… I’ll walk the dog. 7PM yesterday evening, some confusion about whose turn it was to drag Smurf The Smelly around the local field. I wasn’t keen due to an appointment with some snow, mud and cold – all wrapped up in a dark and windy night – starting about now. Carol wasn’t keen on the grounds she was warm and dry in the house. The dog – frankly – didn’t look up for it either.
Shirker of responsibilities that I am, I left them to it and headed out into a night about as wild and dangerous as a saloon bar in Goldrushtown, Gunsville, USA back in the early 1900s.” The ride started drizzly with a stiff north wind belying the above zero temperatures. Half way up the first climb, I felt about as overdressed as an Oscar Nominee at a Cage Fight, with sweat from the inside vying for “Dampest Thing on Al” against the increasingly persistent rain.
An hour later I was congratulating myself on three layers, all of the outer ones waterproof, buff, thick gloves and clear glasses. However that was somewhat accentuating the positive ,as we slogged up wet grass in a weather event dangerously close to a full on gale. The God of Darkness is a vengeful deity – he taketh away traction and warmth before even handedly chucking in horizontal sleet and a clump of unwanted chainsuck.
We’d already been within tree striking distance of some big accidents, travelling horizontally off roots and having less steering input than a sleeping passenger. There was unclipping here, facebush(tm) over here, and an undertone of grumpythermia* as a sleet battered route conference insanely selected a long route home over high ridges.
A decision that left us unprotected by the shoulder of the hill, and climbing on increasingly snowy paths that limited both grip and visibility. The latter was less of an issue what with the icy wind driving spiteful sleet into a faceful of numb and squint.” The descent was even more amusing with a desperation to get off the summit tempered by not actually being able to see where you were going.
I pointed the light directly at the front wheel to try and give me something to work with. But it was just placebo, and the route down was a full on trials brake-squint-deep breath-roll effort. In a further moment of madness, it was decided that we’d have a crack at one more big climb. And why not since we were already cold, piss wet through and head-to-toe muddy?
This proved an incautious decision as the now settled snow sucked power from your legs and traction from your tyres. The descent was nothing more than a “just get me out of here alive, I’ll vote Liberal, I’ll start going to Church, just get me OFF THIS SODDING HILL“. Sanity returned in the guise of a soul destroying drop back onto tarmac, losing painfully gained height but preserving sufficient core temperature to stave off proper hypothermia.
The ride home through freezing puddles and proper full on stormy rain actually wasn’t that bad after the horror of the previous hour. And when I’m sprinting up the climbs next spring and snaking down dusty singeltrack, nights like that will return more than they took. But as I shivered in my car, with the heater on full blast and the sky exploding overhead, I couldn’t help thinking:
“I should have walked the bloody dog”
* A sub symptom of hypothermia bringing together the coldness of all extremities with the unhappiness of being stuck outside in a pissing storm.