It’s become a bit of a tradition among a select group of my friends that we get together at least once a year to leave our old lives behind and simply go off grid for a couple of days.
It’s a thing that middle aged guys do – others may fix vintage steam locomotives or dress up in women’s clothes – but this is what we do.
Our trips normally involve travelling to somewhere remote to sleep under the stars, eat dehydrated food and drink whiskey out of a plastic cup while scalding our feet beside an open fire.
We’ve been doing it for so long now that none of us can really remember why we do it. And never was this so much at the forefront of our minds than during our most recent outing when we almost died.
Through a series of unfortunate events and crap planning – our usual end of the Summer trip to the wilds of Wales was kicked into the long grass of Autumn and then… somehow ended up rolling into November – which, as we were soon to discover, is actually a winter month.
The idea was to pitch up at a B&B at Minffordd before heading up Cadair Idris – a mountain shrouded in myth (according to the Welsh tourist board).
And here the B&B deserves a mention. It was downright creepy – from the sinister doll collection to the oddly stained ceiling. It didn’t help that me and my two companions were the only guests – and that our host showed us to rooms beyond shouting range of each other. And so the next morning, having slept with the chair braced against the door, we headed out with an urgent spring in our step.
Cadair Idris (Isris’s chair) is at the southern end of the Snowdonia National Park is the highest point in a great crescent of jagged rock.
There is a legend that anyone who camps out at Cadair Idris wakes the next morning either driven mad or becomes a poet – we were keen to find out what would happen to us.
The plan was to hike up to the seat of the mountain and set up camp beside the lake before climbing up onto the ridge. It was so hot climbing up that we were down to t-shirts by time we reached our destination – tents pitched and brew on, we were looking forward to ditching our heavy rucksacks and heading higher.
But in the time it took to finish a cup of tea – the ridge above us was engulfed in fog – the temperature fell through the floor and the sun was snuffed out entirely. It was terrifyingly quick. Any thoughts of prancing along the peaks was out of the question as we stuffed down hot food and prepared for the onslaught.
A howling gale shreiked down from the peaks and ripped across the lake carrying shards of flying ice with it.
Lying in my tent felt like someone had grabbed the sides of the fabric and was trying to tear a way in – it was totally nuts – and I loved every minute!
I don’t know if I slept – but it was so dark that I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. And I began to hallucinate crazy patterns before my eyes – which may have been my brain making up for the lack of visual imput or something to do with having been a student in Manchester in the early 90s.
Staggering down the mountain the next morning – we met a couple of other guys coming up.
“Have you heard the legend?” the first one asked.
A dog walker following them asked the same question, and then an older couple, and then a group of four teenagers.
It felt like we were going mad.