Friday, 10 May 2013

weekend in wales, part II

I've said this previously, but I love combining exercise with another purpose; whether its getting to work, sightseeing around town or something a little bit more extreme like hiking a mountain. There’s no way I’d get Mai to hike up 3000 feet, so I'm glad Joel is as crazy as I am (or at least willing to be dragged along).

Admittedly, we may have underestimated how cold it was in a tent. A storm front rolled in across the south-west coast of Wales that night and we were hit with a cold snap and strong winds. It was a harsh winter in the UK and it was hanging around like a bad smell.  I was so sick of it! But we soldiered on and woke early to drive to the Llyn Gwynant campsite in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park. I'd totally recommend camping here!

We were hoping to hike up Snowdon Mountain that afternoon but it was “blowin’ a gale” (haha) so we decided to hike the next day. Joel and I (mainly Joel) awkwardly assembled our little tent that was flapping around like nobody’s business. We went for a pub lunch and some more Guinness at a town called Beddgelert and got talking to a crazy old man who was a Mountain Guide. He had to be like 80 years old, impressive! We managed to get a fire going that night and huddled around our camp watching the kids of the campsite play a game of football.

We woke up early again the next day and set off on the hike up to the peak of Snowdon, a 3560 foot mountain and the highest point in the UK outside of Scotland.  We followed (or attempted to follow) the Watkin path. (By the way, the website is great!)

Distance: 8 miles (13Km) (there & back).
Ascent: 3,330ft (1,015 metres).
Time: About 6 hours (there & back).
Grade: Hard Mountain Walk
Start/Finish: Pont Bethania Car park, Nant Gwynant, off the A498.
Grid Reference: SH 627 507.

When we left it was cloudy, the visibility was poor and we were following instructions that seemed a little vague. Now that I’ve got those valid points down I can admit that we got lost. Quite lost. For at least an hour.  After realising we were more rock scrambling in almost freezing conditions rather than hiking we turned around to find the landmark where we thought we took a wrong turn. And wrong turn we did! The clouds blew over and the sun shined down on a more-than-obvious stone path as if we were being led by a higher power.  It was there where we caught our first glimpse of the mountain we were meant to be hiking. It was waiting for us.  The relieving feeling of finally knowing where to go was soon replaced with the dread of having to continue! We were buggered at this stage, but we are both stubborn so we pushed through.

The last 20 minutes was the most difficult, the gradient was steep and the surface was very loose underfoot. The view from the top was totally worth it. The view was unreal! The sun came out and as we looked down through the valley, we had this overwhelming sense of accomplishment.  The hike back was more enjoyable. The sun was shining and we knew where we were going!

Despite our shakey, fatigued legs, we drove north up to Angelsea that afternoon through the stunning mountainous region of Wales. Helen (a ‘whale’ friend) was waiting for us and took us to a pub to get a nice big feed. It was great to talk to her about some of the research she is doing on cleaner fish and just catching up with a familiar face, reminiscing about the field work we did in Noosa.  Joel and I took a few back roads to avoid a massive traffic jam and my lead foot and I roared down the highway back to London late that night.

Although a little rushed, it was a nice weekend getaway; challenging moments and all!

Plus, it’s not travelling without getting a little lost in the clouds...

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