Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Warming up in Wales

We came...to Mount Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales at 1,085 metres, 3,560 feet in old money.
We saw...well, not a lot of the summit actually, as it was shrouded in clinging Welsh cloud most of the weekend.
We conquered...indeed we did. The Kili 5 successfully scaled Snowdon's western Rhydd Ddu track on the Sunday of the May Day bank holiday. A small step on the Kili ladder, admittedly, but we're definitely in the foothills of our ultimate challenge next February.
What a great weekend. Part fitness measure, part bonding session and part flapjack quality testing, the Kili 5 finally met up for the first time on the doorstep of the Ty Mawr B&B in Rhydd Ddu village, somewhere in Snowdonia National Park. Jon & Eszt arrived via a scary sounding rock climb; Gill, Steve and Andrew after a more demanding than planned warm-up yomp somewhere on the England-Wales border and in unexpectedly sweltering sunshine.
We certainly lucked out with the accommodation. Mine hosts Claire and John welcomed us warmly into their cosy home, fire and blues music flooding the dining room in equal measure. Family portraits and Snowdon memorabilia jostle for your attention with the cake of the day and walking maps .
After checking out the local hostelry and retiring for an ale-fulled early night, we tucked into a Full Monty energising fry-up. Not sure about the impact of bacon, egg, sausage, beans, hash browns and mushrooms on a mountaineer's critical faculties...but it worked for us hungry amateurs.
We started the climb in good spirits and visibility, after navigating our way through the train station car park past the nostalgically chuffing train. We set a steady pace up the lower portion of the beautiful and quiet trail, the village becoming toy-like in the rear-view mirror and grey tarns miraculously beginning to dot the valley floor.
Little and often. A motto for life? In this instance, just frequent breaks for water, breath-catching, nibbles and photo snapping. Besides, we need to get used to a moderated pace, without which we stand no chance of withstanding Kili's 6 days, 5,895 metres and extreme risk of altitude sickness.
Unfortunately, as we hit the Llechog ridge of Mount Snowdon, overlooking Cwm Clogwyn, our heads broke through the cloudy ceiling. Steeper, cooler and murkier...oh well. Wales, April, a mountain - naive to expect otherwise. At least we were dry, apart from the sleet-like drops emanating from the enveloping clouds, as we walked along the edge of plummeting cliffs before zig-zagging up to the South Ridge and across the narrow col of Bwich Main.
We reached the summit after a fairly comfortable 2 1/2 hours. What a disappointment. Trying to get to the symbolic high-point mound was like fighting through bus-loads of foreign students sprawled arount Mount Eros on a hot August day.
Quick couple of pics and phone calls, and we retreated to a precarious but quiet grassy bluff back down the track for something a bit more akin to nature.
Steve's rapidly disappearing blood sugar levels were soon restored too, thanks to Jon's outstanding home-baked flapjack (sorry, Claire and John, but it did outperform yours in the head-to-head taste test) and Steve's heart-pumping lip-smacking reviving hip flask of Mountgay rum. Yah man, we were jammin'. Ty Mawr's amazing value packed lunch - £3.50 for individual butties, a packet of crisps, an apple and flapjack-not-quite-as-good-as-Jon's - completed the recovery process...so much so that we indulged in a bit of a celebratory audio blog in amongst the Snowdon clouds.
We fairly sprinted back down, hopping from ledge to ledge like rejuvenated chamois, enjoying the improving visibility and the different loop back round through the disused slate quarries and towards 3,000 feet Mount Aran that we left for another day. Back down in the glow of Ty Mawr we all succumbed to a couple of hours of R&R, luxuriating in the feeling of aching limbs and satisfied ambitions. We staggered downstairs for an excellent supper and self-congratulatory toasts, and any possible vague flapjack demerit for Claire and John was more than compensated for by the to-die-for bread-butter-and-toffee pudding....with an experimental combo of custard AND ice cream for some, naked for others. If I were the FA I'd be on the phone to Wales now for the secret recipe and I reckon all of Wayne's shattered metatarsals would be healed within a week.
A successful mission for the Kili 5? I hope so. Gill and I are feeling quite smug about our fitness levels...although mine might have taken a retrograde step after that pudding. Jon and Eszt seemed to gain flapjack momentum as the climb progressed. Steve - the youngest - claimed it was all a bit of a slap in the face. I think he means it was a wake up call...but he'll wake up the day before we jet off to Kili and as long as he's got the hip flask full of Mountgay with him, he'll be fine.
Thanks to everyone for making the effort. Fun and interesting weekend, eh? I'll try and post some photos and if anyone else wants to post their version of the weekend, please fire away! And huge thanks to Claire and John for their hospitality and hearty climbers' fare - we really can recommend it as a wonderful base for Snowdon(ia), fry-ups and World Cup winning nosh.
We've got 10 months to work on the Kili details - no problem.....


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