeping bag. Stove on, hot food and tea, brandy (note: BRANDY), and then whatever distraction method to wait it out. Sleep early, sun tomorrow.
Sun tomorrow? Please?