Well if you have managed to get to the end of that very long impressive title, then just put a thought into me, and how I feel after the past two weeks. Earlier in the year I came out and said I had not had a holiday in over ten years, and so in March I decided to switch the phone off and pack the car and drive to Snowdonia in Wales. Five months on, and 2011 seem to be my year for taking breaks, as I have now clocked up six get aways so far with the latest two supplying the backbone of this delightful blog.
Day one was to be fun. I thought it would just be a drive up to Fort William, a whole six hours but never the less it needed to be done, otherwise my mate would be sat outside his tent all sad and lonely and would have to climb Ben Nevis himself. He had decided to set off at stupid O’clock to get up there, to miss the traffic, I decided to leave at 10 O’Clock to miss the traffic and so after filling the car boot with my other mates camping gear, off we set.
The drive was going well, and the weather for once was holding out for me, as you may remember in past posts, when ever I’ve travelled on the M61 and M6 the rain has decided to fall, but this time it remained dry. However my bladder had other ideas, and the a stop was called for in my usual service station on the M6 North.
As I pulled out from the station a little engine light appeared on my dash, and being the driver who can’t ignore a little rumble or tick I had to pull over to get it investigated. So an unscheduled 3 hour stop in Carlisle was on the cards. The nice people at VW run a shuttle bus into the city centre, so you can have a look at what turned out to be a very nice city.
Now my thoughts of Carlisle up to that day, had been pretty empty with images of a dirty town. How wrong I was. Its lovely and I’m sure when the sun shines it sparkles. Our first trip was to head to the castle, and how nice it is to. I played the amateur historian once again and reeled off several what would become incorrect facts to my friend. The castle was a lot older than I had thought and the town and the keep had an extremely long past.
After a quick look at the station to watch some trains come in, and take pictures for my train nut friend, it was time to leave. I was quite disappointed by this as at 15.15 a steam locomotive would be pulling in to this wonderful ornate station.
After a long drive and the most peculiar motorway in Britain, and I am off course referring to the M8 that seems to drive not around but through the historical city of Glasgow we were on our way, and at 7pm we had arrived at the campsite.
The next day at stupid hour we forced ourselves up and began the walk. Now if I was by myself I would have just carried on walking up and down, but with company, I tried to slow my stride and start topics of conversation. Now Ben Nevis is a pointless mountain, if it wasn’t for the fact that it was the biggest in the UK then no one would give too hoots about it. The view was nice in places, the walk up was dull and long and was extremely man-made for tourists, and the cloud filled summit put pay to any kind of achievement. We made it back to the campsite within seven hours which the notice board had instructed was the average time.
With this we headed off into Fort William, where a quick fill up off petrol and some scram and we were on our way to the Lakes. Now I’m not a big fan of the lakes, but the next mountain would change that. The trouble was I had to get their without falling asleep. My mate kept on over taking and getting in front, but we had the last laugh as we turned off on to the M74 where he just carried on (the reasoning is still unknown why the his TOMTOM did this), so ended up some miles ahead of him. We only realised this when he had sent a message to us commenting on the monsoon just after Glasgow. We had already driven though that about 30 minutes before which was not fun, and it still amazes me on the amount of people in hazardous conditions like that who still refuse, to reduce there speed and increase the distance, and turn on their lights.
As we drove through the lakes being stuck behind slow-moving cars, trying to overtake, or driving on single track roads, with horses and sheep in the way, my eyes were beginning to fall. We made it to the campsite, with a toilet about a mile aways from the tents, and no showers, but we had drink and a BBQ and that was all that was needed.
I awoke to bright sunshine and a clear blue sky. It was 5am. I hurried off to the WC, and climbed back into my sleeping bag not in the WC I had off course walked back to the tent before I carried out this action. I had a feeling that this day was going to be a good one. When I woke again at 7.30 the sky had decided to darken, and the sun was replaced with heavy rain. the day could not get any worse. That was until my friend locked my keys into the car. Luckily my break down cover had just become active and after a 100 mile round trip the nice mechanic got in and unlocked my car. I was now determined to climb the pike no matter what, and so in the afternoon, we set off and clambered our way up the to the top.
Rather than boring you into the climb itself, I will post links to my friends site who details the walk. All I will say is that I kept on stopping as my legs were not in the mood for another climb and my other friend shared the same feelings. He even commented the next day that the best bit about the walk was the conversation about tax. Our other friend went striding ahead, while I took it slow and stopped to examine the rocks and the formation of the hill-side, after about half the route, we were getting into a rhythm even thou that meant, walking for a minute, stopping for 2, we were still making progress.
By the time we got down, food was in order and we decided another night would be spent at this campsite rather than the original plan to drive to Snowdon, as it was now late, and the thought of pitching a tent at 11pm was not an encouraging one.
Off we set to Wales with a little detour to Barrow for a cooked breaky. We only did this, because I saw a sign that said Lancaster 40 miles, Barrow 9, and I was hungry and knew they had a means of cooking food. So I tried to get my mates attention in the car in front to tell him the new plan.
