Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Yr Wyddfa

Cold, wet, wind-blown, carried by determination and adrenalin.
Stumbling along the scree-strewn, uneven granite track, I constantly glance back at my three offspring, making sure that we stay close together as we plough ever upward through this hostile environment. Visibility is down to about twenty metres in the centre of this cloud. The track winds upward into unseen mystery. A huge, grey, forbidding void fills the space to our right; crags and curious rock formations line our path to the left. We overtook the other ascenders a few minutes ago, and they were better prepared for the conditions than we. This has not stopped them from admitting defeat, and despite our sodden clothes and icy fingers we continue to plod along the track, knowing that we now have it all to ourselves.
The boy is nervous of the void, and I can empathise. 'It can't be far,' I reassure him, 'It's been over an hour since we reached the halfway house. Only a few minutes more.' He accepts my assurance with resignation, knowing that we can't even estimate. We won't see our destination until it is right in front of our eyes.
The track narrows to an edge, a needle path between two expanses of nothingness. I order our group to link hands, to concentrate on the ground beneath our feet, to shuffle slowly until we are past this frightening stretch. They obey; this high on the mountain, they know that absolute discipline is required of them and they do not let me down.
The obstacle is overcome with the slightest touch of vertigo, and the track now broadens, becomes more uneven underfoot as the gradient increases further. I glance back once more. They are still close. I look forward and above, and see the mound loom from the cloud, swirling mist shrouding the cairn that marks the tip of the nation.
Exultation! 'See it! See it!' I call, and now we all scramble, we touch its base, climb the narrow spiralling steps carved into the rock, until we stand and link hands around the blunt concrete stump that marks the summit of Yr Wyddfa.
Their faces shine with exertion and pride. I know that my expression reflects theirs. We have the summit to ourselves, we are loftier now than anyone in England and Wales, possibly - if those three peaks in the Highlands are unoccupied - the British Isles.
'What now?' someone asks.
I beam at the question and respond logically enough. 'We go back down - and that'll be much less work.'
A few minutes later, during the descent, the mist parts to the west, and brown shadows fill our vision. We halt and blink, waiting for clarity, and are rewarded when the view finally appears through the cracked cloud, and we see peaks, tarns, the village of Llanberis below us in miniature, a vista ahead stretching past Anglesey and into the Irish Sea.
Yr Wyddfa has been overcome. For one glorious hour, Mount Snowdon belonged to us.

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