The Final Countdown

It was around this time last year I wrote something similar, except the countdown was to my adventure and after almost a year what an adventure it’s been.

Now with just 27 days left (as I write this) I look back at my time in New Zealand and think back to how scared and nervous I was. Any regrets? Only that I hadn’t done it earlier in my life and applied for a two year visa with visas to other countries along the way.

It’s no secret that I’m happy here, my Kiwi mates and traveller friends all know this is where I belong and while I won’t go into those reasons you can rest assured that NZ like snowdonia is a spiritual home of mine, one in which I will return and one that people who know me know it’s where I belong.

After months of trying to find a way to stay or extend my visa it seems that fate is telling me to go home, and maybe with good reason. I’ll be able to sip a nice pint of warm ale with my bestie and see my family again but at the moment that is all that England has to offer.

If I was to describe the sensation or my feelings at the thought of leaving in 27 days it would be to compare it to a warm bed. Imagine the alarm going off on a cold wet dark winter Monday morning, with the thought of a hard depressing day stuck in your office cubical. How much nicer is it to just roll over and hit the snooze button and bury yourself beneath the warm sheets and have a sick day. Well the bed is NZ and the journey and work is going back to the UK.

Sure I miss elements of the UK, off course I do it’s my country, but I’ve gotten use to NZ, the shops, money, food, lifestyle, brands, shops, adverts you name it I’m living it. The thought of adjusting back into English life does not excite or thrill me. I’ve seen what the world has to offer, I’ve seen what other opportunities there are, I’ve experienced a new way if life, and you know what I rather like it.

The countdown however has begun and while the nerves tingle and the thoughts of not wanting to say goodbye along with the fear of forgetting the experience and returning to the life I had. I know that it is I and I alone who needs to hold on to this experience and forge a new life. I never wanted to leave Manchester or change my job for the fear of the unknown, but now after a year away living from a bag meeting new people living in several communities that fear I once held onto as an excuse for living the old life seems pretty lame.

Oh well we will see what happens UK.

The countdown has started.

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A Stolen Heart

People know that I love New Zealand and you just need to flick through the evidence to see why and once you have I’m betting that you to will fall in love with a country that has a little bit of everything.

Many people know that my true and first love is that of Snowdon and Snowdonia, but this weekend my heart was stolen to another valley of mountains.

In short if I could have a job and place to live then I’d gladly call Mt Cook my home.

It has made me decide that mountains and the outdoors is where I belong and when, or maybe we should make that if I get back to the UK, then it’s off to the countryside and mountains I shall go.

It’s hard to explain, but my passion and love for rock that has grown out of the earth is something else.

Home Sick

Well my dream of staying is slowly fading and in a surprising way I’m kind of glad. It was after all a dream to stay and work but now if I’m honest I’m a little homesick. Sure I miss my family and my best mate and there are a few others who I wouldn’t mind having a pint with not that we’ve really kept in touch.

But the true home sickness and this will be a surprise to many and a few may gasp and exclaim and argue that I’m daft especially with the landscape and scenery but my heart belongs in the hills and mountains of Britain.

Yes I’m homesick for walking Snowdon and Tryfan or taking a cold winter hike across the moors or a drive to a remote part of the peak district and rambling down country lanes and through English woods. Off course the views and landscape in the land of the hobbits is amazing and I know as I look down from Snowdon or view the Cheshire plain from Kinder Scout my brain will flash back to those pictures and images of the southern alps and the quite one horse towns and question which one is better. People said NZ is Wales on a larger scale and they weren’t wrong.

I still have some months left and with my time I’m going to see this country again to make sure I have a full memory of sights, sounds and stories stored in the old memory bank. Sometimes you have to be without something to realise how much it actually means and while I could happily make the move I need to go back to see if my true loves once more and put the world to rights with a good old fashioned drinking session with my bestie.

A friend once posted a song to my wall which I think I have shared with you all before called ‘The Manchester Rambler’ which sums up my affair and passion for the outdoors. While I have now found a way to come back and work over here in the future  I find myself missing the peaks and Snowdonia ever more.

