Jill Roeder
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Jill Roeder - Rhowniar, Wales, 1985


Around 1985, when I was in my mid-forties (I can't remember the exact year), I signed up for a long weekend with Outward Bound Wales at the Rhowniar centre (now extinct). The raison d'etre for the weekend was to climb Cader Idris and spend Midsummer's Night (24 June) on the top. For some reason this idea appealed to me at the time.

I had three children and a job but somehow slotted this weekend into my schedule. It took me nearly all day to get to Rhowniar by train. There were about 15 of us on the course, a few more men than women. One I remember in particular was a surgeon at a prestigious London hospital who had kitted himself out in new Rohan outfits and went home with all of them muddy and torn.

Out first morning was spent doing team-building stuff. In the afternoon we had a coach which took us to the foot of Cader Idris where we were all lumbered with huge rucksacks full of everything but the kitchen sink plus sleeping-bags etc. I'm small and can't carry much so I endeavoured to have as little as possible in mine. It still weighed more than I did and how I managed to drag myself up nearly 3,000 feet with a heavy weight on my back still amazes me. Fortunately, the weather was dry and pleasant - beguiling us as it transpired. We got a meal and the guides helped us to put up tents and eventually we settled down for the night. I awoke a few hours later in a pool of water and about to float off the edge. The storm was terrific and most of us battled our way across the top to a deserted barn which gave us shelter for the night, though none of us were able to sleep. The walk down the next morning was unspeakable. When I dropped my sodden rucksack on the ground I soared about 6 feet into the air.

There was more team-building stuff when we got back to the Centre and the highlight of my weekend was going on the fantastic zip wire across the valley, now, alas, lost to new generations of Outward Bounders due to the closure of Rhowniar. Abseiling down a steep cliff was also a great experience.

OB courses get people to face their fears but I'm afraid I bottled out of mine - water and narrow spaces. I didn't get in a canoe and roll over in it, neither did I subject myself to a bout of claustrophobia by wriggling through some inch-high narrow concrete tunnels especially constructed to awaken one's darkest nightmares. I still don't regret these two decisions. Despite the lows it was a memorable weekend and I would recommend Outward Bound to all young people as a way of building confidence to go into adult life and feel able to deal with an often hostile world. Indeed, I owed my daughter a 'holiday' and suggested an OB course to which she agreed and she spent two weeks at the Eskdale centre as a result. She did the course shortly after I did mine and although it was tough she enjoyed it and has a host of memories from it.