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An^^Ascent^^to^remember..

UNITED KINGDOM | Tuesday, 22 March 2011 | Views [633]

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An^^Ascent^^to^remember..


Whenever I read about trekking or climbing or any adventure, as they mention things like adrenaline rushing through the veins, etc., my mind disobediently
transports me to the memories of our worst adventure. May it cannot be more insane, as any higher degree of it would have claimed our bodies, or may be some parts of them, or may be no one would have known what had happened to us. It was night around 10 pm in the dining room of a Welsh hostel called Lawrence house in Tremadog which was the birth place of Lawrence of Arabia, a legendary British soldier. Dining room was illuminated with bright lights and some rock music was playing in the background in low volume. The room had felt warm enough and somewhat filled with aroma of cooked meat. That was a barbeque night and the four of us were least interested in anything but for stuffing in something as we longed for an undisturbed sleep till anything could wake us up.

We had reached this hostel in a harbor town called Porthamadog the previous day to do the long awaited visit to Wales. It was May and summer always was an advantage as we could easily do double the places than that of winter. Wales is studded with plenty of beautiful places – Chester, Barmouth, Cardiff (the capital), Conwy, Swansea, HolyHead etc. For some reason which I don’t remember, we got prompted to visit the north-west part of Wales which has the Snowdonia National Park along with other interesting places. Our hostel was a small cosy place on the church road with an orchid behind it, which would lead to some walks and was looked after by a middle-aged hospitable couple – Carl and Anna. They themselves seemed to have traveled a lot, as one could see several small wood-framed photographs of their visits to various places in US and Europe, hanging all around the reception, stairways and the dining hall, which could engage the guests for a long time. What had grabbed my interest the most were the photos of Mount Snowdon taken from miles afar in its different faces of it in different seasons, seen like a fair lady covered with snow once and sometimes like the face of a mysterious man with long brown hair locks.

 


                                                 At Snowdon Train Station in Llanberis

 

We  did not have any planned schedule in mind except for few places I had read about ( and also imagined visiting them ), one of which being the Criccieth Castle, the fortified walls of which were constantly hit by the strong and roaring blue sea waves of the Cardigan bay. Most of the castles in Wales – Conwy, Caernarfon, Criccieth, Harlech, etc. were built on sea shores, one of the obvious reasons being they were easier to reach. During our breakfast the next morning, we had looked at a black board standing in the reception displaying the weather forecast for the day. It was not uncommon even in summer, to discuss the weather every morning when one goes out to visit places in UK. But it was probably more important there given the fact that most of the visitors in Porthamadog would not go back without visiting the Snowdonia National Park and the Snowdon mountain, the closest to the English and Welsh skies. We had not paid much attention to the content on the board, but had heard Carl citing it would be a cloudy day. After few hours we were snaking through the long roads winding up the hills and down the plateaus with rain water streams alongside and mountains seen afar every now and then leaving us guessing that could be

 

 

the Snowdon every time we had seen one. It was a typical Welsh countryside scene with sign-boards that indicated the walks into the national park and endless greenery with white spots here and there, which actually was a diminished frame of lambs grazing in herds, forming circles and rows.

 

 

 



                                                                  

                                                           Lamb scene in Wales

                                   

 

At a place called Pen-Y-Fin we had taken the road towards the base of Snowdon mountain from where the trekkers commence to the top, which is about 1085 msl. We had seen some enthusiasts at various distances on the path moving up and that had looked doable. But given that it was drizzling, there surely was a more decent way of doing it – taking a train to the top of the mountain aka The Snowdon Mountain Train which is the first Funicular train in UK. It starts from Llanberis which was few miles away. En route to Llanberis, it had started raining more and we had thought it was a good decision to go up the mountain by train. Llanberis is a small town and it became important because of its Copper ores and also has an old castle, a big lake and a lake railway nearby. And having the Snowdon Mountain Train starting from here, it is thronged by tourists from all over. But we were told that the train was not operating that day because of bad weather…., may be the rain. But we were obliged with a short movie on more than hundred years old Snowdon Mountain Train, in a small theater with few other fellow watchers. We had munched on some cookies, had some hot coffee and explored a walk behind the train station that actually would lead to the mountain top. After few hours, we were left with nothing else to do there and we found ourselves back at Snowdon base (Pen-Y-Pass) by afternoon.

 


                                                            Llanberis Lake Railway


                                                           

                                                             

                                                        A view of Snowdon

 

I am not sure if I was convinced completely to climb Snowdon when we were about to reach the base from Llanberis. But what would have inspired was the other trekkers, the imagined scenic beauty to and along the way to the summit and a strong lets-experience-it feeling. At the base, we had contemplated the act to check each other’s energy levels with no idea that would turn our day to be nerve-wrecking. We had gathered that there are five or six routes in total, one being Llanberis Path which we had seen as starting behind the train station at Llanberis. From the base point, we had two choices – first, the Pyg Track, which was supposed to take lesser time i.e., around 2.5 hours but steeper-yet-possible and second, the Miner’s Pass, longer and usually taken as the return route. Also, we had seen some peers marching up from the base by Pyg Track. Most of them were seen with proper mountain gear which I only remembered seeing from the pictures of the likes of Tenzing Norgay with hand spikes, eye-glasses, jacket and footwear that suits the purpose of the hour. But that was not taken with any seriousness and we were all ready for the task with our normal jackets and sports shoes on. The beginning fifteen min was rock-cut steps of around 10 feet width with constant rise of elevation. After half-an-hour the altitude was high enough that the road by which we drove from Llanberis to the base and the Llanberis lake started to appear and were becoming more and more tiny as we moved up, while the reception at the base point had gradually disappeared. The path had lead us along a rocky wall on one side of it and uneven land or sometimes nothing on the other side. The trekkers who were climbing down in this path were constantly greeting us while gasping the hell out of their bodies. 

