Thursday, October 05, 2006

So we did a trial run of the mountain in the rain on Friday, with the intention of just ambling up the Watkin Path to take in waterfalls and woodland and general picturesque beauty. In fact we ended up climbing two thirds of the way up Snowdon, so hard it was to turn back from the ominous magic of those blackening peaks that we gradually edged up towards.

Saturday, we were out of the house by half past eight, on the bus for nine, and at the foot of Snowdon before ten. A quick coffee and a fried egg butty for me and we were on our way.

My legs aren't used to this. This becomes clear after about five minutes. This is going to be no easy climb. But the mountainside increasingly drops away beneath us, and we climb, slowly, steadily, towards the distant cloudy peak. Fellow climbers surround us at every pass, for it is Saturday, and a clear fresh morning.

We climb for a couple of hours, aiming for the point where the path splits into the one to Snowdon and the one up to Crib Gogh, with its dangerously narrow snaking ridge. As we turn the corner of the path, the mountainside gives way to reveal huge green lakes, sunlight streaming over the waters. And we are standing on a giant halo, a crystal strewn mammoth of a rock. In front and behind us our fellow climbers, in all shape and forms, the same as me, pant their way forward, increasingly red faced, exhausted.

As we get higher and higher, I realise why I am doing this. From gentle, inspiring rolling green beauty, the mountain changes to a denser, darker presence which strikes me speechless and unnerved. Immense and watchful, Snowdon is power, and we are merely crawling across its vast body like tiny insect babies. At the same time, its power fills me up, imbibes me with a determination and desire to reach its top.

The further and further up that we go I realise, tears down my face, that this place can hold all the strongest stuff of life, love, loss and suffering, it feels like it can hold the whole of existence itself. And as I walk and I watch the grey and black and brown of Snowdon approaching, I can feel my mother, she is here too, she is in the mountain, she is the mountain, and this climb I am doing is life itself, is death, is ending and beginning, endurance, hope, struggle, surrender. With every step my body comes alive, despite the strain and soreness, despite the strong desire to rest. My legs haven't felt this way since I was a child, probably since I used to go walking in Wepre Woods with Mum. For miles on end we would go, through trees and over brooks, up steep banks and over styals, through mud and ponds and endless fields. And here I am, halfway up a mountain, and I am eleven years old again.

After three and a half, maybe four hours, we finally reach the top ridge and make the final walk to the summit. We are above the clouds now, and it quickly becomes freezing. We pile on extra layers hurriedly, wish we had a flask of tea or something stronger. Below us, an endless stream of climbers makes their own journey up to this place, but I can no longer see them. I can see nothing from the top, only cloud, but it doesn't matter, I'm here, I made it, and somehow, everything makes sense.

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