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It was the early 90s. Myself and my buddy were reasonably experienced trekkers in the Mourne Mountains, and we took two novice friends up for a night in Annalong Valley, just down from Hares Gap below the Brandy Pad. It was a beautiful walk in, and a starry night.
Come early morning though the rain and mist came from nowhere. We were going to mooch it out in tents, but the second tent failed and water got into the base, soaking the campers and sleeping bags. It was hammering down, and mist was giving us maybe 20m visibility.
In the wet, cold, with soaking gear, we decided to try and exit.
We compassed up to the Brandy Pad and traversed along to try and find the Donard col and Glen River (Newcastle being our goal). The novices were getting cold and were not used to it, and the path was one big stream with no landmarks to get to Donard. We could barely see the Annalong River, never mind the Devil’s Coach Road.
With things getting worse we decided to go up to find the wall and col. Miraculously, we saw the wall in the mist, at a col between two mountains! Couldn’t believe our luck. But suddenly, my friend and I realised we didn’t recognise that patch of wall…
Our friends were tired and starting to wobble. We had to get out. We made the decision to go up Commedagh, bringing our charges with us. We couldn’t leave them in bivvy bags in the mist. It was a hellish half hour, but we got over, poured down the other side, and got to the Glen River just as the rain calmed down.
We made it safely to Newcastle, stuffed tea, buns and Guinness into each other, and got the Ulsterbus back to Belfast. I remember the steam rising from our friends’ clothes as they dozed, and my bud and I just stared at each other thinking how damned lucky we were.
We replaced the tent with a 400-quid wild country quasar – won’t get caught out again!
You can follow Brian on Twitter. Sample photos provided by David McIlroy.
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