There are such things as knickers designed for hikers. Who knew?
I had heard that Icebreaker merino bikini pants not only are all soft and quick drying when washed, but when worn actually stay put. Surely not, I thought. So I bought a pair for our trip up Mount Snowdon, for what better way to test them? Exciting times.
Driving to Wales on the Saturday of the bank holiday weekend, it was slightly nerve wracking that we hadn’t booked a campsite, particularly as the closer we got, the denser the hordes of tourists and the more ‘campsite full’ signs we encountered. Luckily, just as we started to consider the merits of just sneaking off the road and pitching a stealth tent, we found a place run by an extremely drunken chap, who probably had no idea whether his campsite was full or not. Fending off questions regarding our marital status, and working out our own bill, we made sure we got a (almost legible) receipt, suspecting that the proprietor would have no memory of our arrival the next day…
Bright and early Sunday morning, we set off (pants in place) for the foot of Mt Snowdon. We planned to go up via the Watkin path, which my loved one assured me was of medium difficulty, suitable for both of our first ever mountain walk…
And the path is so utterly beautiful! It starts off winding through forest and over gurgling waterfalls, the gradient is barely noticeable, and my whimsical imagination kept checking to see whether the moss covered stones might in fact be trolls.
It then winds its way through a impossibly Skyrim-like scenic route that passes ruins of dry stone wall buildings, meanders around the ever-present streams and waterfalls, and the cloud covered peaks loom ever nearer in the foreground. You pass the rock dedicated to Gladstone, legacy of the opening of the path, and the walk becomes steeper, with stone steps leading inexorably upwards. We were still feeling pretty sprightly at this point. And, impressively, not one annoying stop to readjust pants had been necessary. Neither had we seen another living soul.
As we ascended, the path became steeper and steeper, until finally very near the top it becomes rather hair-raising with the path becoming very unclear and an upward scramble over scree ensues. This pup is so scared of heights that my knees begin to wobble two steps up a ladder (I kid you not, you should have seen me at Go Ape, the entire rope ladder shook with my nerves and all the staff gathered around the bottom of the tree looking solicitous), and had I known in advance I might well have expected to be extremely scared at this point. The rocks are loose, but luckily it was by now so misty that it obscured how big the drop would be should I slip. I had one unpleasant moment, when every rock I tested for a handhold seemed to move, I could no longer see the path (I went first, on the rather selfish grounds that perhaps I would be caught in the event of a misstep by the loved one, rather than just pushing him off balance, which was probably more likely), and I realised that whilst I could probably make it up the ascent in front of me, if it proved to be the wrong way, I might not be able to come down again.
Very reassuringly at this point, a small group of walkers in possession of a GPS device came around the corner below us (the second in line loudly insisting that this couldn’t possibly be the path, and looking slightly concerned. I felt for her.). Aha! So we weren’t in fact, lost up a mountain far from the right path (for newspaper headlines had been beginning to play through my mind regarding unwary people wandering off paths onto dangerous steep bits). The very nice fellow confidently held up his device and said, yes, that’s definitely the path, up and to the left. And funnily enough, I was fine after that.
And weirdly, when we got the the actual summit it was teeming with people. Though I have to admit, knowing that most of them had come up easier paths did give a rather smug sense of achievement. Here we are at the summit (it doesn’t count unless you queue up to touch the marker thingy at the top), rather bedraggled and slightly wild-eyed.
We elected to come down via the Pyg path, avoiding the need to descend in the mist via the harder section of the Watkin. And I was really glad we did, the mists started to clear as we descended and the views truly were incredible. I stopped over and over again just to gaze open-mouthed. I felt I wanted to drink in that sight as deeply into my being as humanly possible, to imbibe it and hold it close to my soul.
Later, on arrival home, a little reading revealed that the Watkin path is actually the hardest of the six main routes up Mount Snowdon (a genuine mistake on his part when planning), but I’m so very glad we went up that way. I learned that my body can be trusted more than I realised, I learned that elation follows difficult moments, and I learned, most of all, that I am not afraid.
Also, I learned that Icebreaker pants are amazing.