First of all, apologies that this blog is so late! I've been writing this as and when I've had a spare five minutes so it's been written piecemeal over the last three weeks. Another apology too because it's very very long, but I never want to forget my first and very very special Snowdon weekend.
What a weekend! What a fantastic incredible weekend
We couldn't leave for Snowdonia until Saturday morning though. Young Ben's fiancée had booked theatre tickets for me and Ben to see the awesomely funny ventriloquist Nina Conti on the Friday night. If you ever get the chance, she's well worth seeing. So, I got back home about 11pm on Friday night, finally crawled into bed around 1.30am and was up again at 4 to make the final preparations for the trip. Finally got away at 5.50 and we were lucky enough to have a good journey with nothing much in the way of traffic hold ups.
The original plan was to go straight to Llanberis as we thought we'd be late arriving, but we made such good time that we were able to join the cheering squad in Beddgelert
It was absolutely wonderful to meet up with Vicki, Richard, Bev and Tony and those two lovely youngsters Ollie and Paul - what a credit they are to their respective parents
We didn't have too long to wait before the leaders came charging through. Meanwhile, Vicki mentioned that HD had made a surprise appearance and the thought of seeing him at the finish really made my day big time
We cheered and clapped our hearts out and made far more noise than anyone else there, especially every time a Buzzer came into sight. I've still got to watch the TV coverage on catch up and I'm really looking forward to it. It might have been misty and a tad damp but it was a great temperature for spectating. Right opposite a handy cafe too
First through was Moose and he was absolutely flying - now I know why he's called Moose the Bullet! Next came Angus and Red Dave and they were also absolutely belting along too. Next came Hobs, Jim then Gaelle. I'm so glad that we were all there for Jenny when she was having such a bad day - what a woman, she certainly didn't leave anything on the course. When Vicki said she could see Rob was coming I was completely surprised but so glad that I was finally going to see the legendary Mr Barber sooner than I thought
That broad grin and real delight to see us all was marvellous. It was tremendous to see Rob and Jenny run to the halfway marker so a half marathon time would be registered
We stayed in Beddgelert for a while longer, cheering Laine and Ian through and clapping and cheering every single person who came through as well. Some were so deep in their own zone that the support wasn't registering at all. The personal battles going on at the back were humbling to see - the stories that go along with those battles must be incredible. It was easy to see that to some, the support meant everything - to see eyes light up, a slow smile through pain, to see them pull their head back up and start running again, that's the joy of supporting not just those you know, but everyone out there with the courage to take part.
The drive back to Llanberis was slow and a bit hairy at first. Narrow roads, two way traffic and runners having to watch out for the motorists instead of what should have been the other way around. It really shocked me both in Beddgelert and on the drive out of there to see runners being held up by drivers impatient to get through. I was still cheering and clapping everyone out of the window until finally our paths diverged. Back to Llanberis and the finish line had an incredible atmosphere of excitement and we all continued to shout everyone home, although sadly we arrived after Moose Angus and Hobs had finished. The bloodied knees on some showed how brutal that steeply downhill last stretch before the High Street had been for some, but full of adrenaline, many were still sprinting for the finish. The sportsmanship was superb, runners helping other runners in difficulty, seeing people cross the finish line carrying or running with their small children, just brilliant. Restores your faith in human nature
It was absolutely brilliant to meet up again with those I'd met in the past and those hadn't - it really is like meeting up with friends that you've known all your life and it feels so comfortable and easy. Being able to have a Hollywood Hug was very special indeed. Trying to hug Hollywood back is no mean feat - my arms won't meet around that massive chest! Mind you, trying to hug Jim and Hobs is also a challenge as well - they certainly grow 'em tall in the shire (both Glos and Hants
When everyone was safely across the line, it was time to go back to the wonderful warmth, both physical and metaphorical, of Vicki's lovely rented cottage for drinks and cakes. We had to leave too soon as we still had to check into our B&B in Caernarfon. We'd got the last available room in this one - it was up in the attic and even I had to duck to avoid banging my head. What it lacked in headroom it certainly made up for with the view - straight across the Menai Straits. We just had time to get changed before heading back to Llanberis to meet up with everyone for a meal at the Royal Victoria. Very nice it was too when we eventually found it (the SatNag sent us off to the Slate Museum!), a wonderful evening of friendship and laughter
It all passed too soon though and it didn't seem long before it was time to all head our separate ways.
I was so looking forward to climbing Snowdon the following day. All of that wonderful Welsh air must have done me a power of good because I slept much better than average, at least I did until 4.30am when I woke up with a pretty grim migraine type headache. They're always triggered by the knackered vertebrae in my neck and the chances are that it was caused by lots of looking around during the marathon. I eventually managed to find a neck position that lessened the pain a bit but it didn't help the nausea much. I took all of my meds, slapped on the travel sickness bands (they really do seem to help) and tried to doze for a bit. After a couple of hours, it gradually began to subside to a level where It was copeable with and at that stage I was really worried that it was gong to mess up our plans. We packed our stuff up early and took it down to the car then went in for breakfast. I got a few curious looks as I carried in my box of gluten free cornflakes and pear. Pears are the only fruit I seem to tolerate these days and it's almost guaranteed that they never have any when you want one so it's become normal carry my own breakfasts when we're away from home.
After a bit of a shuffling around of cars in the car park we managed to get away and get to Llanberis with a few minutes to spare. The chap in the car park asked if we had the right kit for walking, telling us that it was -2C up top. After reassuring him that we were fully equipped we walked up to the main road just as Rob, Bev and Tony were approaching. Moose and Hobs pulled up by the roadside and hugs goodbye exchanged. As we started ascending the Llanberis trail, my head began to pound again. Rob assured us that this first bit was one of the steepest parts of the trail and that was welcome news as my hips were none too impressed with the gradient. I really didn't feel too confident that these old bones would carry me all the way to the top but when you're with Buzzers, you just put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forwards.
