October is a bit of an odd time of year to go off climbing mountains isn’t it? Why on earth were we doing this so late in the year? Well actually it was all planned for much earlier – last year. Accommodation all booked, training walks penciled in the calendar…we were good to go! Then the nastiness happened and put paid to all hopes of any kind of challenges other than getting better. But my friends were united in agreeing to postpone and do this together once I was well enough 🙂 So in order to give me a bit of time to get some kind of fitness and strength back, this is when it was going to be.
So 5 girls and all our many, many bags crammed into my car and we somewhat nervously made our way from Cardiff to Llanberis on Friday evening. The journey itself was pretty epic – 7 hours!! Throwing down with rain and very windy. Add into that very dark, slow, twisting country roads and it just seemed to go on forever. We were all absolutely exhausted by the time we reached our b and b, stood outside in the pouring rain waiting for someone to let us in. We all said how much we were looking forward to our beds and yet none of us managed any sleep!
7.30am and it was time to head off for the first mountain, the big one, Snowdon. It was still dark, the wind was racing, we were all very bleary eyed and shattered as we crammed into the car once again. I have never been to this area of Wales before, the scenery was just incredible. We were surrounded by vast mountains and stunning autumnal colours.
The car park was already getting busy even at this early hour. We met up with our guide extraordinaire, Clare’s dad Stuart, who it has to be said was pretty brilliant throughout the whole day. We are all very grateful to him for taking the time to do this for us in what turned out to be, in his words, “the worst winds I’ve ever walked in” – he did a fantastic job and kept us all safe.
The start of Snowdon was deep stone steps winding up the side of the mountain,we began in dry weather, quite enjoyable. Then the rain came down heavily and we just put our head down and plodded on. As we turned to the other side of the mountain we noticed the wind pick up. The scenery was stunning. There was a lot of cloud so we couldn’t see far but it was just beautiful. We wound our way around and up the mountain, as we did the track got narrower and there didn’t seem to be much but fresh air the other side – a long way down! The sky was white – very poor visibility now. I was starting to feel a bit nervous…
A huge gust of wind knocked us all to the ground at the same time, we were pinned to the spot we landed, pretty shaken. I looked up to see two of the girls hanging on right at the edge of the track.Things had got scary all of a sudden.
We continued on our way but by now it was not an enjoyable experience. Every time the wind gusted we hung on to the side, crouching down, until it passed. I was walking bent down leaning into the mountain to try and protect myself from the wind.
We reached a point were we all stopped to gather together and now it was decision time. To carry on in these conditions, to get to the top where it was going to be even windier and no shelter, or come down off the mountain before things got worse? I looked ahead and it appeared to be stone steps to climb, very exposed and a massive drop. By now I don’t mind admitting I was absolutely terrified. There was no way I was going any further!! We had made it 2/3 of the way, so close to the summit, it wasn’t a great feeling to know we wouldn’t get to the top but I had stopped enjoying it long ago and just wanted to feel safe. There would be no view at the top anyway. Two of the girls wanted to give it a go so they carried on with our trusty guide and the rest of us began to make our way down. It wasn’t long before we saw them behind us again, they had tried but the wind was awful and they decided it wasn’t worth the risk and were coming down too.
We had to keep stopping to duck down out of the wind many times and saw a family who had tethered their child to a rucksack on the dad’s back. The wind took the dad off his feet… It just doesn’t bear thinking about what could have happened…
As we approached the base of the mountain we walked past the warden’s notice board telling us the winds were 75mph! We heard later on it was so bad power lines had been knocked down and areas were without electricity. People seemed generally oblivious to the weather and its potential though. We saw some incredible sights of inappropriate clothing. One group of lads very proud of their new wellies they were climbing in!! Some people in shorts and t shirts…
So, 4 hours after we started we were back at the car with another decision to make. Do we try Cadair Idris? We agreed we should give it a go. So after a quick sandwich stop ( I had red bull, I felt like I needed wings by this point) it was off to mountain number two. We were very determined!! As we had very limited time, due to trying to fit two mountains in in one day, and it getting dark earlier now so we had to go the shortest most direct route. It began by walking up an incredibly steep field. Very tough going on already aching legs but no sheer drop by the side so I felt completely safe. As we climbed over the stile into the next field to head upwards we were told to follow the fence. So my eye ran along the line of the fence. Flat, flat, flat – VERTICAL!!! Oh my goodness! It was so steep. We had to pull ourselves along using the fence, our feet were in a narrow gulley, climbing over old abandoned fence posts laying on the floor, sometimes shale underfoot, sometimes squelchy peat. Oh, and by this time our friend the wind was back with a vengeance too. I cut my hand on the fence and it was covered in blood, but no chance of stopping to sort it out! Heaving ourselves over boulders using the fence to pull us up we finally got to the end of that stretch – what a workout!! 3 of the girls had managed this quicker so had gone on ahead. This left two of us looking up at what was next. Just a sheer wall of rock and clumps of grass. No path. So we wrestled our way upwards with great difficulty. Find a foothold, grab some grass and pull! I found this very very hard. The I looked down. I was petrified. There was a rocky outcrop I should be going around but all I could see was fresh air. Nope. I was not going to do that!! So the only other way was up. I looked up, I tried. But all of a sudden I was just frozen with fear and I am somewhat embarrassed to say I just burst into tears! I was convinced I was going to get blown off this mountain and was stuck. Couldn’t go up, too scared. Couldn’t go down, too scared. Waaaaa!!!
