A wee weekend walky in Wales.

Oh what a weekend. What a glorious weekend. If I was the cataloguing type, and I’m not, I would say this was the best weekend of the year, and I just did.

The highlight was our hike up Mt Snowdon in North Wales. It’s the highest peak in England and Wales and in our many years of visiting North Wales we never bothered to walk up.

No one ever told me that it should be known as Mt Snowdon, the Wind tunnel of Doom! Or Mt Snowdon, the ridge of near-death insanity! The hike was like a five hour extreme rollercoaster ride. I spent much of it giggling like a maniac and fearing death all that the same time, which is quite confusing.

At one point I did actually say my goodbyes to the BFG. I said something like, “just in case I end up paragliding off the edge, farewell and I love you”. He seemed to hold my hand a bit tighter after that.

Apparently the wind reached something like 60mph. I have no idea if that was at the base of the mountain, or at the top. I don’t even know if that is strong or not. All I know is that in my time in Cape Town, there were some strong winds, the type where you could lean near the edge of a cliff and the wind would hold you. But this, this was the strongest wind I have ever felt.

The BFG said he had felt stronger winds in Antartica, where he had to abseil down the steps of their base, but you know, Antarctica!

From the moment we started walking it was like someone was pushing against me. Which meant my legs did a hell of a lot more work than usual, but the wind did hold most of my weight, which meant my knees didn’t get sore like they usually do when going uphill.

Unfortunately when the path changed angle slightly I found myself being blown across the mountain. The BFG was more resistant, being at least 20kgs heavier, but he was having his fair share of ballloon moments too.

It was grueling getting to the top of the first path. It was a battle against the pushing and the sideways flinging. My face was being rearranged too; my mouth and left eyebrow ended up near my left ear, and every time I opened my mouth to breathe or speak I got splattered with saliva. Yum.

Then we got to the set of ridges and things got interesting. Thankfully the first ridge had a wall that I could be flung against. Later ridges did not. The BFG started holding my hand at this point to weigh me down, because occasionally I would get skittered across the path towards the drop. Hmmm.

Then the path took a turn and all of a sudden we were sheltered. It was bliss. But up ahead was a gushing mass of clouds, racing over the cliff top, and the path we needed to walk on. It looked like someone was boiling a giant kettle. It roared like someone boiling a giant kettle. I remember saying something really lame like “that part looks a bit windy”, and then we stepped out onto the ridge.

It was a wind tunnel of doom! There was no wall but there were some rocks. We were in this roaring howling tunnel of doom and I was clinging onto the rocks. There was a drop on both sides of us. Luckily the wind was pushing me into the rocks. Unfortunately there were breaks in the rocks, where there was just DROP. At these points I grabbed the BFG, said my goodbyes, and ran in a crouch position, to try and fling myself into the next set of rocks. All this while giggling manically.

This part never seemed to end but finally we were at the train station. Yes European people are crazy and build trains to the top of their highest mountains. I can’t quite figure out why. It didn’t matter though because the train couldn’t run due to the insane winds. So we pushed up past the station onto the final ridge where the wind was like some kind of scary joke.

I was still scuttling like a crab and randomly diving to the ground to stop myself from flying away. The BFG did the leaning into the wind thing and was on the tips of his toes with the wind holding his weight. Argh it was insane.

Then we had to go back down and this is when I got really scared because this time the wind would be pushing me down the mountain. I decided the only way to come out alive was to hold onto the BFG the whole time for ballast.

As I stood up to turn back the wind spun me around in a circle and I found myself hurtling down the mountain, towing the BFG wth me. This was how it went for much of our descent. I couldn’t control or predict when or where I would be hurtled, I just found myself running and the only way to stop was to fling myself to the ground or against some rocks. I made friends with the rocks again on the ridge, and this time I was pounded into them like waves, but I didn’t feel any pain, all I felt was WIND.

The BFG thought at one point that it was ok to let go of me but I went hurtling again and told him to never let go again. When we finally got back to the sheltered ridge we just sat in a shaky mess, warning and egging on other hikers to do the wind tunnel of doom.

The walk back was a repeat of random hurtling, bashing, crashing, sudden dives to the ground, and stuff like that. My poor poor legs. I couldn’t control my steps because it was like someone was shoving me down every step I took. My knees, my butt, my ankles, oh gawd. Even my spleen hurts.

The next day we went climbing and it was a tranquil, hot summery day, with exquisite climbing and beautiful scenery. The most challenging part of the day was when midway through a route my legs remembered that they were mince and spaghetti and gave out on me, and I spent the rest of the day dragging them up routes like the dead weights they were. This is the first time in my climbing career  my legs have given out before my arms. Bonus.

Finally, I even got to drive on Welsh roads, which was not quite as scary as the hike, but almost. There should be an extra part of driving tests in the UK called “driving in Wales, or driving on Rollercoasters of Doom“. But then, I am quite inexperienced.

This weekend I learned:

  • how much I love LOVE North Wales. You have to go there some time. It is one of the few places I have been where the reality lived up to my mental image of it. I imagine living there every time we visit. I’m sure I could even learn to pronounce the place names. Miracles do happen. Penrhyndeudraeth. Anyone have any ideas on how to say that? Not me.
  • rhyolite rock has some of the most beautiful climbing I have ever done.
  • driving in Wales is a special skill involving dimensions that do not actually exist.
  • Walking up Mt Snowdon is not a thing to be taken lightly. I would love to do it again, perhaps on a slightly calmer day. I plan to gain 40kgs first though, just in case.

I feel quite exhilirated and happy to be alive. For good reason I believe. Excuse me while I go and rub Tiger Balm all over my aching body.


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. tiah
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 09:23:36

    Yeah, my husband did that mountain and after I saw the pics, I was not jealous I missed out. Glad you lived :-)


  2. Tamara
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 10:19:46

    That sounds unpleasant to me, but if you enjoyed it, I am happy for you. It sounds like the type of thing you need to do to survive until holiday time.


  3. Prixie
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 13:25:23

    :) sounds divine! I got as far as cardiff – i like the comfort of cities :) i commend you! :)


  4. Po
    Oct 11, 2010 @ 19:18:09

    Argh the pain! My calves, I can’t remember the last time they burned like this. And my back. I feel one hundred years old. But as you say Tamara, it was just the mini holiday-type break I needed!


  5. Midnitegem
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 16:05:07

    Loved that post!! Brilliant. I loved the fact that I did Snowdon last year! Which track did you go up? Sounds like a crazy yet great time. Damn I do love north wales as well!! Plan to head up there loads more next summer and try sneak a trip in the the remaining good weather – but who knows. And yes the driving up there is a whole new experience. Just think if you can drive there you can drive anywhere :)


  6. Po
    Oct 12, 2010 @ 18:26:41

    Midnite gem: well, we started at Rhyd Du, and then walked up all those ridges, whose names I cannot remember. Which route did you do? You have to go climbing at Tremadog if you haven’t already, it is such beautiful climbing, no move is ever awkward, the rock is not too rough or too smooth, it is amazing!


  7. Dora
    Oct 16, 2010 @ 13:52:01

    Wow…it wasn’t windy at all when I was there! Sounds like one helluva walk!

    (Although I’m secretly happy you found it hard, coz I thought I was a wimp for finding it terrifying when an old grandad was rushing past me on the mountain…)


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