Sometimes you wonder why? The forces of nature fighting against you, making your day seemingly impossible, I mean what’s the attraction of battling freezing horizontal winds offering you a severe natural exfoliation and you can’t see 2 metres in front of you.....for 7 hours?!
Sometimes you wonder why? The forces of nature fighting against you, making your day seemingly impossible, I mean what’s the attraction of battling freezing horizontal winds offering you a severe natural exfoliation and you can’t see 2 metres in front of you.....for 7 hours?! Add in the fact that a mistake in your navigation and focus could lead you onto a slope that threatens to avalanche, offering you an express way down the hill or the faster option, going through a cornice! But in a twisted way that is one of the reasons that this magical environment is a huge draw for me!
And let’s be honest if the conditions are right then you will be rewarded for all your battles and pain with crystal clear blue skies offering incredible clarity with a blazing sun in chilled conditions. Perhaps the perfect mountain day?
My first winter day out was in the Beacons on a college trip over 25 years ago. We got kicked out of the mini bus with a planned route over the tops in our summer kit in Feb with our teachers clearly off to the nearest cafe. Little did they know that in the cloud there was serious snow cover….that, to us was brilliant fun!
Looking back at that day I do laugh now at how ridiculous it was, sliding around on our arses at the top of of mountain, whooping with laughter, but having absolutely no idea that it could have ended so differently, but I was hooked!
I dabbled around the snowy mountains until I did a winter mountaineering course and that just opened a whole new world of joy or is it pain? Learning about how to become comfortable in this environment was a huge curve for me and a costly one with all the gucci kit I needed, but all these years later I start to look forward to the next few months leading into winter. I find myself checking out the long term weather forecasts and wishing it all comes good.
North Wales has a love / hate relationship with winter, it nearly always offers a dusting in Nov / beginning of Dec, we all get excited and then it legs it! Occasionally though it delivers in buckets and there is no need to travel anywhere else, I remember quite a few years ago one Christmas day where Llanberis was ‘cut off’ from the rest of the World and the high street could have been anywhere! Deep powder lined the streets, more was falling, folk were wandering around with their skis and sledges with cups of hot chocolate - most of it fell on Christmas Eve, which kind of made it special. Mostly though we wait in anticipation each winter, have moments of excitement and then get disappointed and so a pilgrimage North is needed.
The fitter you are, the less the pain! Lets be honest, it’s not easy some days, the weather can be brutal, the conditions underfoot, soft, deep, icy….all of which tire your muscles quickly and make the day harder.
Personally there’s something deeply rewarding about battling and surviving the challenges of a winters day, physically I’ve certainly had to dig deep on occasion and I’m sure I’ve been heard to mutter “give us a break” to the weather gods! The mental focus required to keep yourself safe and make good decisions throughout the day is tiring and behind all this I’m thinking I’ve driven all this way, paid for my accommodation ….I will go out and enjoy it! But with a pint in your hand later, it’s a top day out!
So with all those lovely descriptive words of a good winters day out, like pain, freezing, battling and surviving making you excited about sharpening your axes and crampons for this coming winter, why would you even contemplate leaving your house? There are things in life that you know are great when you do it, but you can’t really explain with any clarity why it’s great or why folk should give it a go. For me, the physicality of the environment and the stresses on me are huge attraction features (as I said it’s twisted!) and then occasionally the rewards are incredible. Imagine a day or an hour where you can’t describe afterwards what you’ve seen or experienced, you can’t capture the moment on camera, but to you it’s the best moment in the mountains of that year…the reward of all that hard work.
These days some might say I’m going soft by not spending weeks and months in Scotland during the winter, I like to think of it that my body needs less exfoliation! But hey, I now spend several weeks working in bigger, snowier, spiky mountains, doing the same things that I run in Scotland, but getting a good tan and then head out to Spain for the rest of winter for more tanning!
Funny though, I still need that Scottish hit and I’ll squeeze that in between…..