Climbing Snowdon for the stubborn

Climbing Snowdon for the stubborn

Compromise is the one of the cornerstones of any good relationship. Jake wanted to climb a mountain. I wanted to stay at sea level and cuddle. So we climbed a mountain (did we do it right?).

It’s become a running joke that while I like walking and cycling, I very much prefer to do so on flat ground. Seriously, what kind of masochist enjoys going uphill? It burns, it hurts, you sweat and it’s overall an unpleasant physical experience (I know that many would say that rowing fulfils all of these criteria. It’s different, okay? I was literally given medals for all of that rowing – were there any medals at the top of Snowdon? I think not).

The day was off to a good start after I stated clearly “I’m not bringing my wallet. Do you have yours?” and Jake replied with a resounding “yes.” Twenty minutes into the drive, he says “Oh. Turns out I don’t have my wallet. Oops.” This resulted in us doing forty-five minutes of extra walking, each way, to get from our parked car to the official start of the walk. I’ll admit that there was no way we would have found a space in the car park or that we’d have paid for parking in rural Wales, but I think it was part of Jake’s secret plan to maximise uphill walking time.

After forty-five minutes of bonus walking we looked at the map, and Jake was immediately drawn to the ‘treacherous’ route, Crib Goch. We agreed to decide which route to take when we reached the fork in the path. Did I mention the path resembles a knife edge? Such a relaxing prospect.

Before the treacherous climbing began

As we approached the start of the knife edge ascent after an extremely approximate hour of walking, I looked at Jake. I’m all for an adventure, but I also like to think I have healthy sense of self-preservation. I’d never done anything like this before. But my main feeling, a feeling that overrode any other feeling, was that I always want to do scary things without appearing remotely scared of them (not sure I would recommend this as a life strategy but fake-it-‘til-you-make it has its uses). We set off.

It wasn’t that scary. Physically, I found the climbing very manageable (and fun!) but I am fit and healthy. The route is described for ‘experienced hikers only’ and that’s probably about right (though I am more ‘misguided ex-athlete hanging onto residual fitness’ than experienced hiker, but same difference). Each individual step felt safe but the bigger picture was somewhat alarming. There were lots of moments where I did feel nervous, but I rationalised that there were many other people up there, people climb this route every day and everyone is fine. Worth it not just for the views, but also to continue setting the precedent that you should always do the things that scare you, because it’s almost always totally fine and makes you just that bit braver the next time.

While we were scrambling along the knife edge, it started to rain. Great.

the ‘knife edge’ in a cloud

The scrambling continued. The clouds moved over the ridge, so sometimes we were literally climbing in a cloud, getting rained on, and sometimes there was glorious sun. The further up we climbed, the more rain started to dominate the weather. Did I mention this was August? Why do we live here?

After getting across the ridge we joined up with the other routes for the final part of the walk to the summit. I listened to Jake make a joke about how Snowdon is “like the M25!” for the hundredth time and quietly accepted that if we stick it out, I’m in for a lifetime of terrible dad jokes.

The summit was wet. It was in a cloud. We couldn’t see anything. It was full of people who were standing in an enormous queue for the café. (Why is there a café on the top of Snowdon? And why were people queuing for it? Do they not know there are many cafés in Snowdonia, most of which have much smaller queues and don’t require hours of strenuous activity to reach?). But I was happy to have made it and to have made Jake happy by doing so. Compromise, as I said.

Standing at the top, I was hugely grateful we chose Crib Goch as our route.  We were able to see amazing views of Snowdonia and the lakes from up there, views which unfortunately eluded us at the summit due to the white-out. I was also grateful to not be a small dog that had been dragged up a mountain clearly against my will, based on the number of tiny dogs struggling up behind their owners. I was also grateful to not be wearing flip-flops or have forgotten my raincoat, as many of the people we shared the summit with had done. It’s a mountain – don’t wear flip-flops. It’s the UK – always bring a raincoat. Free wisdom.

We started our descent soon after, deciding to walk down the Pyg Track, past the beautiful lakes. For a day that had begun with sunshine and t-shirts, the middle section of our day was filled with rain. If there was a point where morale dipped, it had to be walking down amongst thousands of other people and getting pelted by rain. Climbing mountains tends to feel less intrepid when you have to queue to take your next step.

Suddenly though, we were out of the cloud, the rain stopped, the crowd thinned and we were next to beautiful lakes and waterfalls again. Nature prevailed. It was glorious.

It was a fairly gentle final hour or so back to the car. My legs were feeling it by then but there’s nothing like the call of a hot shower and a hot chocolate to keep you moving. That’s the thing with climbing mountains – once you’re up, you’ve got to get down. (In the interest of honesty, there’s actually a train to the summit and back at Snowdon. It’s a tourist mountain. There’s a treacherous climb and a direct train. Choose your own adventure.)

Overall, climbing Snowdon was a great thing. I’m so glad we went up Crib Goch but if you’re not up for that – and think carefully about if you are because it’s not easy to turn back once you’re up there – then it’s still worth climbing via the other routes. Great views and good times had by all. Despite my initial reticence, I have a suspicion there may be more mountains in my future – if only to prove that I can, and to leverage against Jake for a favour in the future.

Decathlon’s Next Top Model

Part of my ‘make-ascending-mountains-fun’ plan was to make a video of our walk, either to capture the joy as we bonded over Jake’s treasured hobby or to capture the slow descent into resentment as I asked “are we nearly there yet?” for the millionth time. Fortunately, it’s much closer to the former.  

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