The two of us made our way down using the best technique we could find, The Bum Shuffle. I felt much safer sitting down! So Stuart headed back to find the others and we handed over our headtorches in case they were going to be out in the dark. We agreed everyone needed to be off the mountain by 5.30pm. The two of us headed back down the trusty fence, battling the wind again. I was relieved to see the other girls coming down too. They had done an incredible job to climb to the top but the wind was awful up there and there was a long way to go to reach the summit, it wasn’t going to be possible in the time left. So we all made our way down together. I managed to fall and smack my elbow on a rock en route, nice bruises starting to form today! As we walked back down to the car we agreed that in hindsight this was a mountain a day type of challenge and if (when) we have a re match with these hardcore windswept summits, that’s definitely how we will do it. It would be far more enjoyable too, rather than rushing to get them done and on to the next one. Ok so it wasn’t the outcome we’d hoped for but safety has to be the most important thing. I was extremely relieved we all got off those mountains in one piece and still smiling! We were mainly enjoying my incredible hair. It had turned into some kind of frizz ball and I looked, errr, special. I was so embarrassed by my do I put a hat on when we got to our accommodation so the owners didn’t have the pleasure of seeing it!
By now we were all absolutely shattered, stinking and in need of a good shower and grub! We pulled up at the b and b and my word, what a place. The view was stunning – mountains all around. We were made to feel so welcome – they weren’t put off by the dirt or smell!! We were very happy to have tea and biscuits by their roaring log fire 🙂
After much needed showers and me sorting my flipping fuzzy hair out we headed into town for dinner. The minibus driver was a bit of a character and gave us a whopping £2 off our fare as two of the girls spoke to him in Welsh – it all helps!!
We enjoyed a well deserved glass or few of wine and dinner, going over the adventures of the day! It seemed a very long time since we had left the first b and b that morning! 2 mountains later and a whole lot of stories to tell!
One thing was for sure we were absolutely determined to reach the summit of the third mountain the next day!
Sunday morning came round far too quickly. After all that exertion the day before we still hadn’t slept. We enjoyed a cooked breakfast then back in the car and on the road to the Brecons. Pen-y-Fan we are coming for you!
We had arranged to meet some of our families there. I knew nothing of what John had planned and when we pulled into the car park he was there with a friend making bacon rolls and cups of tea – legend!! Macie was all set for her first climb too. I was so pleased to see them, seemed like I’d be away for a very long time.
Our legs were very tired by now but we knew this was one summit we could do and we would be at that peak no matter what! Yet again it was windy and the higher we went the lower the visibility. The children were great, they all got to the top despite the weather. All 5 girls made it to the top together! We did it!!! Thank goodness for that! One peak done at least!! We took some photos and then quickly headed down, it wasn’t a good place to hang around!
As we headed off the summit John and his friend appeared, the first time he has climbed Pen-y-Fan, I was really pleased he had done it too 🙂
As we headed down so too did the rain – it absolutely poured!! We were all soaked through but didn’t care, so close to the finish line now.
Over the bridge across the stream and back we were! Hooray!!! I wandered over to the car with Macie and who should be there to congratulate us…my mum and dad!! A fantastic surprise, I was thrilled to see them.
We celebrated the end of an incredible weekend with some fizz! (Thank you Dave – nice one!)
MISSION COMPLETE!! Ok so we have some unfinished business with two of those beauties but I am so proud of all of us. Everyone tried so so hard and put their all into it. A great achievement with great friends, and guide!
Thank you all, and our families that supported us, awesome as ever 🙂