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misschraddøn
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15 + 85 points

The Highest Place by misschraddøn

June 6th, 2009 3:57 AM / Location: 53.068464,-4.076113

INSTRUCTIONS: Go to the highest point of anything.

Well here we are again...

I read this task and instantly took it as more of a challenge than some of the others. You may (or may not) have noticed that I've nailed quite a few tasks this week - more than anything that was to get the ball rolling and ingrain the idea of task-work into my face. From now on my tasks are going to be more thought out, better planned and more adventurous.

Shame I only thought about that last sentence after completing this task...

Let me explain - is this task more adventurous than my previous jaunts? Why certainly! Is it more thought out and better planned? Well... no.

You see underneath it all I'm a stupid boy with big ideas and very little in the way of planning skills. That doesn't ever really stop me doing anything but in some cases a little more consideration wouldn't hurt...

I realise that at this point I'm veering dangerously to degenerating into nothing but ramble and self confusion so I'll spit it out...

When I read "Go to the highest point of anything." my brain instantly translated it as "Go climb a mountain."

The "Preparation"

We're somewhat limited in our options here in good old England. In fact the tallest mountain in England only comes thirteenth in the list of highest mountains in British Isles (England, Scotland, Northern Island and Wales - the list also, interestingly, includes the Republic of Ireland for some reason).

I needed more of a challenge than that but with the highest peak (Ben Nevis) being over three hundred miles and a six hour drive away I needed to look for nearer options. Second highest? Mount Snowdon. Based only just over a hundred miles and a two hour drive away it sounded much more reasonable.

This is the point where me being a stupid boy comes in. I decided a few days ago I wanted to climb Snowdon, I didn't really give it much thought or preparation after that and only briefly mentioned it to my good friend Chris who I had already made plans with on expedition day. He thought we were just going to go for a picnic somewhere, unfortunately for him I had other plans in mind.

It's at this point I feel the need to qualify he fact that, despite how much of a good friend Chris is and how much I love him, he's as much of an idiot as I am. If we'd had a few more brain cells between us we might have been better prepared...

So first thing Friday morning I jumped on a train to Chris' house in Bolton (about twenty miles away) in shorts, a t-shirt, skate trainers with a raincoat in my backpack. When I got there he wasn't even up... I left Chris to get dressed and went about throwing together a hastily prepared packed lunch.

When considering climbing a mountain, most people would undoubtedly feel prepared when they had all their equipment and clothing ready, a medical kit perhaps - even walkie talkies should they get split up.

We felt prepared because we had a flask of soup and a flask of tea...main_img711879999.jpg

Faultless of blame, Chris - seeing how I was dressed - had also donned shorts, a t-shirt and regular trainers. We both fuelled up with a bowl of muesli and were met with incredulous looks when Chris' fiancée asked what we were planning on doing with our day. She made a hasty exit for work and, packed lunch split between our two bags, we headed down to the carpark.

The Journey

Chris had been fortunate enough to borrow his Dad's car for our adventure. When we were throwing our bags into the boot (that's trunk to you Americans) we noticed that, for some inexplicable reason, the boot was replete with walking equipment. Walking sticks, body warmers, boots - Chris' Dad had it all.
The reason I say that this was inexplicable is that, by all accounts, Chris' Dad isn't a very big fan of walking, hiking or any other outdoor pursuit...

We got in the car, programmed the SatNav and were on our way.

This is my route for the day - A to B is my train trip to Chris', B to C is our journey to Snowdon.
main_maptosnowdon80037.jpg

The journey was somewhat uneventful until we hit traffic just after getting into Wales. It feels prudent at this juncture to give those not in the know a little education about the wonder and glory of Wales.

FACTS.

Wales is the largest principality in the world and is, supposedly, run by Prince Charles. It's a lot smaller than England and has given the world such notable people as... er... Tom Jones and Catherine Zeta-Jones. I've always had a bit of an affinity for Wales - outside of the cities it's a very rural place and, somewhat of a sweeping statement coming here, the Welsh people are, in general, bloody lovely.

Well anyway before I go off on another ramble there is one other really interesting thing about Wales and the Welsh - they have their own language.

According to Wikipedia there are approximately half a million Welsh speakers left in the world (unsurprisingly most of these are in Wales, although some can be found in Canada and America apparently...) and, due to the Welsh Language Act of 1993, the Welsh language has equal precedence with English in all public areas in Wales. The point I'm trying to get to here is that Welsh road signs are WEIRD. As evidenced below...
main_sign80006.jpg
I absolutely love the "No Horse and Carriages" symbol - I don't think I've ever seen it before...

Back to business! So we were sat in traffic, enjoying trying to pronounce the Welsh road signs and generally having a bit of a laugh - we later found out that the cause of all the traffic (purportedly "routine maintenance") was because they had to close a lane so that some highway people could pick up rubbish on the verges off to the side of the road. It strikes me that they possibly could have done this at night when the roads were quiet. But hey ho...

