• Nicola Meir

Do you ever challenge yourself?

It’s good to challenge ourselves, isn’t it?! Push ourselves to do something we either never considered doing before or thought that we couldn’t possibly achieve.

Last month I climbed Mount Snowdon with my husband and my two children. What an adventure!  I thought I’d write about how it came about and what it was like.

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At the beginning of this year I spent some time thinking about the year ahead and what things I’d like to challenge myself with, both personally and professionally. One thing that appeared on my list, although I hadn’t given it too much thought, was how I’d like to climb a mountain. Lets not get carried away, I wasn’t thinking Everest, I was setting my sights on somewhere much closer to home. After all I’m not a seasoned mountain walker and neither are my children.  My husband on the other hand has climbed several mountains in the UK and abroad and has experience of climbing Mount Snowdon three times. I did ask him if he thought it was possible for us all to do. ‘Yes!’ he said. He’s a very positive person but I must say that I’m much more cautious.

I was keen to get a B & B booked near to Snowdon so that I knew we had a definite date in the diary and something to aim for.  The girls and I bought some walking boots several weeks beforehand so that we could break them in on a few long walks. We also made sure we had appropriate waterproofs and rucksacks. But I didn’t think too much about the task ahead until a couple of days before we were due to go.  I realised I didn’t know enough about what we were going to do, I didn’t feel prepared. I needed to visualise what we were undertaking – from the route, to the type of terrain we’d be climbing and how long I could expect it to take us. I knew I would be ok completing it as I can mentally and physically push myself but I was worried about whether my children, who are thirteen and ten, could do it. I started reading blogs about climbing Snowdon with children. A slight panic set in as most of what I was reading advised that unless your children have experience in hill and mountain climbing they would struggle. My girls are both used to walking long-ish distances but not hills or mountains.  I started to worry!

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Anyway, the day arrived. We made sure that we had a good nights sleep the night before and plenty of drinks and snacks for the duration of the climb.  We parked at the foot of the mountain range in Llanberis at the same spot where you can catch the train up to the summit and back down again. We then caught a bus to Pen Y Pass car park which is the start of the Pyg track.  This is where my husband suggested that we start, with a view to follow the Pyg track to the summit and then taking the Llanberis way back down. The Pyg Track is of medium difficulty and Llanberis way is thought to be easier. This advice was also reflected in the blogs I read beforehand.  The blogs also suggested that it would take approximately seven hours to climb up and back down again.  I found this quite daunting. How were my girls going to walk for seven hours??

It was a very grey day, moody clouds, threats of rain and the wind was whipping up into a frenzy but we were very motivated and started our walk.  My husband acted like a guide for us, knowing the route very well, he could direct us and estimate how long certain parts of the track would take us to complete. The beginning of the Pyg track was quite steep. It felt like a real workout. We were walking and climbing over granite which was uneven and often slippery due to the rain. We had to constantly check where we were putting our feet.  After about an hour the path levelled out for a little while which gave us a bit of a breather and a chance to have some food.  The views opened out to reveal a couple of beautiful lakes. However, the path was starting to get very busy. All different types of people were climbing with us and I noticed that there were two different types of footwear – those wearing proper walking boots and those wearing trainers.  I must say that I wouldn’t have liked to tackle this in trainers. We were often walking over rubble and uneven surfaces. Not only would trainers have been uncomfortable underfoot but they wouldn’t have given any ankle support which would be vital! Although I have heard of people undertaking the London Marathon in Converse…so who am I to judge?!

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It wasn’t long before the climb turned really tough to the point where it felt like we were rock climbing in parts. The rain was pelting down and was very icy at times. But both of my girls were still motivated to reach the top. By now, the amount of people taking the same route up had increased even more. At times it felt really over crowded as the track was not very wide. It steadily increased in difficulty too. It often felt like rock climbing and scrambling up to reach a ridge where we could pull ourselves up and take a rest.  By now we were getting lots of questions, “How much longer to the top?” “Where is the top?”. My husband was brilliant at keeping the girls going and motivating them to get to the next stage, sometimes by being economical with the truth.  But on the whole this worked. Both girls did had little wobbles though – one from falling over and the other when she realised that daddy hadn’t told the truth about where the summit was and how she needed to climb some more to get there.  However, it was an amazing feeling when the summit was in sight (well, partly in sight as we were among the clouds). To get to the highest point we had to climb up some rugged spiral steps around the outside of a column. We queued with lots of other people to get to the summit which was at the top of this column. It had taken us three hours to reach this point.

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When we stood at the top we felt like we had achieved something really special. The views were spectacular (when the clouds had cleared), our faces were rosey from the wind and cold. It was freezing with patches of snow.  No sooner had we had our photo taken by a kind person in the queue behind us, were we then walking back down away from the summit. It felt a little bit like a conveyor belt because there were so many people. It was just a short climb down to the cafe where we stopped for the toilet and some food. This is where the train departs to go back down to Llanberis where we had parked our car. However, you’re not able to get the train down if you didn’t catch it up to the summit.  It was time to psyche ourselves up to start the decent. My husband had warned me that going back down would be almost as hard as going up and I’m not going to lie, it was.  This was mainly because some sort of rubble had been laid on the path (probably to help preserve it) but this was very hard to walk on whilst going down hill. It took its toll on our legs, especially our knees and feet.  The landscape was beautiful though, much more green than on the way up and we even spotted some sheep.  About half way down there was a small cafe. Eventually very near to the bottom there was a pub where we stopped for a drink. After this the track turns into a tarmac road which we were so happy to see.  However, it was still painful and so we all tried walking backwards to ease the pressure on our toes, ankles and knees. It took us three hours to reach the car park where we had parked our car.

My legs seized up precisely two days after the climb where I had some difficulty walking down stairs and sitting down. But I did quite a lot of yoga stretching which really helped and I felt back to normal in no time.  I didn’t sustain any blisters, none of us did. I owe this to my husband for suggesting we all wear two pairs of socks – one part of trainer socks with a pair of proper walking socks over the top. We also wore lots of thin layers that we could remove easily if needed to, plus we had gloves (which were great for gripping onto the rocks) and a hat for the summit where it was really cold.

Initially I just wanted to challenge myself to climb Snowdon but as a family we decided to use the event to raise money for a very small UK charity which is dear to our hearts and I am so pleased we did.  This charity is called DreamFlight and they work with children who are seriously ill or who have a disability and takes them on a trip of a lifetime to Orlando, Florida without their parents.  It’s a trip that happens annually, providing much needed fun and excitement during a time when many are going through painful and distressing treatment which completely disrupts their lives. We’ve been so touched by this charity with the fantastic work they have done for a very close friend’s daughter. Through the generosity of family and friends we have managed to raise over £600 and will be eternally grateful for this.

Although it will be a while before I climb another mountain, this weekend got me thinking about how we spend our time and the importance of doing things with those dear to us. Therefore creating our own story in a meaningful way. And if we can challenge ourselves at the same time, even better x

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