Over the weekend, I trekked along the mountain ridge south of Lough Nafooey – it is the second half of the Joyce Country Challenge route that I mentioned last week. Though the light was gray and dull, it was a good day out – the temperature was just right for hiking and it wasn’t very strenuous (once the first peak is climbed, there isn’t any serious uphill sections for the remainder of the trail). Better still, veils of rain swept across every ridge except ours. From Mweelrea behind us, the Devil’s Mother and the Maumtrasnas to the north of us and even across the waters of Lough Mask in front of us, grey curtains of rain fell – but not on us.
On the final descent to Finny church, there is a grassy slope. I skidded but managed to steady myself without falling. Just as I was about to start walking again, my feet completely went from under me and I fell heavily. My rucksack took some of the brunt of the impact and saved my back from injury, but my head whipped right back and clattered against the ground. Luckily, the helmet I was wearing saved me from any injury.
I bought the walking helmet about 2 years ago. I must confess that safety was not my primary motivation. Over the years, I’ve been on plenty of hikes when it rained for most of the day. On those days, it is hard to keep a camera dry, so I’d planned to buy a weatherproof camera [for days like this or this]. The GoPro Hero was the camera I wanted to get – it can shoot either stills or high-resolution video – and it came with a completely waterproof housing, plus an assortment of fittings to attach it to things. One of the examples on their website was a camera fixed to a walking helmet, which solved another problem when hiking – sometimes, a camera hanging from the neck is an encumbrance.
As it happens, the GoPro doesn’t have great battery life so I usually bring along an SLR anyway [and my current camera - a Canon 7D - also can record high-resolution video]. But once I bought the helmet, I’ve worn it on every hike. I wouldn’t go hiking without it now (even before my accident yesterday) – I see it as essential as a cycling helmet. It’s funny – I cycled all the time as a youngster with a helmet, but I wouldn’t get on a bike now without a helmet.
Walking in Connemara is not very dangerous – one is far more likely to be killed or injured driving out to the mountains than actually hiking in them. And though I’ve often slipped and fell on boggy ground (since most of the hills in Connemara are covered in either mud or boggy material) but every fall so far has been a slide or slip, with my hiking clothes as the only casualty. And my fall this weekend wasn’t that dramatic either – no-one else in the group saw it happen and I was back on my feet before they noticed (albeit with an impressive black boggy stripe adoring the rear of my hiking gear). I fell on soft ground so perhaps the helmet didn’t make much difference. I rarely meet anyone else on the hills that wears a helmet either, and for the vast majority of people, it will never be an issue. But just like insurance, it is only value for money once you make a claim, but you never know when you are going to need it. Well, I made my first claim yesterday, and the helmet has already paid for itself.