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In 1977 we hired our first narrowboat from Anglo Welsh at Market Harborough.From that moment our destiny was set. In 2006 we finally purchased our own brand new 57' narrowboat which we named 'Free Spirit'. Our aim is to travel the length and breadth of all the navigable rivers and canals of the UK. This will be our story as it unfolds.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The mountain beckoned.


Having a day off from the busy schedule of Sheila’s Gadabouts tours around this beautiful part of North Wales, Ian and I decided to head to the top of Snowdon. Unfortunately we chose the worst day of the week for our visit. Most of the gadabouts venturing up the mountain, would take the train to the summit but this was not for us. We decided to do it the hard way and walk up. Joining us on the trek was Jim Macdonald who, unlike us, had made the ascent previously but only from Llanberis Pass. We all thought “how hard could it be?” Just a gentle stroll uphill, with maybe a few steep bits along the way, but achievable. So with a spring in our steps and a good breakfast devoured, we set off for the summit. It wasn’t long before we reached our first hurdle, the start of the uphill climb. Still on the road we had to walk, or in my case stagger, up what seemed like a 1 in 3 hill. Ian and Jim took it all in their stride but I was exhausted after a few steps!! Still the mountain beckoned and surly this was the only steep section. How wrong can a person be! Once off the road section, the climb became more of a gradual ascent although the large boulders and loose slate shingle did make the going tough. The first mile wasn’t too challenging but I must admit I did stop more often to catch my breath and give the leg muscles a chance to recover. Ian and Jim kept looking back to make sure I was coping and waited for me to catch up. I really appreciated their thoughtfulness until I suddenly twigged that maybe they were taking the opportunity to rest without appearing as if they needed to!! As soon as I drew level off they went again expecting me to keep up. For about another mile we trekked onwards and upwards often being overtaken by the younger generation. We had been trekking for a good hour and a half when we caught sight of a building which turned out to be a café. With much delight we thought we must be nearing the top. Our hopes were soon dashed when a large sign stated quite plainly that we were only at the half way point, The Halfway Café!! I was devastated! Could I really keep going for another couple of hours? I was gasping for breath and every muscle in my legs were screaming ‘no more’. Annoyingly, Ian and Jim still looked as if they could run up rather then walk, so after a short rest to watch the Snowdon steam train make its way majestically up the incline toward the top, we pressed on. From here on the going got tougher. As we got higher, probably around the 600mt level, the cloud cover started to descend. It got so bad that I watched Jim, who was only about 20 feet ahead, disappear into the mist. From here on the visibility was dreadful. I’m still not sure if it was a good thing or not that we had no idea where the path went or where the summit was. All we could do was to continue to climb ever higher, the path getting steeper and in places narrower and more treacherous especially with the water on the rock surface. It almost seemed as if the first climb on the road was the easy part. To do a few feet at a time took a momentous effort on my part. Even Ian and Jim seemed to struggle on the final section as, with the diminishing visibility, we still had no idea how far it was to the top. When a walker came down out of the mist I asked the question “how much further to the summit?” I was mortified when they replied it was another 50 minute climb. I was all but ready to pack it in but the top was so tantalising close that I couldn’t give up! To be truthful the last part of the climb happened in a painful haze. The cloud cover got even denser, it was considerably colder, raining and the increasing wind made climbing even more difficult. I felt sure we were almost there when the steam train trundled its way down the mountain again complete with several of the Gadabouts waving happily to us. I was proven wrong again when another walker told us it was still about 30 minutes to the summit. I could see Jim and Ian slowing in their progress and thankfully we had a lot more breaks (although they said it was all for my benefit!) Finally……after 3 hours 30 minutes the train terminus came into sight. The café was literally a stone’s throw away and directly in front of us, but looming ahead of us was another 30 or so steep steps to the very top. Both Jim and Ian asked if I wanted to just go directly to the café and forego the summit. What!!! After climbing up 5 miles of dirt track, shale, ragged slate, loose stone and very nearly giving up, there was no way I was NOT going to make Snowdon’s summit! And make it we did. Jim and Ian climbed the last few steps to the very top while I opted to take the requisite photo and let them bask in the glory. Then it was straight down to the café for a welcome cup of tea and hot leek and potato soup. We thought we would make the journey back to Llanberis by train, but when we enquired about the possibility of seats we were told that they could not me guaranteed. So, after a short discussion and still feeling the euphoria of reaching the summit, we decided to walk back down. After about an hour we set off along the now familiar route. If I thought that climbing up had been tough, the trek down was even harder. Muscles I didn’t know I had, started aching. Both Jim and Ian admitted that the descent was much more challenging than they expected as we coped with slippery stone surfaces and loose shale. Resting at regular intervals helped the situation, and after nearly 1 hour 45 minutes of careful placing feet to stop ourselves sliding, we finally came out of the cloud cover and could once more admire the views of the valley below. What seemed like an age but was only another 90 minutes later, we entered the foyer of the Victoria hotel.

On our return I had hoped that we would be met with rapturous applause and cries of “well done” for our ascent and descent of this majestic mountain. Instead not a single person was there to meet us. Oh well, seems like all great journeys go unnoticed but what an adventure. One that Jim, Ian and I will not forget in a long long time. 

Yes Jim we have been climbing for about an hour!

Crossing the rails

Roller coaster comes to mind.

Waste materials from the septic tank on its way down.

Track repairs. All the boulders were brought in by helicopter.

There be sheep on the line!

Overtaken by the youngsters! Well younger then us anyway!

Whats that up there?

The diesel train!

Jim disappearing into the cloud

At last the summit.

A very misty photo so......

Bit of editing needed to be able to see that it was Ian and Jim

A welcome descent toward the cafe.

Just to prove I also made it.

On the descent

 Prince William flew his last flight on the Sea King helicoptor on the 10th, a day after we walked up Snowdon. I like to think that he contributed in saving many a life on this and other Snowdonia mountains. This RAF Sea King was on a training exercise as it flew and hoovered continuously.
As you can see by the photo it was dreadful flying conditions.

The last chapter and photos of our Wales adventure will be posted tomorrow. I took loads of wildlife photos and these I will post on a daily basis. We have also moved the boat back to Campbell Park as our car is back at our sons and we will be needing it over the weekend. You see my big day has nearly arrived. White water rafting at the Nene Centre in Northampton on Saturday. I'm starting to feel very nervous!!!

Photo taken from the Nene internet site..

1 comment:

Andy Healey said...

Exellent photos as usual, well done for climbing Snowdon, as you say starts of easily, then gets harder.Its harder from the Snowdon Ranger side.

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