travels with a hanky

OK so I didn’t quite go travelling with a hanky, but it seemed like far too good an opportunity to miss a reference to Stevenson and his donkey. What I did do was travel to Snowdonia last month, and visit all three mountains depicted on the hankies in my last post. I even climbed to the top of two of them. I did also consider climbing Tryfan (on Glyder Fawr we were so close, it wouldn’t have been that hard), but it just so happened that during this week of mountain climbing, I decided that this activity really isn’t my forte, and in fact it’s probably best to stay at the bottoms and just look up. Tryfan was thus struck off the list for being too spiky. So, first of all we climbed Snowdon. The picture below isn’t from the day of the climb – this was just an early evening constitutional down the Miners’ Track to see the sights and the sunset. (I think a lot of people who met us on their way down that night genuinely thought we were heading for the top, starting at 8pm, wandering casually along in sandals, with no provisions whatsoever. However when we did go up, and I saw the level of preparation of many walkers, this no longer surprised me so much. Think flip flops, shopping bags, multiple fluffy dogs on leads, and sandwiches when only 500m up…)

There is practical sense in staying at the bottoms of mountains: when we did get to the top of Snowdon, we couldn’t see a single thing. The whole summit was immersed in cloud. We could have been anywhere! We got a far better view of the surroundings from lower down. Although I suppose I wouldn’t have met this inquisitive sheep if I had stayed at the bottom. It’s definitely the kind of sheep that supports my favourite theory of how clouds are made (born in valleys, lambs slowly make their way up mountains, growing into sheep all the way, and, once they reach the top, drift off into the sky as fluffy white clouds). But Tryfan is definitely too spiky, no? Look at all those rocks! (From my brief experiences clambering over enormous rocks during this holiday – often as big as cars or buses – I also decided that I Definitely Do Not Enjoy Scrambling. It sounds like such a fun activity, but the reality is far from fun.)

Instead of negotiating with the guard-sheep at this point, we left Tryfan where it was and continued up and over the top of Glyder Fawr. Which was plenty pointy enough in itself, in my opinion. The top of the mountain was like this all over, just enormous shards of rock all stacked up. Kind of eerie. I realise I sound like a right spoilsport, and should probably enjoy mountains more. But when you’re halfway up a mountain and it suddenly occurs to you how much better a use of your time you could be making (knitting, sewing, reading, cooking … to name a few), climbing doesn’t seem like a very clever option.

The truth is, it turns out I do like climbing mountains, so long as there’s a good incentive. And just to be clear, getting to the top is definitely not enough. The best incentives I’ve found are pubs, dinner or the lure of adventure. On this particular trip to Snowdonia, I found myself actually running up a mountainside when the promise of what was at the top was great enough. It was while we were plodding around the remains of the slate quarry at Llanberis that enthusiasm hit. We took the steepest path for the best views, and were rewarded with all sorts of abandoned miners’ buildings, steep inclines with enormous winches and inviting tunnels cut into the mountain. (Though not too inviting of course – my keenness doesn’t translate into wanting to crawl down tiny dark holes.) I felt like a little spring chicken up there, as with so many interesting things to see, the terrain and gradient under my feet became mere minor considerations.

But if I’m going to be really honest, I reckon steam trains are probably better than any mountain, incentive or no incentive.