I’ve made some good friends and have had partook in many an adventure and while there have been high and lows how will always treasure my time in NZ and hold it close but the time has come to return to the UK and who knows I may realise that NZ was for me after all. But at the moment Im longing to walk down Market Street and go into Greg’s for a steak bake or chin wag and complain over a warm flat beer with Matt, or redeem my nector points and watch the BBC and take a walk in the British rain and wrap up warm not put on sun screen in Janaury. But at the same time I’m loving my time away and the experiences I’m living.

See you soon UK.

Before I Go!

There are a lot of things. A long list if you will. I have compiled this list to help me get my affairs in order before I arrive at terminal one and board my plane. There are the simple things like selling DVD’s and CD’s, which now has a big tick by it. Move stuff back to my parents, sell some clothes, pack, transfer money, pay tax bill, cancel phone, cancel internet and so the list goes on.

However the one item on the list that I really want to see ticked off, is the Welsh 3000. For those not in the know, and even some avid walkers don’t know then the 3000’s are 14 or 15 (if you count the extra one) peaks in Snowdonia that are over 3000 feet hence the name.

Now I have done the Snowdon Massif, and only have two more to bag for the Glyders, which I am hoping to do this week and then I just have the Carnedadu to complete. Forget bagging Wainwrights and completing the Southern West Fells, my dream and ambition before I depart the UK is to complete the 3000 mainly due to that fact that it gives me an excuse to go to Snowdonia.

So hopefully as my time draws ever closer to 25th June, I will be able to give a tick to finishing the Welsh 3000.

Saying Hello to an Old Friend

I have cheated on her all to often in the past year and the last time I went to say hello she was so happy to see me and me her that we fell in love all over again. I hugged her at every step and just like the first time she took my breath away. I don’t know how she does it.

This was a camping trip with a friend… who’s original thought was a multi day walk in the peaks. Boring I know but he does seem to like the Peaks and to be fair there are a lot of nice walks and I enjoy that area of the UK as well, but I can go there on a day visit. He then raised the idea of the Lakes. Well we could do I said, but where? I’ve done most of the south-west fells. I haven’t but the places we were looking at I had done. I was off course slowly driving him to the decision of Snowdonia.

Like many people, my friend thinks he ‘prefers’ The Lakes, and feels they have better scenery and mountains and in some cases that can be true. I was never a fan until I walked the Pikes and climbed The Old Man and just as I was falling in love with this area of Britain I went and visited the girl I had been cheating on and before I had laced up my boots I knew that the Lakes had nothing on her.

So with a modest agreement from myself we had planned to go to Snowdonia. He had wanted to walk Tryfan, and I wanted to bag some of the Welsh 3000. I really want to bag them all before I go and this walk promised getting a good 6 of them in.

As we arrived at the foot of Tryfan, my friends jaw dropped with excitement, and we speedily placed our rucksacks on ready for the hike. We were going to conquer Tryfan from the North and the last time I had climbed her was from the south which I thought was a bit of a scramble. That scramble I remember was about to turn into a walk in the park.

What faced us was only made more difficult by carrying our packs on our backs. We both had light loads, but lets face it, you can have the lightest tent, sleeping bag, coat etc, but once they are all packed together you are talking about an extra 4-6kg on your back.

My mate was loving it, the walk was a mix of scree, climbing, walking, jumping (but not falling) although there were some hairy moments. Every turn and twist, every step of height came with a new challenge and a new view. This was why I loved Wales. A 2 mile accent was turning into a 3 hour climb, as we stood at the base of each new challenging assessing the best way to conquer it.

We reached the top, and were not alone as we saw some one jump Adam and Eve… something I have longed to do but once again chickened out despite the best efforts from another group using what I would call bullying tactics to make me try it. It might have worked on their friends but the fear of tripping, or falling and smashing my legs already played deep in my mind.

