I can barely walk properly as I write this. Only after a weekend of walking and scrambling do I realise that I haven’t done any real exercise since the surgery, beyond the short cycles around town and the almost-once-weekly climbs.
My muscles feel like they’ve been soaked in lactic acid and I got angry at Nasty for cursing at me because he was angry at me for screaming too loud because I was angry he thought it was amusing to give my thighs even a slight squeeze, which hurt like hell.
But before all that pain, we drove five hours up to Wales the weekend just past and based ourselves in the village of Betws-y-Coed within the Snowdonia National Park, in north-western Wales.
The weather throughout the weekend was fantastic and we made our way up Snowdon on Saturday, the highest mountain in Wales. There are six main routes up Snowdon and we chose the Pyg Track, which according to our guidebook is the “more interesting and involves some scrambling”.
The start of the Pyg Track is nice and easy, and then at this point above the lake, the track forks into two, one continuing more or less above the lake, and the other one going right, straight up a ridge. I remembered reading somewhere that we should choose the left path for the Pyg Track, but Nasty insisted we go right, and so up we climbed.
After some scrambling, the sight of this greeted me. We have apparently climbed up to the exposed knife-edged ridge that is Crib Goch, with sheer drops and three pinnacles to get through before we can proceed to the summit of Snowdon, the pointy peak in the background of the photo.
It filled me with total fear.
Have I ever said that I have a terrible and absolute fear of heights? The ridge is a sheer vertical drop on the right (left in this photo as it’s looking back at the route we’d just come from) and a steep drop on the left. You’re completely exposed at the top and there’s nothing you can do about it.
There were two guys up there who nonchalantly decided to stop in the middle of the ridge to have chat, standing upright with their hands on their hips. There is no photo of me up on that ridge with at least one hand grabbing onto something at all times.
Getting around the pinnacles was a challenge and knowing how high up I was was terrifying.
I had no idea that it was going to be like that when we chose the right turn at the fork and I would guess that it wasn’t just me. Up on the ridge, I passed a woman who was just as petrified, if not more, and at one point she clung to the rock just sitting there. My only consolation was knowing that I wasn’t the worst person up there, although more than once, I really thought I was just going to sit there and cry until mountain rescue come get me down. That’s how terrified I was.
I only kept going because there was literally no turning back. Going back is the same, if not worst, because descending it is probably even more dangerous.
I was too petrified to take photos. Or even remember that cameras existed. I was just really trying not to fall off the bloody mountain. The above video gives a great overview of what is was like crossing Crib Goch on a sunny day.
This other short video (which I can’t embed) shows how scary it was like traversing some of the narrowest parts of the ridge.
And this video shows what it was like going up and around one of the pinnacles.
It was brilliantly beautiful and mortifying all at the same time.
Nasty thought it was “fun and a bit challenging”, but for someone with a fear of heights, it was bordering on completely terrorising.
We eventually made it across the ridge and up to the summit of Snowdon, which offered fantastic views.
Although it was a bright, cloudless, and sunny day, there was this odd haze in the atmosphere and everyone seemed to agree that it’s the volcanic ash from the recent eruption in Iceland.
This view shows the ridge we’ve just come from, which not too many people went up. However, many others came up through much easier tracks and the summit was actually very crowded and noisy, complete with token Englishmen opening cans of Carling, dropping their trousers and lighting cigarettes.
So the summit was quite a let down in terms of crowd and noise, but the journey up, and the views…it was one of the most challenging and scary things I’ve ever done.
The whole journey took us about 5.5 hours up and down. We came back down via the real Pyg Track (Nasty wanted to go back through Crib Goch again, I said he is welcome to do it, but I am going home alive, damn it!) and at the bottom, I spotted this sign at the start of the trail that I didn’t see going up. There it says, “The path up Crib Goch is extremely dangerous and should not be attempted by novice walkers.”
I can count the number of times I’ve gone walking/scrambling on the fingers of one hand. Reading up on Crib Goch once we got home, I realise how dangerous it is considered to be and how many accidents and fatalities have occurred on that ridge.
While we were up there, Nasty spotted a plaque on the ridge laid in memory of someone who died crossing it. Good thing he didn’t tell me about it until we’d gotten down. If I’d known all this before we went , I wouldn’t have done it.
But in a way, I’m glad I didn’t. I was terrified and petrified and on the verge of tears, but I crossed it and am immensely proud of myself. Will I do it again? Probably not. I still don’t know how I did it, but I’m happy I did.