“WOW!” moments: 2
“O.M.G. I’m going to die!” moments: 1
And that was just during the drive there…
Looking back I think I may have taken this climbing up Snowdon thing a bit lightly.
I spent the first half of my life, 25-odd years, in New Zealand. It’s got lots of volcanoes & big mountains & stuff. I could see the Southern Alps, with its 30+ peaks over 3 kilometres high, from my bedroom window, & I’d been up in the mountain passes there often.
And in 2006 I climbed the Inca Trail in the Peruvian Andes to Machu Picchu, going up to 4,300M. The only major problem I had there was altitude sickness, & I got over that after an hour of climbing.
So when the mighty Mammasaurus asked for people to climb with her I was excited! I hadn’t done anything that active in the 3 ½ years since the Mummy got a big tummy & I leapt at the chance to get out & about again. And she did offer me a lot of gin!
“It’s not a proper mountain: just a hill, really”, I told myself. “How hard can it be? I’ve climbed The Andes, dammit – that’s like 4 Snowdons!”
Ignoring the fact that the Inca Trail was me at 7 years younger, & that the most exercise I get these days is carrying Jake down the stairs in the morning…
As the days went on however I did start to become concerned. It gets cold up there in March. There’s snow. And ice. Rain & high winds. Poor visibility. And Yetis. I really hate Yetis.
It’s the day before the climb & I’m ready to go. Then I find that both cars need emergency repairs & tax discs. Then 2 teeth fall out. At one point I wondered if I would at all but eventually I managed to set off in one piece (minus 2 teeth), in a legal & safe car.
In typical non-comformist style I stayed overnight in the old Midlands house that we can’t sell while the rest of the team slept in a Snowdon hostel. I left early in the morning, aiming to meet up with everyone in the Llanberis carpark at 8.30 for a 9a.m. start.
I was having a good run in, until…
Turning a corner somewhere on a north Wales hill the car went into a spin: 360 degrees, with stone walls on either side & into oncoming traffic. I got lucky & hit nothing, but it could have been different. Black ice!
After that I drove much more carefully & slowly, being rewarded with some stunning scenery. Then I saw Snowdon & got all emotional, and a bit primal. As much as I love looking after my gorgeous twins for the first time in years I felt a freedom I’d forgotten!
My cautious driving however meant my arriving at 8.40, 10 minutes later than planned.
To more problems! The carpark was full, I was told by the spectacularly unhelpful man in charge, despite many unused spots supposedly reserved for ‘staff’ being clearly visible. He then pointed me to the nearest parking spot: back down the steep road, 20 minutes’ walk away. Stopping in a coach spot I quickly spotted a large group of excited people, mostly women in red pants. Running over I was delighted to recognise Penny from ‘Alexander Residence’; fortunately my “Hi Penny!” didn’t interupt her filming!
After a few quick introductions ‘Mummy Barrow’ & I went over to have a word with Mr Helpful. He just wasn’t budging. When the words “Health & Safety, you see” were uttered I decided to take ‘the better part of not punching anyone’ & just park down the road. The plan was for everyone else to take off but to just walk slowly so I could catch up.
It was a steep road! I legged it up the hill, & saw the group winding up the mountain path. Not knowing what pace we’d be able to keep up we were always concerned at getting back down before sunset, & at the time I’d felt confident that I could catch up quickly. Overconfident, as it turned out.
At least the view was good:
I got back up at 9, out-of-breath, tired & hot, despite the cold weather. It was already clear that I wasn’t as fit as I’d hoped. Stopping to obey nature’s call I set off in pursuit!
After an hour, during which time the path got progressively steeper & rockier, there was still no sign of them. I heard later that the teenage boys in the party were setting a pretty good pace. I’ve been quite amused to read other posts that describe this part of the walk as a gentle introduction: by this time I was already knackered! I was by now kicking myself, almost literally, for stupidly deciding that I didn’t need the trekking pole I’d brought with me.
Again though, the views were good!
Soon I came to a big lake & for the first time I started to have serious doubts. The track went off in 2 directions, I had no idea which way the team had gone & there was no signal on my ‘phone. I took what seemed to be the main track, one which I saw other climbers using. I was starting to wonder if I ever would catch up, if I was even on the right track. I was thinking that soon I might have to decide whether to carry on & climb the mountain alone, or turn around & go back home. Not a decision I wanted to have to make.
Fortunately I didn’t have to! At about 10:40 I rounded a corner to a stunning frozen lake – & finally found #TeamHonk!
Apparently they’d been waiting there for some time. I was trying to press on but I guess my pace must have slowed as I became increasingly tired, despite all the Lucozade & snack bars!