From Tryfan we stormed ahead towards the Glyders, and what a sight. This had been the first time I had conquered these and why I have waited this long was beyond me. the landscape was vast, and ever-changing. Were in another planet, or the moon. Maybe we were in a quarry, or some strange Sci-fi world. Next we would be talking to Captain Kirk and Spock the landscape was for ever-changing but the one image I have locked in my head is that of the Horseshoe of Snowdon.

In the distance, sat looking like she always does was the magnificent Snowdon in all her glory, in the way I had never seen her before. That was to be tomorrows treat.

After a long and very steep decent to the Nant Peris with several reminders to my mate that I had run on this road and up towards the Pen-y-Pass when I took on one of my favourite races we finally reached camp, only to divert into the local house for a well deserved pint.

Shortly after pitching we were back in and sampling the fine ales on tap and talking about what we always discuss when I meet this friend. A long discussion about trains. We got the distinct impression that our neighbours were listening in every so often and so they should have been as it was a enthralling energetic topic of discourse.

With the last of the 6 or maybe 7 glasses finished we trotted off to the campsite only to be jaw struck by the sky littered in the most number of stars I have ever seen, all shining as bright as the next, and in front of this backdrop lay Crib Goch and her impressive knife ridge. Being a city dweller I see stars, but never have I seen the sky mapped out like this it was like being in a planetarium.

Morning rose and my friends cold had fully taken hold. As the walk was cut early from the previous day due to time and the knowledge we would never walk Y Garn and get to the reservoir  used for Electric Mountain we had decided that this would be battled today as we could always come back and do the horseshoe on another day.

To cut a long walk short, my mate could not go on, and so we changed tact and headed for the car with the promise that we would return to finish the walk at a later date.

Even with this short spell in her magnificent gaze, the love I have for the area is even stronger and the thought of not being able to see or walk in Snowdonia for a year scares me.

This is one truly wonderful place and will remain my special happy place for years to come. North Wales and especially Snowdon always has a place in my heart.

I’ve Done It!

Well I couldn’t for one be bothered to read past posts, so I am sorry if this has already been recorded in the world of cyber space but at the moment I am so bored that I don’t mind repeating myself, if in fact I am actually doing that, I am not too sure. Like I say I have not looked at past entries so this could be a complete original post or as I started to fear as I put fingers to keyboard a complete copy of old news.

So what is it? I hear you cry. Patience reader I will inform when I am ready. Today is a lazy day. I can’t be bothered with anything. No running, no getting up. If truth is known I am still in bed and the afternoon news is about to come on. Lazy! Well yes. But that was not my intention. Oh no I wanted to walk in Snowdonia but my friend had very kindly mixed up the dates and doubled booked. I only know this information has I texted him to see if he was still up for it and to arrange a time to meet, if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have been any the wiser.

My other friend sounds like he is a little off with me. Maybe because I never invited him but he seems to be wrapped up in his kid and partner (not that I blame him for that… but he has become a little distance)

So on this day where I want to hit the bottle, forget all my worries and eat masses of bad fatty stuff and feel altogether sorry for myself I thought I would cheer myself up with spreading my news. I am now finally off to New Zealand. I got the tickets for the flight, sorted out my travel for the first two months and have started planning. If truth be known I am bricking it but at the same time can not wait. I often think that if I had got my act together and not wasted time thinking I wanted to run in a 10K and Marathon I could have been on the plane at the end of March and say goodbye to all this crap that is in my life. (I delayed the trip to run in both Manchester Races)

I still don’t know why I am doing it? To travel? Thats not really me. To have a holiday? I have always wanted to see NZ. Or is the real reason to pack up and start again. After all what is in the UK? Some friends that I don’t really see. Some closer friends who are too busy with their own lives, work front that is dry… so why not make a new start…

Some people have said that I might not come back, others are still in shock that I am going. For me I am in both camps. I really can not wait to get away…

The lucky Horseshoe

Well let’s get the day-to-day business out-of-the-way. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been cycling to work followed by training runs once I got home. That is a lot of work for my legs and they were starting to give up on me but I carried on forcing them to work long and hard knowing that they needed the practice if they were ever going to carry me over the line on the Snowdon Marathon. It’s with all the training runs I thought I would try something new, a little tool that has been talked about for years that helps with training… Too spilt up your long runs. Half in the morning and the rest of the distance in the evening. What a wonderful idea and how great it allows you to fit in those other wise long boring runs. You’re still getting the miles in the legs but having a little rest in-between and I can fully recommend running to work and from work it fills you with so much energy and thinking time and its a great work out plus it adds a whole new meaning to running late for work.

