Whenever I think of climbing mountains in this country, I tend to scoff and think of steep but gentle grassy slopes with patchwork-quilt views, idle sheep, a mildly raised heartbeat and a thin film of perspiration on the skin that disappears after a standstill and a breather.
When the peak of Snowdon first edged into view, after I had a moment to re-tie my boot laces, the smugness was instantly wiped from my face. I did not expect it to look anything like that. It was pointy! It was a giant, pointy, craggy summit, nearly blocking out the midday sun. I swore I could even see patches of ice hiding in the crevices.
“This is going to be tough,” I acknowledged to myself and my hiking companions; a bunch of ale-drinking, red faced Herefordians who I’ve banded with to do the 24-hour Three Peaks Challenge in July. This was one of our training sessions. For the first time, we were scared. Could we really climb this and get back down in the time we’d set ourselves? 4 hours – which is how long we’d have for the actual challenge.
What surprised me the most, as we began the climb, was the sheer beauty of the place. How could I have been previously unaware of how stunning this part of North Wales was? I was expecting something like the Brecon Beacons, equally as beautiful, but not quite as epic. In vain, I tried to take photos, but didn’t know where to begin. The distant coast, sapphire-blue lakes and surrounding peaks were all calling to be captured in pixels, but I couldn’t justify the true light and spectacle that I could actually see. I wasn’t too fussed though; I was merely documenting our training to put on Facebook, to laugh in the faces of people who said we were mad to consider doing the Three Peaks, that we were too unfit, too flabby round the edges.
I must admit, I couldn’t help but feel a bit flabby when I saw all the other walkers armed with snazzy looking hiking sticks, camel packs and chiselled thigh muscles, ascending like mountain gods. They only put me off for a second or too. I grunted like a determined hippo and stomped on ahead.
After an excruciating hour and fifty minutes, we made it the top; looking like a quintet of sautéed beetroots…a few of us had forgotten to take sun-cream. Lunch and view-cooing was a hurried affair, as we only had a couple of hours to get back down before the deadline. I was thankful for my sturdy walking boots which saved me from a few ankle twists that could have easily been my fate if I’d opted for fell-running shoes.
We hit flat ground again in just over three and a half hours. Result. It was hard but the impending Three Peaks Challenge was beginning to look a lot less challenge-y. The question is, can I climb Snowdon again after a night of no sleep and the tackling of Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike? We shall see. Where’s that steam train?