Sometimes it’s about the journey…

Sometimes it is about the journey, at least that’s my consolation this week!

Sometimes you should read the signs and just give up I guess. By signs I suppose it could sound as though I am alluding to some sort of higher power, I am not, but sometimes when one thing after another seems to be a struggle it might point to it not being your day.

Winter brings its own challenges, a number of environmental factors which lead to difficulty in the mountains and tough days out. The toughest can also be the most rewarding, but usually the reward is on completing the days goal. Winter brings; short days, more kit to carry, more dangers to consider as you walk and generally just more planning. I don’t mind planning, I am a total planning nerd, in winter the forecast charts become like some sort of bible, again not from some higher power. Although the days which are good enough to hike rarely overlap with the days with which I can hike (like some demoralising Venn diagram where the circles never intersect). So is the curse of the 9-5.

This past week I was amazed to see Wales was looking good for a weekend walk! Cadair Idris, good visibility, good snow coverage, fantastic! Finally getting out again in winter conditions. It was looking great.

Setting off for Wales means an early start, so rising at 0530 I was pretty hopeful of a good day. I had everything set the night before so I was out of the door and on the road by 0610 after making breakfast and filling my flask. Summit temperatures forecast at -5C, with snow falling the previous week and expecting a frozen summit.

Setting off with a mixture of excitement and trepidation for the day ahead.

Failure 1, I forgot I had avoid motorways on my sat-nav, this added 30mins to my journey which was 2hr 10m without the extra 30mins. So my early start became a not that extra early start… no matter I had left a huge buffer on the end of the walk for problems like this. I arrived at the car park in good time.

Failure 2, I parked in the pay and display car park; getting out to pay and checking the pay meter the card machine was not working. I had enough spare change in the car for 4 hours parking. I had half the amount I needed for the full day….I thought, screw it, I’m going I’ll deal with the ticket if I get it.

Getting out the car I had my bag ready and off I went everything was packed I was sure of that. The start to Cadair Idris is a pretty thigh punishing staircase from hell. Wet mud clogging boots, slippy rocks adding a challenge and the chill in the air destroyed by the overwhelming heat generated by carrying a very very full pack up a steep hill. Checking the map was demoralising, as I realised the little progress I was making, questioning silly things in my head like did I really need all the kit I had with me? On the hill is not the time to think about this as it’s already too late if you don’t need it, its not like you’ll leave it on the path!

Climbing further and further now reaching 400m altitude, not high by any stretch, but given the weight I was happy with progress. I was breathless but feeling good. Thighs and glutes burning with each step, a small stretch of flat path was a welcome relief.

I turned the corner and looked in the direction of Cadair Idris. It was shrouded in cloud, that horrible feeling of disappointment starting to fill me up. In fact the sub-summit standing at ~740m which is about 150m less than the primary was also shrouded in cloud. I checked my forecast chart I had printed and it was set to improve so I continued.

DSC_3722The problem with a cloud layer that thick is I cannot risk a route I have not climbed before, in such close proximity to cliffs on a solo ascent. With a partner I can ascend into anything, within reason, knowing I have someone with me who has my back. I guess it’s about calculated risk as much as anything else. I had driven a long way so I pushed onward to see what I would be offered on closer inspection.

The closer I got the worse it seemed to be, cloud drifting off momentarily before covering the low summit. The high point of the walk was invisible my entire approach to the second stage of ascent. I don’t mind doing walks in these conditions but not with so much camera kit on my back, in fog that stuff is just dead weight.

I made the most of things while up there, taking a bit of time to enjoy the lake at the base, time to enjoy the peace and quiet and eat some lunch. I was frustrated, but by this point I had made my mind up. It was more important to get back in one piece than to summit, for a lot of people it would have been totally fine and had I known the area a lot better I guess it would have been fine for me too, but sometimes just knowing the right point to turn around and call it a day is useful. It doesn’t really matter how far I had driven I wasn’t feeling comfortable enough with the conditions. There are generally two parts to a hike the ascent and the descent, no point in doing the first if you aren’t sure you can complete the second.


The sun did make an appearance, but nothing worth taking that further risk.

Turning round and heading back to the car I was happy with the decision, just gutted I had to make it. I will be back, another day and I will get to the top.

Thanks for reading.