They seemed as relieved to see me as I was them, giving me a warm welcome & shoving chocolate brownies into my sweaty hands! After a quick break – not before my realising, (while I was flat on my stomach about to take The Best Photo In The World Ever), that I hadn’t charged my camera – we set off again, together. I just wanted to lie down & sleep for about 10 years…
Unsurprisingly the climb got really tough from here on. Slippery rocks on narrow ledges, with steep drops on the side, then treacherous snow & ice. Soon I was really struggling; every step was agony. My body was screaming at me to just @%^!ing stop! But that just wasn’t going to happen.
The weather gods seemed to have been having fun with us as well! I’d come dressed for arctic blizzards & rain: thermal undies & socks, 2 T-shirts, shirt, thick jumper, padded jacket, ski-gloves, a llama-wool hat & waterproof trousers. But it was sunny & dry! It was cold but nowhere near as extreme as I had anticipated. One of my main problems was overheating: even with several layers stripped off I had to frequently stop to smear snow & ice on my face to cool down.
About this time Leela very kindly lent me her spare pole. It was a real lifesaver, & made a huge difference. Thank You lovely lady.
We were at the business end of the climb now: a long, hard steep slog over difficult terrain. I have no photos, sadly, but have a look at other #TeamHonk posts and you’ll get the picture! By now it wasn’t just me who was struggling.
And I thought it would be easy! I was very wrong. The 4 times higher Inca Trail, for me anyway, was a stroll in the park compared to Britain’s little old Mount Snowdon!
But we struggled on, encouraged & cajoled by Gemma & her friends Marit & Al, who so kindly volunteered their time to guide our climb.
Until finally we came to a long but gentle snowy slope, & after what initially looked like an impossible last clamber up a slippery lump…
TOP O’ THE WORLD, MA!
I really don’t remember when I last felt so completely exhausted. But was it worth it? Absolutely! I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. The sense of achievement of finally getting to the top was immense. It really is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, but I’m so glad I did it.
And of course I did it in good company. It was terrific to meet up in person with people I only know from blogs & twitter, & also with people I’d had no contact with before, although I was just too drained to be as sociable as I’d have liked. I’m hoping we can do it again sometime soon, somehow.
But of special importance was that it was for “a good cause”. At last count we’d raised £5,655 for Comic Relief! Just £1, for example, pays for a child in Africa to be checked for malaria, £5 buys a net that stops him being infected in the first place. Potential life-savers!
After lunch the trip down was longer but gentler, easier overall but hard on the thighs & knees. And a good chance to relax a bit & chat.
Except… it had what for me was the hardest part of the whole day. Quite early on we were on a wide path which was mostly icy snow but with mud & gravel on the side. The side that had the sharp drop to unseen depths. Have I mentioned that I don’t like heights? That alone made me nervous. Then we had to get off the gravel & onto the ice. For the life of me I just could not keep my footing, even with the spiky pole. One slip could have, literally, been fatal. If it hadn’t been for Marit, our brilliant mountain guide, I would really have struggled!
Finally at the bottom, after some photos & knicker-throwing, & a few fond farewells, it was off to the pub! One of the sweetest beers I have ever tasted!
Now, as a certified Conqueror of the Mighty Snowdon, I have some advice for future climbers:
“Respect the mountain and she will respect you. Do not and neither will she”.
A lesson I had to learn the hard way.
Thank you to you all!
Especially those who kept me company while I was struggling on the way up. It’s a bit of a blur, to be honest, but I do remember chatting with Kat, Hannah, Leela & Emma. And making the final few hard yards with Annie. Thank you, ladies. Also chatting with Bruce & Marit on the way down.
Thank you to our guides & experts Marit, Al & Gemma.
Special thanks to Al for showing me that my borrowed pole had a pointy bit: useful in the ice. That was good tip, Al (sorry…).
Thanks to Annie ‘Mammasaurus’ for getting me involved.
Thanks to ‘Mummy Barrow’ for her vision & her organising.
Thanks to Penny for this brilliant video of our climb.
Thanks to Clare Balding for supporting us so much on twitter. Go #TeamBalders!
To Gower Cottage Brownies for the chocolate deliciousness.
To Hi-Tec for the merino wool walking socks.
And to the Youth Hostel Association for the free meals. That morning after breakfast was like Mana from Heaven!
And thank you for reading!
And finally, of course, extra special thanks to everyone who sponsored us. Your generosity really will make a difference!
And it’s still not too late to sponsor us if you haven’t already. Just £1 could save a life!
You might also like to read:
- A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum (#TeamHonk) (whiskeyforaftershave.com)
- TeamHonk Blog Post Link Up! (mammasaurus.co.uk)
- How to make £1 go a very long way (whiskeyforaftershave.com)