By the time we arrived at Snowdon it was two in the afternoon.

Snowdon

We got out of the car and, for nothing more than a joke, we took a couple of the walking sticks out of the boot. It was a decision we would not regret...

Chris got a call from his fiancée at this point asking where we were, when he replied he was at the base of Snowdon, I couldn't help but hear her shocked reply. "I told you we were going to climb Snowdon," he said "Yeah but I didn't think you'd actually do it!" she replied.

Turns out she underestimated our resolve (and stupidity)...

As mentioned above it was already two in the afternoon by this point and as we headed on the path to start our ascent we noticed that no one else was heading up, in fact most people were heading down - and all those who were looked far better prepared than we did, all in proper hiking gear, with waterproofs, boots and walking sticks.

Only stupid boys go climbing mountains at two in the afternoon in trainers, shorts and t-shirts...

But we were stupid boys WITH STICKS!

When we actually got to the start of the path up the mountain we saw something that broke my heart...
main_img714280011.jpgSIX HOURS?!?

Seems these stupid boys weren't prepared at all... I mean I knew I was climbing a mountain but it's in Wales! I didn't think it would actually be difficult or far or high.
I was wrong on all three counts.

By far one of the hardest, steepest parts of the path we took was the first few minutes even before you join the main gravel footpath up the mountain. After about five minutes I was knackered (* a small caveat at this point - due to back problems and being more than a little lazy I'm incredibly unfit*). Six hours of this would kill me for sure.

Despite the initial fears, the path eased off into a steady, manageable yet still tiring incline.

Every now and then we'd pass a few more people heading down, but we seemed to be the only people heading up. Every fifteen minutes or so we'd take a look back at how far we'd come and, despite the fact that it happened every time, were constantly surprised about how far we'd come.

main_img714980015.jpg
A nice fact about Snowdon is that you can get a train to the top from the bottom, although at this time of year it only actually goes about halfway up.

After about an hour we reached the Halfway Cafe and decided it was high time for a pit stop of soup, sandwiches and tea.

Eating is never better than when it feels deserved.

main_img715280018.jpg


Feeling somewhat reinvigorated we set off again. The Halfway Cafe, we discovered, is somewhat of a misnomer - although technically it's half way to the top of the mountain, it's certainly not halfway up the mountain, as we soon discovered...

Despite our new found sense of energy the going was tough - a lot steeper and rockier than it had been previously.

Sights like this, however, made the tough going worth it...
main_img715480020.jpg

I suppose one of the most frustrating things about the climb was the fact that we could never actually see the peak. Rather than being a straight triangle like a kid would draw, this mountain path was very windy and would mean that whenever we made a tough ascent we'd turn a corner to find another, often steeper, path to climb.

After about another half an hour we saw the meanest looking ascent yet a little in the distance. We ploughed on to its base and decided it was the opportune moment for our final pit stop.

Let me tell you something for free... Pineapple has never tasted better...

main_img715980024.jpg
The photo above was taken from a straight angle - hopefully that will give you some impression as to how steep this ascent was...

We met a couple more people heading down the ascent - "Have we got much further to go?" I enquired "About half an hour maybe?" The guy replied. HALF AN HOUR?! I thought we were almost there! Well no time for dilly-dallying then, time to conquer the mean ascent! "One more thing" the guy continued, "it's bloody freezing up there, I hope you've got a jacket!" I still felt okay in my t-shirt so I, foolishly (see above about me being a stupid boy), ignored his advice and headed to defeat the big ascent.

It was a this point when I was hit with the realisation (yes, that is spelled correctly with an "S" :p) of how bloody amazing our walking sticks were. Quite unconsciously I had adapted my walking style to incorporate the stick and had, quite unintentionally, come to rely on it heavily to climb. I literally have no idea how I would have got up the mean ascent without it (although I imagine it probably would have been on hands and knees...)

As we got to the top of the big ascent we headed into the cloud cover and I suddenly appreciated the guy's advice. It was bloody freezing! I reached into my bag and stuck on my jacket.

Although the path had eased off after the main ascent it was still tough going, on a clear day we would have been rewarded with great views by this point but, as mentioned, we'd headed into the cloud cover so most of our views looked like this...
main_img716180026.jpg

although every now and then we were treated to something like this...
main_img716280027.jpg

I'd love to say at this point that the last stretch was a gruelling climb, that we had to fight our malaise and really trudge onwards, perhaps encountering/defeating some kind of monster-based obstacle, but to be honest the last part of the climb was actually pretty easy which, to be frank, I was extremely grateful for.

One last trial came at the end when we could finally see the peak - ascending some actual stairs - each about a foot and a half (45cm) high. Usually these wouldn't be a problem but after the previously climb they were especially tough. One thing spurred me on though... the thought of my reward...

A little more effort and two and a half hours after we had started, we were at the top, where we were greeted by this view...
main_img716480029.jpgThe Brothers Victorious
main_img716580030.jpg

The first thing I did at the top? Why the first thing I always do when I've done something stupid/adventurous/incredible. I called my Mum to tell her.

