Walking Wales - Day 3 & 430 September 2014
What a couple of days I’ve had! Day 3 was a rollercoaster. I started off at a campsite at the base of the Carneddau and began by climbing one of Wales’ hardest mountains, Tryfan.
It’s steep and requires a lot of scrambling, therefore moving slowly on your feet and hands. Some parts pass dangerously close to sheer drops, so extra care is needed. On top I stopped for a short break and met 2 new friends, Ben and Rich. We then made our way to the Glyders. The climb is still quite scrambly, but because it’s so near most of the ascent has already been done.
By now I’m knackered, I’ve climbed 2 mountains and I haven’t even covered half the distance I’d planned for the day. I want to get over Snowdon before nightfall, which is only 3 hours away, so that I can spend the next day resting in Beddgelert. The longing for a rest day makes me push hard and commit a cardinal sin - rushing on the mountains. I descend the Glyders too fast, sometimes breaking into a little run. I know it’s wrong but maybe it’ll be okay, I hear my mum and grandad (two seasoned hill walkers, my grandad being a well known member of the Scottish Mountaineering Council) berating me in my head. I collapseonto the floor acknowledging the madness of the situation. I can see the summit of Snowdon in the distance, it’s way too far. I sober up and make a much more civilised pace. But on the way down I pass through some marsh and discover that my expensive shoes leak. Then I take a wrong turn and find myself needing to climb down 10 metres of cliff. No chance. I have to go back up. Wow, I am so grumpy right now. Everything’s going wrong and there’s no rest day tomorrow, more of the same arduous climbing.
I plan to begin the ascent of Snowdon and camp by a lake, the idea of a swim to get rid of all the sticky sweat spurs me on. But by the time I get to the lakes, the evening has brought some perfect weather and the thought crosses my mind that I could make it to the top for sunset. I check the idea out with some descenders I pass, they all agree, I should go for it. It’s a big push and my legs are aching. I grab some water from a stream, quickly sterilise it so it’s ready for the peak and grunt my way up.
The view from the top is magnificent. 360 degrees of sea and mountains. I gorge myself on the silence and beauty. How rare to be the only person on the busiest mountain in Wales and have such a wonderous vista. Because there is a sturdy cafe up here with decent shelter amongst it’s walls, I decide it’ll be safe enough for me to bivvy on the summit; I can retreat to the safety of the nooks of a building if things get hairy.
But just as I’m cooking dinner, enjoying the twinkly street lights of distance towns, I am joined by over 30 climbers with headtorches. They are completing the 24 hour Three Peak Challenge. It is surreal. Suddenly it’s like a party up here. Then after an hour or so they leave, descending in the darkness. Suddenly it is cold and lonely. Fortunately it is vey toasty in my down sleeping bag. I get some sleep.
Then at about 3am I am woken by yet more Three Peakers. This time though, they are smaller, just 4 people and it’s not such a party. They are slower becausee one of them is a stroke sufferer. They’re patience and determination is inspiring. They are all in great spirits. For the occasion they have brought a small bottle of single malt whiskey, they invite to a toast. We drink from a srange Socttish vessel with celtic knotwork engravings. It is a night that I will never forget.
I sleep surprsingly well, getting up after 8am. I get stuff together and manage to make it to Beddgelert for lunch. I visit the shops, shower, feast on Wifi and enquire about new walking shoes. In the evening two old friends drive out to meet me, by me beer and pub grub and make me laugh. They leave me with enough provisions to make it Dolgellau in 3 days.
Whilst waiting for my friends in the pub, by serendipity, I get talking to a fellow walker who is walking the Cambrian way. This is almost the exact same walk I am doing, but the other direction! He is on day 20 and is talking about problems getting his brain to convince his legs to walk. Yikes. We exchange Facebook, I hope to keep in touch.
Now, for the next few days I will be covering the smaller mountains of the Rhinogs, much easier going, hopefully.