The conversation flowed, laughter was frequent and the sense of easy companionship was just fantastic. I very soon began to overheat though ad gradually as we ascended, the layers were shed. We paused to look back many times, something that's an absolute must on this climb. The scenery is just breathtakingly achingly stunningly beautiful - a green landscape dotted with isolated farms, stone wall defined rough pasture, autumnal flashes of colour on the distant trees and the stillness of Llyn Padarn in the far distance. I'd climbed Snowdon once before when I was a student at Aberystwyth, but we didn't go this way, we went a far rockier and steeper way, although pretty much all I can recall now (it was 38 years ago!) is that 1. it was a very chilly day with thick mist most of the way up and 2. the ferocious knee pain and having to be helped down as my knees wouldn't hold me (a very common occurrence back then before my bust cartilages were fixed). I'm so grateful to Rob for taking us that way, not only for the incredible scenery, but being the owner of two pretty clumsy feet, I felt safe.
The weather that day really was incredible and Snowdon bestowed one of natures wonders on us, that of a temperature inversion. The higher we went the milder it became, there wasn't a breath of wind and it wasn't long before we were all in tee shirts. A hazy sun shone occasionally early on.
Bev & Tony
As we climbed, Llyn Du'r Arddu (the black lake of Arddu) below the 100m high Clogwyn du'r Arddu (black cliff of Arddu) lay below us like a black mirror nestling its ancient glacial cwm. As a geologist, seeing an example of a glacial cwm as good as this was brilliant.
Llyn Du'r Arddu & Clogwyn du'r Arddu
Ten minutes or so later we reached Clogwyn Bridge when we went under the railway again. Although there was high cloud above us, the incredible sight that met us was unforgettable. Separating us at eye level from the next ridge was an ethereal layer of cloud with the peaks clear above it.
Thin cloud at eye level from Clogwyn Bridge
We all took loads of photos and this is where we got the chance to watch the train approaching then pass us.
Bev, Tony and Richard watching the ascending train
Rob sat a little higher up, and I love this photo - our very own mountain man in his natural environment looking thoughtful
We continued the steady climb and I began to feel so hopeful. With the help of good meds, the headache was under control, the hips had quietened some and I knew if I'd made it this far, there was no way I wasn't going to stand on the summit. As we climbed ever higher, the cloud layer below us thickened and the views were just incredible. The last incline to the summit was in crystal clear air.
Views from near the top
As we approached the final steps up to the summit, I was genuinely surprised at how busy it was up there. I was also getting a lump in my throat, thinking of HD up here the day before, feeling the emotion of standing where a few hours earlier I didn't think I'd be able to,, feeling so proud that half of my blood is Welsh and finally understanding the lure of Snowdon - something that had passed me by on my first ascent all those years before. After we stood on the summit, we sat in around the summit in quiet contemplation, marvelling at the incredible scene of the higher peaks looking like islands in the constantly changing cloudscape, each lost in their own thoughts for a few minutes.
Team Miller at the summit
Refreshment finally called and to the cafe we went - more incredible views through the floor to ceiling glass frontage. A cup of very sweet tea went down a real treat (the amount of sugar I consume is a disgrace, but on that occasion, I knew I'd earned it). I was looking forward to the descent as I knew we be seeing Glaslyn (literally translated, blue lake) fairly soon, another glacially formed lake in a cwm, although in was entirely hidden by cloud as we started to descend on the Pyg track.
Looking down to the Pyg Track and Miner's Track
The footing was a bit technical in places but it just added another dimension of excitement - my knees are the strongest they've ever been and although a bit sore, my hips were far happier going down than up and I knew that as long as I was careful and didn't get carried away, I'd complete an entire hike without falling over Glaslyn did not disappoint, in fact it exceeded all expectations. Rob told us of the Arthurian legend which made it seem even more magical. I can't even find the right words to do justice to the colours and the perfection of the reflections on the undisturbed surface.
The light changes so quickly in the mountains and as we continued down, thin mist began to creep over the lower lip of the cwm to enshroud it once more.
That same mist resulted in another strange feeling moment. It rose up the slope towards us, enveloping us in thin clamminess, then slowly retreated back downslope toward the lake. This next bit is going to sound really weird but just for a moment, I had the strangest and happiest feeling that the mist had taken some small part of the joy that each of us felt to hold forever in its glassy depths. Still brings me out in goosebumps thinking about it.
The rest of our descent back down to Pen Y Pass crossed much more bare rock so Richard and I were in our element looking at the ancient volcanics. The lava bomb landing marks were so impressive. So many people passed us who were only just starting their ascent - many of them ill equipped and badly dressed. The worst of them came not far up from Pen y Pass, only dressed in jeans and thin sweaters with brand new trainers on. I just hope that they all stayed safe and gave the mountain rescue teams no extra work. I only slipped a couple of times, only minor slips I'm glad to say, and that was on exposed small exposed sections of made drainage pipe. My walking boots have passed their mountain test with flying colours
I actually finished writing this on Thursday, then haven't had the time to upload it
R had a bit of surgery the Friday after Snowdon and has had to take it easy for a couple of weeks, so just short walks for me since Snowdon and a lot of cross-training in the form of scraping and shovelling huge quantities of mud out of the large pond on the Open Space. You can probably imagine the effect of that on the joints but the hair of the dog most afternoons seemed to help for a short while. Anyway, we finally restarted training yesterday. Just a little 7.7 miler, a little shoulder to shoulder time with our legends Jim and Dave. Now there are a couple of blogs that I can't wait to read!
Happy training everyone