Two lost hikers – one lasting friendship
There’s a popular meme on the internet that states that:
Friendships must be built on a solid foundation of alcohol, sarcasm, inappropriateness and shenanigans.
I don’t necessarily agree with this rather sarky tenet. All I know is, if it weren’t for meeting my friend and fellow walker Randall 5 years ago, in the midst of a Force 10 gale, I probably wouldn’t be alive today to tell this story. If you ask him about the verisimilitude of this story, then he’d probably tell you that it was all true, but that it was I that saved him.
The Cairngorms can be a treacherous place to hike, especially by yourself. Today, I wouldn’t dream of going hiking by myself, but 5 years ago I was a very different person. Halfway through divorce proceedings with my second wife, I was seeking comfort from the barren ambience of the rugged outdoors. In those days I would spend entire weekends roaming the Cairngorms without any real purpose – it was only a matter of time before I’d get into some kind of trouble.
It’s very rare that gale force storms make their way inland. They are usually seen out at sea – with gusts reaching over 60 mph and waves that can threaten to topple large ships. When these winds make their way inland, the effects can be truly devastating. Trees can be uprooted and loose rocks can tumble from cliffs. In the midst of winter in 2012, I found myself battling the elements alone in one of the few true gale force storms to hit and without a hope in the world.
It doesn’t matter how well you prepare for a hike, if you’re by yourself, you are always at great risk. You can have all the food, water and gear in the world, but if you slip and fall in the middle of nowhere, your life is in danger. These were the thoughts going through my head when I was desperately searching for shelter, whilst simultaneously damning the foolish pride that had led me to wandering out by myself in the first place. That day I’d left the house in beautiful sunshine and not thought to take any waterproof gear with me.
Randall’s excuse for being caught out in the elements was much better than mine. Conducting research for Edinburgh University, he was attempting to return to his vehicle with a batch of soil samples and had simply ran out of time. He’d neglected to take any provisions with him whatsoever, only thinking to be outside for an hour or so.
The storm caught us both off-guard and we were simply lucky to be crossing each other’s paths. He had a spare waterproof for me and I had enough food for both of us. The wind was blowing so hard that it was all that we could do to wave to each other from across the moor, meeting in the middle of the storm, we shook hands and we’ve been friends ever since.