Saturday, May 12, 2007


We was robbed!

One goes hillwalking in Wales for the character-building climate (local weather forecasting lore: See yonder hill? If it’s visible it means it’s going to rain; if it’s not, it means it’s raining now); the navigation-skills-testing vistas (uniformly grey; it’s not that the rocks are all one colour, it’s the mist that hangs in front of them, 50 yards from your face); the body-building-benefit of lugging a rucksack full of all-weather gear up hill and down dale.

Instead, what do I get? Three days of startlingly blue skies, unbroken by the slightest hint of a smudge of cloud; three days of temperatures over which mid-August visitors to the English seaside would be in raptures of delight (Can you believe it? Sunburnt in Wales, and April barely passed. That’s global warming for you…) Where’s the challenge in that? Where’s the sense of adventure, of adversity overcome?

(The route on day 2 of my recent trip, the Snowdon Horseshoe, ascends behind the ridge at the left, then follows the very top of the ridge round to the summit from which this shot was taken - the highest point in Wales - carrying on over the summit to the right eventually returning to the starting point. Slideshow is available here.)

Nay, I jest. Of course, the weather was a huge and uncharacteristic bonus; yes I truly did enjoy my all too brief spell amongst the hills. Nevertheless, humour always finds its basis in reality; there’s an element of truth behind those opening paragraphs. In spite of the pleasures of the trip, I did come away with a nagging sense of something missing. As well as for the views, the sense of closeness to nature, the remoteness from city life, I go on these trips as a way of proving myself; testing myself and coming away – usually – with an increased self assurance which comes from passing the test. Why I should feel this need, I don’t know. But there’s no doubt it’s there, and its fulfilment keeps me positive and energised. Unfortunately, the converse also applies – when that need goes unfulfilled for an extended period, I find myself listless and increasingly lacking in confidence and drive.

This time round, although there was some steep scrambling involved, often in quite exposed situations, the rock was dry and the visibility good, with no howling gale to upset balance, threatening to pluck you from rock and send you tumbling down the mountainside; this was a veritable walk in the park compared to my previous foray along this particular ridge, eight years ago:

Nonetheless, I was pleased with my effort. Route finding up some of the rocky scrambling sections where there is no visible path is not always easy, even in 100% visibility, and I was able to help out a couple of guys who were having difficulty spotting the route in a couple of places.

‘Course, the morning I left, an early mist rolled in after dawn, so I still had to pack up a wet tent and put it up in the garden to dry when I got home. Wales couldn’t bear to let me go without leaving me a taste of its normal self.

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