I was recently approached by Alexandra who is the Community Manager for Man Crates. This company is based in America and it provides gifts for men in crates that need to be opened with a crowbar! One of the products that Man Crates offers is an Outdoor Survival Crate, and the company was interested in receiving articles from outdoor enthusiasts based on one formative experience from their early years.
I submitted the following article.
The first time I visited any form of hill that could be described as being a ‘mountain’ was with friends when we ascended Yr Wyddfa, otherwise known as Snowdon, which is the highest mountain in the country where I live; Wales. I’d been to its summit once before with my parents and brother when we caught the train on the rack and pinion railway that ascends to a few feet of its summit. But this was going to be a new experience for me, as it meant hours of walking uphill into an increasingly cold environment, and to do so rather unprepared as neither did we have adequate protective clothing or proper walking boots. I remember reaching the summit and feeling partly elated, but also very tired as the cloud descended and greying wind blew in.
There was no eureka moment for me after this visit, I was glad that I had managed to walk up Wales’ highest mountain but the thought of repeating such a thing, and to do so for the act of enjoyment seemed foolhardy.
|Yr Wyddfa in winter refinement|
It would be another three years before a friend suggested we visit another mountain, this time it was in the company of a number of girls, this seemed to encourage me as I forgot how painfully tiring my ascent of Yr Wyddfa had been. This visit was to Cadair Idris which is one of the highest mountains in the southern part of Eryri (Snowdonia). This ascent was going to be very different as we had come prepared with a tent and a large quantity of beer, which seemed only fitting for the endeavour we wanted to experience.
Thankfully the weather for this hill walk proved blissful and by the time we had positioned our ‘party tent’ next to Llyn Cau; a mountain lake nestled below Mynydd Pencoed and a cirque of cliffs, the sun had shone all day and there was a vividness to the colour with deep blues above being merged with the hill colours of greys, browns and greens. As the last of the beer was drunk the six of us tried to settle down for the night. The morning proved as beautiful as the preceding evening with warm sunshine meeting us as we scrambled up the steep stone shoot to the summit of Cadair Idris.
|Mynydd Pencoed reflected in Llyn Cau|
Two years later and I repeated this ascent with another friend, both of these visits to Cadair were done with very little equipment that could be considered as appropriate, as I wore Doc Mart shoes and a thin t-shirt and didn’t even take any water or food with me on the second visit, let alone a rucksack to carry any spare clothing in. However, something had happened on these two visits to Cadair Idris, something that at that time was hard to quantify. But now I can look back and understand the processes at work. I had encountered something very different to the life and times I was used to, these were mainly urban and centred around good music, lots of nights out, lots of drinking with a fair mixture of other narcotic experiences mixed in with a good recipe of being politically aware and slightly rebellious – good times indeed! But the experience of the beauty of visiting Cadair Idris and its glacier carved high cwm with its torn cliffs, mountain lakes and summit views made a lasting impression, and one that has not receded over time.
At that stage my joy for the mountains had only just been touched, as it would be another three years before I bought a good pair of walking boots and invested in water proofs, maps and rucksack. This was prompted by a love of travel and as I set about planning a six year adventure around the world, I suddenly realised that to embark on such a trip, it was probably wise to get fit, and as two good friends were occasionally going out walking on the hills I decided to join them. I went to buy my first pair of walking boots on the same day that another friend did likewise, miraculously we both bought Zamberlan boots from the same shop, on the same day, without the knowledge that the other person was going to do so.
Very soon the four of us were visiting all kinds of hills and in all kinds of weather. Rain or shine I wanted to get out, visit new places and experience new ground. I enjoyed this so much that my six year trip around the world was put on hold as I realised that the enjoyment I was experiencing on my native hills would be hard to replace.
Since this time the hills have given me so many special times and so many vivid experiences, days when the colour almost screams out to be touched, and those quieter moments when one looks down on the intricacies of life at ones feet, with detail of colour and movement in small pools, or blades of grass being delicately blown, or when the beauty of an ice crystal reflects a myriad of colour. All of these have been savoured and more. Wales is blessed with some of the finest scenery in the whole of Britain; it has an abundance of variety to its uplands from the rock carved giants of its north, to the openness and wilderness of its central heartlands to the old red sandstone hills of its south. I have walked all, but still only know a fraction of what the country has to offer.
|Sunrise over my local hills - the Breiddin|
The enjoyment and sometimes emotional need to visit the mountain environment does not stop at the border between Wales and England, there is no division as far as mountains are concerned, with one of the beauties being visiting hills in different countries, and although I cannot match some of the multi hill bagging exploits that many people are now experiencing, I have gained a broader mind by trekking in Nepal, Morocco, Cuba, Egypt, Vietnam, Peru, Bolivia and continental Europe, but it is the beauty of my own country; Wales, that draws me back time and time again. It is this beauty that will remain in me when my time on this planet is up, this beauty will enhance my dying day in a realisation that I have found something that I will be forever thankful for, and that is the beauty of the hills.