So you can imagine that over the course of these three weeks, the only rest that my legs got were on Sundays so by the end they were feeling slightly tired. After all they had cycled or ran and many a time completed both of those tasks so when I got an unexpected Thursday off rather than putting my feet up and relaxing I took my legs and headed to the best place on the planet. I had been playing away with the Lakes too much and spent a long time trying to bag myself many of the south and west Wainwrights, I had also been doing the dirty in the Peaks but my beloved Snowdon was once again calling for some attention.

The sun was out and the drive was clear, as I drove closer to the border I could see her dominating the landscape and any questions about my love for this place soon faded. Off course I was still in love with her how could I ever have doubted the bond we had. Sure Langdale Pikes are nice and Bowfell is impressive but not as much as the beauty that is Snowdon and all the towns that sit around her, in her wake.  Driving through Capel Curig I was once again transported back to when I first remember setting my eyes on her range longing to be walking her terrain and within a matter of minutes I was parking up and putting on the boots.

This was going to be a new route, not Pyg or Miners, not even the Llanberis path. No I was going to take in the Horseshoe, over Crib Goch a grade one scramble to the summit followed by a walk along a knife edge for about 2 miles. As I climbed the face of Crib Goch my heart was beating like the clappers. One false move one wrong positioning of the foot and I could fall. I could drop, injury myself. It was more like bouldering than scrambling but the fear fueled the excitement the anticipation to achieve this long-awaited goal and as I placed my hand on the top of the rock to pull myself up the view of the real daunting task lay ahead. What was now laid before me was a ridge, a sheer drop to the right with a mere steep rocky slope to the left. The back of the sleeping dragon seemed to go on for miles with Snowdon waiting at the end. If I thought of turning back now, I would have to carefully navigate myself backwards down the rocks which was no easy task. Onwards it was.

If my heart had pumped with fear on the climb up then the walk across was about to make it pop from the rib cage and beat before my very eyes. Within a couple of minutes I had found my footing and eased into the pattern of balancing along the knife edge. The wind started to blow which added another level of danger that wasn’t needed. I got to the end and looked backed. How could I have ever doubted that Snowdonia offer the best for walkers. Sure the Peaks are good if you have family, it’s fairly flat, the lakes are good if you want to amble from peak to peak without coming down a mountain to climb another but Snowdonia, Snowdon offers the world and does not disappoint. The easy part of the walk was now to climb to the summit that was now wrapped in cloud once agin I decided to give the gang of tourist a miss and head straight for the cafe to get a cuppa. I’ve climbed the summit so many times now I tend to just walk past it. I find the real views are experienced on the walk up and down.

After I had rested and had advised a family on the best way down to the car park I set off. I needed to join the Watkins path for a while and then turn off to climb yet more peaks before heading back to the flat terrain of the Miners route. Watkins turned out not to be Watkins. I somehow think I had turned of the Rangers path a little early but within five minutes I had got back on course with the first section being a lot of scree. Leaving two fellow walkers and their GPS device I was ready to climb my last peak of the day Y Lliwedd while still a slight knife-edge and energetic climb to the ridge walk after the Crib this seemed like a walk in the park but still an exhilarating experience and a far better way to come down from the summit. As I scrambled and played on mother nature’s playground I knew at some point I would have to leave the rock for the dull well-worn and trodden path of the Miners route that escorts you back towards the car park. It was as I was climbing down I saw two fellow walkers. Together we kept company to the car park talking off fell running, climbing and mountains as the day before they had tackled Tryfan for the first time scaling the North face. In my mind I said that the route was good and views were fantastic but Snowdon has, is and will remain my favourite mountain.