27 February 2012

A near-death experience

Not my own though. So don't worry. Yesterday I went hiking; my flatmate managed to talk me into going along with the mountaineering club, which didn't take much work because I did want to go, I just didn't want to spend money on new gear. This was about the third proper hike up a mountain that I have done (I think maybe school camp back in second form might have involved a couple of big hikes but I don't really remember them) and the weather has never been nice for me. So I wasn't really expecting too much. The weather started of OK, then got worse, then worse still, and then it got really, really bad. The range of hills was in county Mayo and we climbed up about 700 metres, to walk along a ridge a short way and then descend at a different place to where we went up. By the time we got to the top the wind was so strong that it could have blown me over and there was a sea of fog all around us, so you couldn't even see what the drop was like and how bad it would be to fall. That wasn't really so bad though, the biggest problem was that my waterproof gear, including my big ski jacket, couldn't stand up to that much rain and I was soaked to the skin. Finally the water soaked my soaks and then trickled down into my boots until they were waterlogged. The final bit of going up and then the walk along the ridge was absolutely awful.

Finally we began to go down and before you knew it the wind had died down, which was great. The walk down is easier and faster, and I had to go fast to stay warm because whenever we stopped I began to freeze. However, the slope was really slippery and it was so easy to just slide down a few metres, but once you started sliding it was really hard to stop. Somebody knocked a rock loose and it picked up speed and began to bounce down the mountain. I don't think we were even halfway down when I heard something loud and turned around to see one of the climbers tumbling down the mountain. I can't actually remember now what I heard and saw - I think he was not making any noise, but maybe other people were screaming a little. People had to dive out of his way so that he wouldn't take them down with him, he was going incredibly fast and was actually bouncing. I think what I remember of it might be exaggerated, but I'm pretty sure that by the time I saw him he was going  head over heels and bouncing a lot. One of the very experienced climbers tried to grab him but mostly missed. The girl that was in the lead dove for him and caught on to his legs, so then they were both sliding down. He slipped from her grasp but she must have slowed him down a lot because then he stopped finally, wedged into a little creek. It looked like she was going to start falling to but she managed to stop herself.

I think that for the poor guy's entire fall I was just saying 'oh my god oh my god oh my god' over and over again. When he stopped I began to go down to him, but there was a girl up behind me absolutely freaking out so I couldn't figure out if I should go up or down. It looked like the girl's boyfriend could manage her though so I headed down, because the guy that fell still wasn't moving. A couple of others, including the girl that was in charge, were already there by the time I reached them and I could see his hand moving so he definitely wasn't dead. He was covered in blood but next thing you know, he was talking and asking us to get him out of the creek because he was freezing. He managed to roll over and didn't seem to have broken anything, amazingly enough, but he had a couple of huge gashes on his face and one on his wrist. We slowly began to patch him up and clean the blood off and eventually got him out of the creek and tried to keep him warm. The poor guy kept saying sorry, I don't think he even realised at that point how lucky he was. He's probably going to have an awful week, it must have been so scary. The girl in charge will probably be feeling pretty terrible too.

The main part of our group still had to get down of the mountain before we froze, so as soon as he was OK we left him there with a couple of the leaders and a storm shelter to wait for mountain rescue. We still had more than an hour of walking to get down the mountain and most of the group had slowed right down because they were so freaked out. I, on the other hand, sped up because I just wanted to get off of that mountain. How bloody unlucky is it that my first climb with the mountaineering club included the worst weather that anybody can remember and somebody falling down the mountain? Apparently that is only the second such accident that they've had in 12 years, and they climb every week. The guy has a broken wrist and is in hospital. Hopefully it won't put him off climbing. It hasn't put me off, although after getting off the mountain last night, after I was dry and warm, I got the shakes pretty bad so I reckon I must have been a bit shocked. It has put of my climbing partners though, so I'm going to need to find some more. I would really like to experience a hike that is properly enjoyable at some stage. With clear enough weather that I can take photos of the view. 

20 February 2012

Shopping, greyhounds, and other things

Today is a good day, because today I brought something new and shiny for my kitchen. Now I have a great big stock-pot to make soup in, which I need because it is very cold and wet outside. This week I will make chicken soup, and then again next week, and maybe again, until I am sure that I can make an awesome chicken soup. Perhaps it won't really be necessary, perhaps the weather will clear. But it's unlikely. It's even more of a shame because I have begun to attempt to play rugby (I know, me, playing rugby!). Over here the game is called tag and it is pretty much just like touch rugby, only it seems a bit girlier to me. Basically, instead of touching a player on the shoulder, every player has two fabric tags velcroed to their shorts, one on each hip. You have to snatch the tag off of a player. So there are tags hanging off of you, there is a lot of fumbling, and the possibility of being groped or accidentaly grabbing a piece of somebody is a bit of a worry! Other than that though, there's also the problem of my not really being able to throw, nor to catch, and my co-ordination in general is pretty shoddy. But I'm going to find myself some bright pink rugby socks and then all will be well.

In other news, I also had a good weekend, again because I went shopping and spent money and brought myself a pretty new dress. It's purple and indecently short and gorgeous. It's not really as short as what some of the Irish girls wear, it at least covers my butt. With the help of the new dress, I dressed up nice to go to the dog races, which are nothing like the horse races and there is no need to dress up. But that's OK. The races end almost as soon as they begin and I did not manage to make my fortune in gambling. But I did win 5 euro on the lotto, so that's at least enough to cover my ticket, though not quite the 5 mil that I was hoping for. Guess I will have to stick with my day job and not become a professional TV watcher yet.

14 February 2012

Irish Spring

So it's halfway through February already and I haven't written in ages because I really have not been doing a heck of a lot - perhaps I'm just boring? Over here it is spring already, even though the rest of the Northern hemisphere still considers it to be winter. There are daffodils - I picked the first ones I found, and got told off by some old guy walking his dog, who I of course ignored. It is cold here but clear and frosty, and the days are getting longer. This last weekend I finally got out of the house and went for a walk, during which a really friendly dog came to say hi. Here is Galway in the sunshine, which is much nicer than all the rain:

The new year here in Galway is pretty much the same as the old year, only there are always less people. Students finish and leave but new ones rarely come to take their places. Work goes slowly and my office is very quiet, except for the fish, who sometimes likes to blow bubbles. In May I am going to Lisbon, in Portugal, for a conference so soon I guess I will need to begin freaking out about that. In the meantime I will continue to spend my free time baking and sharing with my colleagues - today I made cupcakes and shared them at work, which made everybodies day, including mine. Then I got to spend some time playing with a puppy, which really made my day. And now the day is over, and I have work to prepare for tomorrow.