Snowdon,

Sandwiches and a Soggy Sock

‘We can’t go on’ I shout, the wind buffeting my oversize pac-a-parka, whipping the hood toggles against the side of my damp face.

‘We have to go back, he said make sensible decisions remember?’

The he I am referring to is the parking warden we met earlier, warning us to ‘be careful in this weather. The trains aren’t even attempting it today.’

And the we is Alex and I, huddled together, backs pressed up against the damp, mossy wall of the railway bridge, hands shaking as we sip from a shared thermos, two thirds of the way up Mount Snowdon. We have come so far, but the fog has closed in, and the wind is threatening to knock us all the way back down to Llanberis village. The returning walkers ambling past all have disappointment etched on their face, as they declare the summit impossible to reach in this wind.

‘Oh well, we’ll come back and do it another time.’

I chew on a bite of soggy cheese sandwich, trying to swallow it past the lump forming in my throat.

‘We don’t even have to do the first part again, we’ll just get the train up and start from here.’

But even as I say this I know it’s cheating. Or giving up. And quite frankly, I’m not okay with either. If I can complete a half marathon in the middle of radiotherapy – walking of course, I’m not that good – then I can manage this. Even if I’m not really sure I wanted to climb Mount Snowdon in the first place…

It was all Alex’s idea. He had not stopped banging on about how amazing it was, ever since he did it himself two years ago. Having left our flat and old lives behind just over a week ago, it seemed fitting to mark the occasion with something a little epic.

So we had arrived yesterday. Staying in a wonderful little shepherds hut, on the side of beautiful Lake Bala, last night had consisted of some welsh lamb, barbecued by Alex on the camping stove outside our hut, and me, drinking wine, and trying to forget about the challenge ahead of me.

You see, I am not a climber, more of a stroller, the occasional Wainwright around the Lakes enough to satisfy my needs, but after the last year of shit stuff, I had toughened up a little, and now fancied myself as ‘up for anything’. Besides Alex kept saying, ‘you know you don’t have to, if you really don’t want to,’ and well that was just red flag to my internal bull.

Now here we are, so very wet, so very cold but so very close to the top, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I really, really want to carry on. The warden at the car park said to make sensible decisions before continuing on the path if the weather worsened, so our first sensible and very British decision, is to stop and have a cup of tea. And a sandwich. And as we slurp the dregs of the now lukewarm tea, we weigh up our options.

Of which of course, there are only two. Up or down. Carry on or give up. And, although there doesn’t seem to be any signs of the cloud clearing, we can see at least a few feet in front. And, as long as we shuffle forward, rather than stride, we should be okay. We have to try at least.

So we shuffle, and climb a little further, staying together in the centre of the path, and certainly not anywhere near the big ledge that we can’t see, but know is there from the map.

And we’re far from alone.

There is the group of weary friends chattering behind us, their slogan t-shirts declaring they’re ‘doing it for Craig’, one of the many groups of brave charity walkers we’ve seen today.

Then there are the ‘serious’ climbers, striding ahead of us in neon breathable layers, water packs with dangly straws strapped to their back, aluminium poles grasped determinedly in each hand.

And then there’s us, shuffling ever further up the mountain, just one foot in front of the other. Except one of mine is now very damp. My trusty left boot has sprung a leak, and now I have one very wet sock, rubbing against my foot, which is, of course, starting to blister.

And just when I’m starting to think that perhaps the sensible decision would have been to not attempt to climb this effing mountain in the first place, there is a tiny, almost imperceptible break in the cloud. And for just a few seconds, we can see how far we’ve come, and how awe inspiring that view over the ledge really is.

And although the fog closes in again, it is enough to push us forwards. I’m actually starting to believe we can do this. I think I may even be enjoying it. Then, with one final gust of wind, the fog really does clear, and as we make our way up the steepest part of our walk, we can finally see what we are heading for. The summit point. Or as I exclaim when Alex points it out ‘what, that big pile of rocks over there?’

And it’s so close. Just another few hundred feet and I can join the brave and hearty few – hundred? Where did they all come from? – scrabbling up the slippery steps to the trig point, to take an obligatory photo, or as some are doing, neck some Rosé wine!? But alas we have no Rosé, so instead we settle for a second soggy sandwich, and perch on a rock to watch the clouds part further, until Wales is spread like a quilted map below us.

You can see the ocean, heck I’m sure you can even see our old flat in Brighton if you squint hard enough (not geographically possible Alex says, I say pah). And wet sock, or no wet sock, it is so worth the climb. 

Of course, upon reaching the top, and celebrating, in whichever way you see fit (no judgement Rosé chuggers), you forget in all that jubilation, that what comes up, must…well you know the rest. I know that I do, until Alex very kindly reminds me that we only have a few hours until sunset, and more importantly the fish and chip shop closes at 7.

And so we set off, forgetting in all the excitement of ‘making it’, to wring my sock out, heading back down the mountain the same way we came up. Except this time, the sun is actually shining, and the fog has completely cleared, and you know what, I’m quite glad I couldn’t see more on the climb up, because that mountain is high! If I had actually been able to see the challenge in front of me, I may well have given up long before the railway station. Or at the very least moaned a lot more…

So after all that, you probably think there is no way on earth I would do it again right? Well, no, not quite. I actually do fancy trying one of the more difficult paths. That’s where all the people at the top came from. No wonder they needed a drink!

And I do love a challenge. The pushing myself out of my comfort zone of fizzy wine and a good book on the sofa. There is a song by Baz Lurhman with the words ‘do one thing every day that scares you’, and the thought of climbing that mountain again does just that. But perhaps next time I’ll remember to pack some spare socks. Oh and the Rosé, of course.

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