Monday, December 19, 2011

Silly, silly Woozle

So went on another hike today totally forgetting of course that I would be walking up the north side of a hill to get where I wanted to go. It was bloody freezing. The ice was amazing. At a certain point I was forced to cut up through the scrub on a  70° slope, pulling myself up grunting and swearing on stunted alder and forcing the ruckack under low branches to get round a frozen stream and waterfall blocking my path. 40 minutes of frozen hell all the time seeing the brilliant warming sunshine everywhere I wasn’t. Then, just as I got over the top onto the sunny south side having clawed myself up a path that was more like a frozen river bed than a path, the sun disappeared behind a huge cloud. And stayed there. My thermometer  plummeted to minus 5.8 and gradually the LCD faded and disappeared. Then the wind whipping off the snow at the end of the valley got up and my intention to have my lunch of haggis, potatoes and samosa sitting in the sun changed somewhat. I ended up marching up and down eating as fast as I could. It must have been about minus 10 plus wind chill. Bolix. Mind you if for once I’d believed the weather forecasters I would have been prepared for that. They said -10 at 1500m at lunch time plus wind-chill. Doh!! The lunchbox got so brittle I put my finger through it picking it up. I’m not insured.
Before I abandoned the place for the much warmer north side again I managed to find a wonderful  solar wheel carved on an isolated rock so the trip was worth it.
Any way. The wind of course changed direction just as I dropped over on the northern slopes and started battering the gloomy frozen side I was now on. After a treacherous descent with every item of clothing I had on, hand warmers in both gloves and eyeing the dog with a view to skinning it for an extra layer I got back to the stream and waterfall I’d avoided before. No way was I going down through the scrub again. It took me 20 minutes to cross the stream digging out foot steps in the ice with my knife and using my tried and trusted technique of anchoring the rucksack and using it to support myself in case of a fall. Then it took ages to unhook the bloody thing from  the other side using long sticks as the sticks kept breaking. So when eventually I got out onto the dirt road I was a little, shall we say,  tense. I took my shoes off  for a bit of barefooting to ease my neck muscles and tripped lightly (or should that be trudged?) along the road to take some photos of the little waterfall’s big mamma. I just got round the corner when there was a movement high above me and someone took a shot at me. 20 years butchering people for money in the military meant my reactions were honed to razor sharp and even before the echo had stopped... no hang on, I was never in the military, I must be confusing myself with somebody else. Well, no matter, I dropped to the ground, smashing my willy on a jagged rock in the process and rolled, rucksack and all behind a rock. The dog had raced off and hidden too. Man’s best friend. Phua! I scanned the horizon for my assailant up where I’d seen the movement. I slipped my sheath knife out of the rucksack. Quite what I was going to do with it I don’t know. Rifle against ice-blunted Finnish hunting knife? Yeah right. So there I was lying on the freezing ground, feet gradually turning blue,  behind a rock, along a road in the middle of nowhere knife in hand preparing to... well I’m not quite sure really. What a sight that must have been. Thank god nobody came round the corner. I waited for ages scanning the rocks then, as my brain got the extra blood that my feet evidently no longer wanted, my brain started to work. a) why would anyone be shooting at me? b) why did they stop? c) why didn’t they get me? I mean if it was me I’d have hit the mark first time, it’s not as if I’d been moving fast, d) I’d seen no tracks of anyone in the area. Could I have been mistaken maybe? Maybe it was  hunter? No, hunter’s don’t walk, they drive and again, no tracks. But the dog did shy violently and run off as fast as I’ve ever seen her move so it must have been something. And I did hear the shot and it was close. Actually it was a shot and ricochet - bang feeesssh!.  I was just thinking I might have been mistaken when the dog finally appeared and went cautiously, ever so cautiously  to the river and made various attempts to overcome her fear and investigate whatever it was that frightened her in the bed of the stream. So the shot didn’t come from above after all. I raised my head, threw the rucksack out from behind the rock then got up myself. No more shots. I went to investigate where the dog was investigating. I must admit though to keeping an eye on where I’d seen movement. There was a huge pool covered in thick ice. The whole sheet of ice had collapsed with a large boulder at the bottom under the ice. It became obvious that the movement I’d seen was the rock wheeling down from high up having bounced from god knows where and smashed vertically down into the ice with a crack like a rifle shot and a ton of shattered ice collapsed down feeesssh!
I did feel just a tad foolish. Mind you it is the hunting season and I was wearing a bright yellow jacket and red trousers so easily confused with the local wildlife. Oh well. never a dull moment and all that. No witnesses at least.

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