Summit an’ nuthin’

Broadsword calling Danny Boy; Broadsword calling Danny Boy.

The high peaks were calling; the weather holding fine.  From Base Camp we set off, with only one goal in mind.  Extra layers for the higher ground, warnings of strong winds up top.  There was plenty of fluid, as well as camera and lenses, binoculars too.  So the sherpa brought up the rear.  But oh those old knees.  It has been many a long year since the Big Buachaille could be ticked off on a hot summer’s day; who knows how long since the ridge of Goat Fell was just another walk.  And Ben Lomond?  Decades since.

We gained height, and then more.  The high pass through the hills became a matchbox motorway.  And views opened up that you wouldn’t think existed; endless views down steep valleys, in every direction, peppered with lochans, or more probably llyns in these parts.  Sheep and boulders; big bare lumps of rock, occasionally a tree.

And on the path, at intervals, were black bags, filled with boulders, brought in by chopper.  Footpath maintenance was clearly an ongoing and major issue. We soon found out why.

Higher we headed, and higher still.  And in time the summit.  But what was this?  A visitor centre, cafe and loos, viewpoints; and steps winding up to the cairn; proper steps, made to measure.  There was not a thing hewn from the mountain, no old drove roads to follow from the past, no steps worn down with eons of climbing boots.  But above all, indeed above and all around, our race to the summit had been matched, and beaten, by the only cloud of the day.

So we rested as the mists swirled, and teased.  A glimpse of greenery below quickly became silver bouncing back through the lens.  So putting the camera away we tried the binoculars, deep as were in eagle country.  Eagles, as much chance as a ray of sunshine such was our luck.  But there was birdlife, at almost 1,100 m and who knows how far inland.  There were gulls, feasting on the easy pickings as sandwiches were unpacked, and snacks from the cafe taken al fresco, in sheltered spots behind walls out of the wind, where the clouds didn’t quite reach.

Two lads arrived at the summit, mountain bikes on heaving shoulders. They looked too exhausted for the fearsome descent the thought of which had hauled them on. I can think of other ways to deal with a mid-life crisis. Halfway down the mountain another bike was heading up, pedalled not carried. Still at least he’d have the sun on his face as those mists of the summit were sure to come with us. Sorcery perhaps, those mocking mists.

It was a bit like my recollections of Lomond’s Ben; a good long walk.  I’m sure the last time I reached the end of that trail the visibility was pitiful as well.  And it was busy up top.  On Snowdon there seemed to be about twenty folk for every single one that was walking on Llandudno pier.  But we don’t mind that.  What really irked was on the route down, glancing back, and seeing the peak bathed in sunshine, as it had been every minute of the day before we arrived; and is was for every minute after we left.

And those old knees, strained and stressed, stiff, needing oiled.  They really should give a bit more legroom on the Snowdon Mountain Railway.

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