The Sally Army organised a hike to Mount Snowdon, but there was no Shirley Bassey or Tom Jones to welcome us!
The Salvation Army South Leeds Initiative organised a day trip for south Leeds residents to a hike up Mount Snowdon. Now, most people should know that Mount Snowdon or Yr Wyddfa, to give it its Welsh name is in North Wales. So when this trip pinged into my email inbox, I had this image of male butch macho mountain types, wanting to go – dressed to the teeth in Gortex clothing. This is the channel of mountaineering gear, who look wind swept and tanned from exotic treks in foreign parts.
Well I turned up on the morning of 22nd June 2013 at 6.50am on the dot, at the old Malvern Pub site. None of the above turned up, what I saw was ordinary people – mums, dads, kids, young, old, granddads and grandmas, from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. This gave me a great feeling for the day, as everyone was saying “good morning” and “I’m looking forward to this walk”. Everyone seemed to have their own personal goals for the day to conquer the challenge of mount Snowdon. Some people where going to the top, some where out for a day trip and a short walk, some had already decided they were only going half way.
There was a coach and mini bus ready to take about 100 residents from South Leeds, to North Wales. I had three kids in tow ready for a fun-packed day of rain, wind, sunshine, snow, sleet, hurricane, thunder storms. You know what I’m talking about, a typical British day and not forgetting “are we there yet” from the kids.
We arrived at Llanberis about 10:30am, having taken our group photo in the car park, we gathered over the road in the picnic area of the Mountain Railway Station. This is the starting point for all hikers on the outskirts of the village.
The journey started at a leisurely pace up the hill, I was in the lead group. We set off at 11 and by 12-ish we had made it to the half way café at Clogwne. Having spent ten minutes resting up, we were setting off again. At this point there was a gap between us, the lead group, the medium pace group who where supposed to be behind us somewhere, but they where nowhere in sight. Then there was the slow group, I think they where the ants behind us in the distance.
We set off to the top as quickly as possible, making good time. I promised my three kids fish and chips for supper after the walk, if they kept up a quick pace – well it worked, we shot up that mountain like super human athletes. Well, I say super athletes – not quite like the guys jogging up the mountain – that’s right jogging or the SAS guys training in full army fatigue with mandatory 13 stone rucksacks. Anyway I digress. We mere mortals think a hike up mount Snowdon is hard work and very taxing.
As we got three quarters of the way up the mountain we where covered in a blanket of mist, that came down with a vengeance. We could only see about six foot in front of us, the wild was howling and it looked like someone had turned down the dimmer switch. We walked for miles and miles and miles and miles, until someone said you’re 20 minutes away, so we walked some more miles. Until some kind lady said it’s just round the corner. Now visibility was now down to three feet, with the wind blowing like a blizzard and we still seemed to be going in the opposite direction to the stream of people coming down the mountain. I felt we where all like ants blazing trails in search for food to feed our Queen.
Eventually we came to a road block with shouts of jubilation – “we’ve made it at last”, “we’re here”, “take a picture”, “how’s my hair”, “hope my make-up is not smudged”, “do these waterproofs make me look fat?” – and that was just the lads.
Now, this is where I’m supposed to describe a beautiful scenery looking over a Welsh Valley, with birds in the sky, rivers, beautiful landscapes, green pastures unforgettable scenery. Well, what can I say? Here’s the truth. Mist, overcast, windy, visibility down to 2ft, wind chill factor meant if you took your hands out of your gloves to take a picture after five minutes you caught frost bite or you couldn’t move your fingers. Everything was covered in mist, any pictures taken look at though you where in a bathroom full of steam.
Most people wanted to have a picture taken at the trigonometry point, which is the actual scientific top of the mountain, which resembles a pile of rocks. Now this was six feet away at the top of a set of circular winding steps. But to travel that extra distance, involved putting your life at grave risk as the wind was ten times stronger and the increase in wind chill made it even colder. Plus there was a minor detail of a blank spot to the right of the of the mountain that resembled a black hole. You couldn’t see into, but I presumed it was either a severe fall, or I prefer to see it as a grassed lawn.
Bearing all these minor insignificant details into consideration, I decide we should to take some misty pictures quickly, and headed off back down the mountain with haste. I also, forgot to mention the Café at the top of the mountain was closed on this day, which was inconvenient for any one wanting to use the toilet or stock up on food and drinks.
Now going down was an experience in itself. I stubbed my toe, I found the grass easier under foot than the slate shingles or stone slabs. Most of these were of every conceivable shape and size except the size that allows you to step on for perfect balance. On the way back down the mountain, these poor people who kept asking “how far is it now” and the dishevelled look and tired expression on their faces told you – they needed to hear “it’s just around the corner” or “five minutes walk”.
I felt so guilty having to say just another hour. I got so tired of giving bad news, I told one group that looked like seasoned walkers “I hope you have brought your sun glasses and swimming costume because it’s hot up there”. Once we passed the half way point on the way back down we where below the cloud coverage and we could see the sun and the green valley. This is where you could see all the walkers’ expressions had changed to relief. When we got back into LIanberis at about 2:30pm I lived up to my promise with my three kids and bought them fish and chips.
I must say congratulations to all the walkers from south Leeds. Those that walked the 9 miles to 3,199 feet above sea level, to the top of mount Snowdon and to those that reached their own personal goal. If you want to experience this trip then watch this film made by G22 Productions:
Also well done to the local agencies who encouraged their members to come along on this trip, to mention a few: Leeds Housing Concern, Slimmers World, Salvation Army, St.Luke’s CARES and a local Mosque were all well represented.
I would like to thank Ed and Mark from the Salvation Army South Leeds Initiative, for organising this experience. It was a brilliant idea to bring such a diverse range of people together on a walk that will help improve their health and fitness – it was fun too.