Sunday, July 05, 2015

The (Very) Long and Winding Road

Now that we live in a very rural area in North Wales, we thought we’d make the most of the glorious weather we’ve been having and head out for a long walk (ok, so the weather lasted about 3 days, but that’s longer than the average Scottish summer).  We’d been flirting with the idea (definitely just the ‘idea’) of climbing Snowdon at some point, but both figured we’d need some training before we’d be fit enough to attempt it.

We pinched an OS map from one of LT’s colleagues and we poured over potential routes in our local area.  I say ‘we’, but I really mean LT.  Maps are not my friends and I have absolutely no idea how to use them, or how to follow them, so I sloped off for a cup of tea and left him to it.  We now reside within the confines of Snowdonia National Park and I see finger posts for walking everywhere I go.   I knew there were many roads we could take and was happy when LT spotted a path from our home that lead to Llyn Cwm Bychan (Llyn is Welsh for Lake…I think).  He told me it was a 6-mile walk and so off we trotted.

I was feeling quite enthusiastic about the whole thing as we realised the route would take us right off the beaten path and away from the coastline we’ve become accustomed to seeing every day.  We first headed into the centre of Harlech, which is up a hill of Ben Nevis proportions*.   It was only after arriving into town, flushed and sweaty, we realised that the path we’d chosen just kept on climbing.  I told myself it would probably level off soon and we carried on.  Boy, was I wrong.  

After 40 minutes of constant ascent and wondering how close we were getting to the sun, the road finally started to straighten out.  By that point my legs were burning and my enthusiasm had abandoned me.  I asked LT to check the map for more hills and he stated that we were over the worst of them. Thinking that it would be flatter from there on in and, therefore, easier, we continued.  The scenery was beautiful and it was amazing to see right out across the Irish Sea from such a height.  We passed by some gorgeous out-of-the-way houses and B&Bs and, as beautiful as they were, my over-riding thought was about how, if I lived there, I’d have to do a hill start every time I turned on my car ignition.  Hill starts aren’t really for me.   Neither is driving on tiny country lanes.    

*It absolutely isn't that steep.   

Overlooking the Irish Sea

Which way to go?
After arriving at a crossroads, we had a quick debate about a longer and shorter route and decided on the longer one.  It would only be an extra mile each way, which, by my incredible calculations meant it would be an 8-mile walk instead of a 6 mile one.  What’s another 2 miles between friends??  Plus, the sun was shining and I was glad of the heat on my pasty skin.  We walked and walked and walked some more.  Then my feet started to hurt.  I tried to ignore them by gazing at the hills along the route, as well as managing to have a quick rest when we were actually held up by what can only be referred to as a ‘sheep traffic jam’.  I’m not even kidding.   

Regular traffic jam in North Wales...

Waterfall near Llyn Bychan
When I finally got too tired to continue, I asked the age-old question – ‘are we there yet?’ and, to my complete dismay, was informed that we had walked almost 6 miles and were ‘half way’.   As it turns out, when LT said the walk was 6 miles, he meant to get there.  It doesn’t take a genius to work out that also meant it would also be 6 miles to get back.  That little nugget, added to the fact that we were adding on an extra two miles by taking the longer route, meant that our pleasant walk had now blossomed into a hellish 14 mile trek.  I, perpetually disorganised and unprepared, was wearing a pair of Sainsbury’s tennis shoes which are, under no circumstances, designed for serious walking.  LT, who knew how far we were going, wasn’t any better equipped.

When we finally made it to the Lake, we had a quick scoot round, turned on our heels and made a start on the long journey home.  By the time we made it there, we were both knackered and a touch sunburnt.  Funnily enough, although I was miserable for a fair bit of the trip, when I sat down later with some wine (because, obviously), I looked back and realised it wasn’t so bad.  Funny how wine can do that, huh?   

The moral of the story is:  never agree to go for a walk unless you know EXACTLY how far it is.  There AND back.   Also, take sunscreen.  And decent shoes.  It looks like the ‘idea’ of climbing Snowdon will remain just that for the foreseeable future.

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