Surprisingly there was incredibly good signal at the top of Snowdon...

"But what was this reward Chris?!" I hear you cry...
main_img717080034.jpgMEGA MEAT SANDWICHES!

They were amazing.

The descent was tough, but in a different way to the ascent. It was by no means as tiring but the rocky, gravelly path played hell on my ankles, (my stupid trainers weren't made for mountain climbing!) the stick however helped and saved me from falling more than once...

At the bottom we got in the car and drove home. I pretty much passed out as soon as we got back and am really feeling it today, but it was all worth it.

As Chris put it when we got to the bottom "We went up a hill, but came down a Mountain... Like Hugh Grant."

I couldn't put it better if I tried.


In Conclusion

Obviously our climb was nothing comparable to climbing Everest or K2, but considering we just kind of went and did it with zero preparation I was pretty bloody proud of myself.

Despite the sense of achievement, I think my absolute favourite thing about the day was the fact that I got to spend a fair amount of time with one of my oldest and best friends in which we spent the whole time (somewhere close to ten or eleven hours) chatting and putting the world to rights.

As I get older I find myself drifting further apart from friends and family alike and, sadly in some cases, they're people I'd rather hold on to. I've always known with Chris though that no matter how long it is between hang out sessions, we can always pick up right where we left off, he's a special guy like that.

If anything, the sense of achievement of this task was heightened by the fact that I did it with one of the greatest people I'm ever likely to meet.

If you want more facts about Snowdon after this rambling nonsense (you know like how tall it is and stuff...) check it out here...

+ larger

My route for the day...
Preparing lunch
soup for good measure
THE MEGA MEAT SANDWiCH!
Obligatory tea
The complete packed lunch
Excited in the elevator...
uh oh...
Competitive photography
Double language signs...
I love the use of two languages...
one more example...
the journey begins!
Snowdon info
SIX HOURS?!
first view back...
NO FACILITIES!
Some more path...
Choo choo!
MAN POWER!
The Halfway Cafe
Self timer action.
Laketastic
I love what the cloud cover does to the hills in this one...
the lake higher up
higher still...
Chris loves the pineapple
Rocking out the pineapple on the final pit stop.
higher and higher
The clouds creep in
My one regret...
A resident of the peak of mount Snowdon
The view from the top...
Finally there!
Nice thing at the top...
Victory pose?
Victory pose!
THE REWARD!
Chris digs the layers
Love at first bite.

19 vote(s)



Terms

sandwich, climb, tea, walk, meat, trains, dangerous

10 comment(s)

foolish anglo!
posted by MonkeyBoy Dan on June 6th, 2009 4:07 AM

People die on snowdon!

It was all over the news in Feburary with some students falling off the path in the fog.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/north_west/7864422.stm

And that Chief Constable of the GMP who comitted suicide by going up there and just waiting overnight for exposure to do its grisly work.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/manchester/7291142.stm

NO VOTES FOR YOU

(no subject)
posted by teucer on June 6th, 2009 10:16 AM

Since when has a little danger stopped anyone from tasking?

(no subject)
posted by misschraddøn on June 6th, 2009 4:11 AM

I laugh in the face of death. BWAHAHAHA!

(no subject)
posted by Lincøln on June 6th, 2009 10:04 AM

I like this guy.

(no subject)
posted by Lincøln on June 6th, 2009 10:30 AM

Also. This.

(no subject)
posted by Adam on June 6th, 2009 10:38 AM

Brilliant. *High five* I have also climbed Snowdon and eaten meat sandwiches atop it's peak. It was sunny when we got up there and we took the train down so it was probably alot harder for you guys. :D

(no subject)
posted by Adam on June 6th, 2009 10:46 AM

Also I thought you might enjoy this:

11349729-a7c0a0023f79552694afdcd70454e56b.4a2aab29-scaled.jpg

I took this photo down on Yarmouth seafront the other day and it features the wonderful horse and cart image as well as a pictogram of a road-train.

(no subject)
posted by Ben Yamiin on June 7th, 2009 5:14 AM

MEGA MEAT!!!!!

A thermos of soup...
posted by Waldo Cheerio on June 11th, 2009 7:20 AM

and and a thermos of tea. Hah!

danger
posted by MonkeyBoy Dan on June 8th, 2009 2:17 AM

Having gone back and reread my earlier post I think I sounded a bit of a whiny killjoy.
At the time I was corncerned at the risk Chris had taken, certainly exaggerated in my hyperchondirac / anxiety disorder / overactive imagination kind of way - if I have a headache it must be cancer or maybe an extra eyball is growing in my head like that Stephen King story OH NOES I AM GOING TO DIE! etc.

Whereas if he were to injure himself doing something dangerous knowing the risks I would consider that brave, were it to happen due to not knowing the risks that would be nothing but foolishness.

And I have awarded a couple of points now but mainly for trying to teach you rebellious colonials how to spell.