We drove the car as far as it would go up the lane.  Then we put on our boots and head-torches and loaded ourselves up with packs before heading into the cold winter darkness and away from some of the luxuries of civilisation.  Only some of them.

Poppy was the first to great us with half excited half guarding barks.  But them she accepted us and welcomed us in with her owners.  We dined and sipped wine by the cracking fire as we listened to stories from strangers as they turned into friends.  In the early hours we retired to a bunk-room.  We wrapped ourselves in down and slept as the wind roared into the  granite walls.   Walls that stand guardian high up in the Mournes.


On Saturday we lit the fire in the wee bunkhouse, the first fire all winter.  The old stone sucked every ember of heat out of the fire for hours.  Some friends arrived as the sun began to crawl away.  We started dinner in reverse by sampling the dessert.  Darkness was here and it was time to do the most unnatural of things; head into the mountains.

I cannot describe how amazing the mountains were.  I can only tell you what the conditions were like; a clear sky full of stars, a wolf moon nearly full, mountains covered in snow, visibility for miles.  I even got to christen my ice axe with its first ice and its first mountain.  I christened it fiach dubh.

The snow was amazing and although it must have been about -5 before windchill; we felt fine.   After descending we arrived to a welcoming fire and walls that held some heat.  We dined and laughed and dined some more.

In the morning I learned a lesson.  Prior to the weekend some people had gotten a little worried about the conditions.  Would it be dangerous?  Would it be too slippy or too cold?  My attitute was that you won’t know until you try.  I insisted that all would be ok as long as we had the chance to see and turn back if it was bad.  Then in the morning before we went home I felt that anxiety.  Not about mountains or walking in them at night, but about getting down the lane in the cars.  The roles were now reversed as the snow began falling heavy in the morning and I looked at it with worry.  What if we can’t get the cars down?  I watched one of my friends begin to relight the fire before breakfast.  A little voice inside wanted to speak up; WE HAVE NO TIME! WE HAVE TO GET DOWN.  The snow began to fall thickly and heavy.  Everybody carried on as normal, preparing a large breakfast/lunch as the fire threw warmth back into the cottage.  Everything was fine, that was my lesson. Getting down the lane was only a little scary with the cars.  If we had got snowed in then there was not much we could have done.  We had food and warmth and good company.