Now Wales is mine and my car and tent buddy favourite of all places. We joked it was like we were returning home. We talked about which path to take up Snowdon as there are several, and this was decided when we all arrived into Wales. We drove to the start of Pyg and Miners and then scooted down towards Watkins to examine the path there. Now I had done all but the Watkins route and this was the course we decided to climb weather permitted. All which was needed now was a Campsite. There are loads of these littering the landscape, and both me and my mate knew which one we wanted to stay in, but we still suggested other areas, before setting up camp underneath Tryfan.
The soil smelt like raw sewage, but luckily there was a strong wind to blow it away, unfortunately this was bad news for our other traveling companions and their giant tent which almost blew away. After a fifteen minute slog of all hands on the deck we had secured there home for the night in the strong wind.
This would be the longest I had ever taken climbing this mountain, and it was mainly because I had company. After a quick indication into the car park, only to see that it was full, I quickly re-directed my route to the Park and Ride further down the pass. We spent about five hours walking the route and stopping to look at the views. my friend and I concluded that Snowdon rules out of all three, my other companion preferred the Pike I think, but he also prefers the Lakes in general as well. There is something about this mountain that I adore, and love, it has a strong hold on me, and a power which causes me to return. After talking with my friend, we both agreed, that the lure that draws me back could be down to the fact it is my first mountain I can remember climbing and ever since I got the train when I was a kid, I had wanted to climb her.
After lots of stopping and taking millions of photos of the train, we were back on level ground, and it was off to Harlech to see one of my favorite castles, and walk along a very nice beech. With this it was time to say goodbye, and the drive back to Manchester, but with a quick pause to do a focus session and a meeting in Manchester I would be getting back in the car to drive to the Brecon Beacons.
This is really Day 6 of a holiday, but it just makes the whole boring blog flow better, rather than putting Day 9, and having all you 3 readers go ‘what! Where did day 6,7,8 go?’
I picked my camping buddy up again, who had decided to forgo the train and hitch a lift with me, and so off we went at a steady pace of 60 mph which was making excellent results for my MPG, as by 200 miles I was had still not used half a tank. The MPG would go out of the window come the drive home, as the entire M6 was at a standstill, and the nice 2 hours from Birmingham turned into about four.
As we got into Wales, he decided on pointing out all the castles, and at one point I told him to keep an eye on the road as I turned my head to look at the castles myself. If there are three objects that would cause me to have an accident, they would be Castles, Bridges and dogs. In fact the week before, I told my friend, that every time I shouted dog (which would happen on more than one occasion and would often follow with me looking at the cute cuddly creature, then my passenger would shout ‘Road!’ this worked quite well, as he didn’t have much of an interest in mans best friend, but he seems to like a castle as much as the next man, and when I’m the next man, that is quite a lot. On this particular occasion, when I shouted out, keep and eye on the road, he was still busy trying to spot the old brick fortress as well, so for a while my little polo was flying solo.
We made it to the campsite and had burgers and cider to celebrate. The pitch was some way from the showers and the loo’s, so you had to time when you needed to go accurately, and incorporate the time it took to walk into your decision to go to the loo.
This camping trip was different from the week’s before, it was more laid back and casual, there was no rush to complete anything or to be anywhere, if we had woken up at 12, we would have done a shorter walk, where the week before we were aiming to be up and down mountains and at the next campsite, as we only had a limited amount of days to compete it all in. Therefore the drunken mess that occurred on the evening of Day 6 would have been very out-of-place on the previous days.
We awoke, and started walking, and because we didn’t need to be anywhere the 16 miles walk lasted for a good eight hours, plus there were parts which were an absolute bitch, and made the mountains last week look speed bumps. I spent a large majority of the walk, with my heart pumping, as I have a phobia of sheep, and at one point as we entered a field filled with the woollen things, they all started to move, making that horrific noise, I was quite motionless. To picture the scene, imagine Jurassic Park, or a stampede of Wildebeest then multiply it by 1000.
We returned and had a good old pint in a pub then went back to the campsite to shower, being lazy according my friend I decided to drive to the shower block my friend decided to hitch a lift even after he had made the ‘Lazy’ comment. We returned to pub and had more pints followed by food and even more pints, followed by a good game of cheat, that still amazes me the amount of people who don’t fully understand the rules or the aim of the game. To put it simply it is to cheat, get rid off all your cards, by cheating, if you can’t go, because you have no fives put a seven down and say its a five. Easy! No?
Was home time, and like with the lakes, we diverted our path and went in search of a Morrisons Breakfast, before heading off home. Myself and my companion, made another detour to a castle and we both wished we had more time to explore it, as it was an extremely interesting place.
To conclude, some of you may remember I posted a blog several weeks ago about the 3 peaks, and saying it would be a first real camping trip and I was unsure about the whole experience. Well in all honestly I did enjoy it, the people, the walks, the drives. I am now about to plan another camping trip where we do a spot of castle hunting and try to do all the castle I possible can. It was never the sleeping in tents that I had issues with, when it came to camping, more the fact of not having a telly in the room, or a hot shower a stones throw away. I don’t ever think I could do it by myself, not yet any way, so when my friends are all busy, it will still be hotels for me, but when there free, I can see me setting off and pitching in some field some where. The sweep stake is on, on how long it will be before I buy me own tent.