If I am honest with myself I have been running scared of getting back into real mountains for a few years. As I put on weight and lost fitness over the last decade plus avoiding activities which made the problem more obvious was all too easy. When I got back into exercise I picked the low land routes, long distance paths without exposure. This year I completed the Wye Valley way and that had some decent uphill stretches. Also on the penultimate walk I found myself reaching the top of a steep slope ahead of Euan who I had struggled to keep up with earlier in the year. So it was time to return and given two days and the need to have a meeting in Bangor University I booked myself into the Black boy Inn (worth making a special trip for and you will hear welsh spoken naturally) for two nights and resolved to reach the peaks regardless of the weather.
All Souls Day dawned and I decided to follow my first instincts and head for Pen-y-Pass and ascend the Pyg Track to the summit of Yr Wyddfa then return via the Miners Track; Crib Coch I would leave for another day. I had messed up my packing so had to stop off in Llanberis to buy some equipment and finally got started at 1000. At midday I was on the summit having walked up without pause, no using the camera as an excuse to rest weary legs and no one over took me, the reverse in fact. That was special and the conditions were not bad, although reaching the final ridge the wind and rain were almost overwhelming. You get a sense from the picture of the panorama plate on the summit although there was no prospect of any view. The summit cafe was open and while I disapprove of such things I will confess the cup of tea was welcome.
Now this is a special walk for me. At the age of 6 or 7 it was the first walk I ever did in the mountains. As a family we had recently moved to North Wales and my parents booked a bed and breakfast in Llanberis. I think it was their first ever walk into mountains, their courting had been done in Dartmoor but that is not the same. We dispatched by Grandmother and Sister to go to the top on the train and we drove the Hillman Hunter (a great car) to the then rough car park. Now it is more fancy and charges £10 for the day! I still remember many parts of that walk. The ascent to the path fork, straight on to the Pyg, right to Crip Coch was and is a delight of stone walkway and ever emerging views. Then the path contours around the slopes and I had my first drink from a mountain stream before tackling the zig zags; then a rough scree path now an engineered series of steps. I had my first ever climbing boots on and an anorak made by my mother with some of the first materials that were meant to keep out the rain by fibre expansion. I had a haversack and a rope and a stick that for me was an ice axe and it was a glorious day.
I was dispatched down on the train, to my disappointment although the promise of ice cream was some compensation. I think with the benefit of hindsight that my parents wanted some privacy. The Pyg track is still the best introduction to Yr Wyddfa although I prefer Y Arran, the South Ridge and then a return down the Watkin. But it was good to do that first walk again and to rediscover the sensation of walking on rock and bog in rain with the light constantly changing and shifting. I used to do this every weekend and I had allowed myself to forget the physical and mental pleasure of reaching a summit. I had been nervous about blisters with the new boots (a problem on the first two walks) but I had insoles made to fit them at a specialist shop near Loughborough and they were now a delight. My paramo gear however is now to big so I was cold at times but so what? The long easy walking exit along the Miners Track brought back many memories. Supporting my cousin Peter who had sprained an ankle (we subjecting him to hot and cold water treatment the next day for that) over the last miles. Picking the pressure cooker full of baked potatoes and wrapped in Dad's former Army greatcoat from the boot of the car to eat before setting off. Kendal Mint Cake to sustain the walkers (no longer possible with the Diabetes but macadamia nuts and pumpkin seeds are much better).
Too long missed and now recovered, driving up here for 2/3 day sessions is not difficult and I want to explore not only the old paths but new connections and links. This is my place, its where I belong and I have been too long absent.
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