 

 


                                               

                        The road to Llanberis as seen when we had started from the base at Pen-Y-Pass


 

                        As it had appeared after some more progress, a view of Llanberis lake

 

 


                                                                        Pyg Track

 

 

 

After an hour of ascent, we realized that winds have turned strong and were coming in every direction which made it difficult even to figure out which side to balance the body or align the hands to stay upright on the track. My jacket which was zipped up from my waist till the last nanometer at the neck was far from being any good to restrict the wind and suddenly got bloated with a horrific noise. Though it had appeared like I was carrying a huge sack of water or sand around me it was the wind which was commanding my movements. I realized the wind can prove unforgiving and found a reason to laugh on remembering our superlatively absurd idea sometime ago, to carry the umbrellas to escape the drizzle but were luckily warned by some people at the base against that, because of the winds. By then, we had found very less companions climbing along in our direction. An elderly man climbing down exclaimed that it could take two-and-half hours more to reach the summit and the reason the mountain train had got canceled that day was strong winds and not rain. By then the drinking water we had carried with us was emptied till the last drop and we were left with nothing to help our exhausted bodies. As we had continued, sight of Llyn Teyrn, a lake with a narrow path passing in between had greeted us. We had thought that the narrow path was the Miner’s Pass, the return route, and that could be an indication that we were nearing the summit. As it demanded more sincerity and caution, we had to bend down and crawl while holding the rocks on the track sometimes and other times just wait for the wind to pause in order to take the expedition few meters forward. My worst fears had shown up when it had started pouring again and made the rocks slippery. Where I needed to climb, I had to pull in confidence, count it on the rocks that were supporting my weight and my shoes to not give up on me. The situation was such, even a slight injury that could make any of us to limp would put all of us in a hopeless situation. That day, Snowdon was literally a no man’s land where there were no telephone signals, almost nobody around, no food, no transport and in few hours it was about to get dark. It was a fight of mind over the body to do its job or there was only a little chance.

 

 

 

                                               


                                                After two hours, with no idea still how far…

 


                                                     A view of Miner’s Pass from Pyg Track

 

 

 

After a slippery climb onto a small cliff, we had reached a flat area of about 15 meters in length where one of us had declared that he could not move anymore and he preferred to cling there around till we reach the summit and go back to him. There was no path further except for some traces of a way that possibly was the right direction to the final point. We could see the summit, the top most point of England and Wales just about twenty meters away with two sharp tips, like that of the Golden Gate bridge, but with one tip much closer to and little higher than the other. The place was covered with fog and mist and we got to deal with that too, along with the wind. We had to sit down and move slowly holding the rocks. Few meters beyond there was nothing to hold and it was a plane, wet surface and had appeared to be deceptively slippery. Even that could not be clearly seen anymore with fog coming in our line of vision continually, clearing and reforming at quick intervals. That was probably the last warning we were given before taking any step forward. In the slapping noise of wind each of us yelled to others that we should consider ending it there, somewhat in a voice that expected no disagreement. And others had calmly acknowledged it, looking at each other in a sense of acceptance. After all, would those twenty meters matter ? At that moment we still did not have any idea how we would climb down to the base. We had slowly moved back to the flat area to join back our friend where a tall rock was positioned, on which we had banked our bodies, literally, took a photo that speaks a moment of achievement, pride, adventure, thankfulness and though we did not say it out then, there were also some lessons. I shall not ignore the detail of anything that is new

 

 

 

                                                           


                                    View of the summit -the highest point in England and Wales,
                                    as it had appeared when we were around 15 min away

                                                            or may be eternally away       


                                                           

                                                The point where we had called it quits


                                               

                                                            Snowdon in a pleasant mood

 

As if the final test was over, weather had dramatically started showing its good side when we had started back; rainy to sunny, windy to breezy and noisy to pleasant. Through the Miner’s Pass and walking by the two lakes it was a quicker and easier return to the base. Not everyone would have had the same experience as we had at Snowdon. We could not stop being thankful to everything that had attributed to our safe return. And for sure, lets-experience-it feeling at Snowdon would remain an ever-lasting memory for me with a baggage of lessons to remember. Wiki-ing later had revealed some facts on Snowdon – steep cliffs here had significance in the history of UK rock climbing since 1798 when the first climb was recorded. And Sir Edmund Hillary had trained himself here for his climb to the Mt. Everest !

 

We drove back to the hostel and at around 10 pm, and while we were eating in hurry to push for rest, Carl had told us that he had waited for us and has thought that we might not return that night. I had looked at the black board in the reception which appeared to have made a teasing face at me. I had called a dear friend the next morning from the hostel and had narrated him of our experience, which had ended short by twenty meters to the summit. That ironical thought  had come to my mind again, would those twenty meters matter ? I think the answer is both Yes and No. If we had done that extra bit we would have been at that two feet-by-two feet area where many great climbers would have stood, which in other words, we would have achieved what we had in mind when we had started out. At the same time, we were not prepared for an expedition and taken that the train itself was not operating on that grueling-turned-fortunate day because of winds, we as humans could reach so far, which was incredible. Well, why do people climb mountains in the first place ? To sense an achievement ? I think its more important to invade the mountains within us…, the mountains of obstacles in our path to live out our aspirations. Another lesson. Don’t you agree ?

 

An article published in BBC about dangers on Snowdon http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/north_west/7290635.stm

 

Tags: adventure, drive, national park, nature, snodonia, trek, uk, wales

 

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