Tuesday, 10 August 2010


When I was nine I walked up to the summit of Snowdon with my dad and my brother.  The whole experience must have made quite a big impression on me because I can still remember an awful lot about that day even though it is now thirty years later.  I can remember that I was proudly wearing my own pair of brown walking boots with crazy laces and I can remember that the day was long and hot and that we stopped to splash around in one of the three lakes which our path passed and I can remember too that we were all practically on our hands and knees crawling up the final ‘zig-zag’ towards the mountain’s summit.  And then when we got to the top, it was completely misty and we couldn’t see anything.  And I sat on a rock and ate my packed lunch and discovered, only after I’d bitten into it, that there was a maggot in my apple – and this had freaked me out so much that I’d chucked it over the side and into the mist and immediately been told off by my dad for potentially braining some poor unfortunate walker further down the mountain.

This month – thirty years on from that first ascent – I did it again.  A few things had changed.  I was with my husband.  There was no sunshine – only some heavy grey clouds.  My route was different.  Despite me repeatedly saying, ‘I need to go up the Miners’ Track and down the Pig Track because that’s what I did last time,’ we went up the Llanberis Track.  On the day, being slightly ill-prepared, it was the only track we could find.  It’s supposed to be the easiest.  But twenty minutes into the five-mile climb, it started raining.  Cold horizontal rain.  In late July.  This wasn’t how I remembered it.  Where was the boiling hot sun?  Where was the splashing around in a lake?  And, actually, where the heck were the lakes?  We didn’t see any.  In fact, we didn’t see anything!  The heavy grey clouds came down lower – or else we got up a bit higher – and it was all we could do to stay on the path and not go stumbling off around the mountainside inspiring a call to Snowdonia Mountain Rescue and an embarrassing slot on the Wales Today news programme.  Every now and then we’d see these spooky shapes coming towards us in the mist and they’d reveal themselves to be healthy red-faced walkers, kitted out with hiking poles and breathable water-resistant clothing.  We had jeans on.  Dripping soaking jeans.  And I did have a North Face ‘waterproof’ jacket on but I can’t say I was impressed with it.  Our boots were good though.  I didn’t have any crazy laces on this occasion but I did feel that same old ‘Damn it, my boots are mighty fine,’ kind of pride that I’d felt at the age of nine.

Eventually we got to the top, edged our way in the mist towards the brand new Summit of Snowdon Café and realised with disgust that it was filled to bursting with all the lazy people who had ridden up on the steam train.  And so I queued up for the loo, warmed myself up with the hand-dryer and promptly began the five mile descent back to the car.  But as we were walking, something amazing happened.  The cloud lifted.  And we could see for miles and miles across Snowdonia.  And it confirmed the suspicion I’ve had since the age of nine that Wales is quite possibly one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Hello this month to Kazia and also to all the lovely kids at Notre Dame School in Norwich.

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