But it isn’t either of those things; it’s worse. Around the corner of the cairn there suddenly appears Darth Vader, only now it appears the guy has rabies on top of everything else. Only it’s not Darth Vader, it’s a fell-runner wearing an elevation training mask, out of the filters of which is hanging a five-inch semi-frozen gobbet of drool.
If I wasn’t prepared for that, I am even less prepared for his mate who materialises behind him decked out in a fleece, trakkie bottoms and a bobble hat from Lidl. I barely made it up here with shoes and poles, Gore-Tex and goggles – Northern Ireland I salute you. I pull out my camera but the two of them have already faded back into the gloom and I only have Paddy’s word for it that they were there at all.
We finish our food and begin the descent. I begrudge walking down any sloped surface, it’s just not done – you either roll or slide. But once again the mountains laugh at my little human notions and force us to fall and stumble down from the summit in our boots. It is still a very enjoyable experience but I am all too aware that even though I have now unstrapped my board from my pack, it remains a passenger and not a vehicle, essentially 5 kilos-plus of useless wind-catching p-tex.
“Balls to this, I’m strapping in.” Paddy feels the same. There is but a two metre wide ribbon of snow to follow, the same strip we had all but dismissed on the way up, the build-up created by the wall. All else is heather and rock. And those two metres are not constant, sometimes it is only a board’s width between stones, sometimes not even that, but it’s there, and it’s there because of the wall.
“And it turns out to be the most exhilarating, soulful shred I have had in a long, long time”
And it turns out to be the most exhilarating, soulful shred I have had in a long, long time. Seems a two metre corridor and the right attitude are all you need, and soon Paddy and I are hollering and whooping like children, the wall blurring along beside us like some miniature stone train.
I am reminded of some Australians I once met while surfing Bundoran years ago and the home video they were so proudly showing everyone; hours of footage of humble Irish stone walls and very little else, shot from the window of their moving car, an endless grey blur punctuated by excited Aussie expletives, “we don’t facken have these at home mate!”