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Carnedd Llewelyn, Climbing a big mountain in North Wales 16/10/99

By the time we reached the third and final peak my legs had given way. Although this was the highest part, it was by no means the hardest climb. The zigzag route to the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn took me a long time and a lot of willpower. Apart from a few bad turns at the beginning and me losing my fleece and breaking the flask with our coffee in it we’d made good time. Lunch was had next to a cairn on the summit of Pen yr Helgi Du; this was the most windless Welsh peak I’d been on; the sun even put in an appearance poking through the dappled clouds. We’d brought layer after layer of clothing and waterproofs most of which ended up being carried the whole route – surprising given that it was the middle of October. One member of the group carried the extra burden of a hangover, which slowed her with its weight and made her feel sick with exertion. By the end of the walk she would be cured like it was some kind of pilgrimage.
Anyhow, the momentum of the first two peaks threw us against the rock wall that signalled the scramble up to the summit of Llewelyn. A bit of rock climbing and pulling myself up jagged inclines sapped the last bit of oxygen out of my thigh muscles. By the time the zigzags came I was looking at more than a two stop strategy. This was going to be more like a two hundred stopper. The other three stretched further ahead until they disappeared beyond the hill above like stellar bodies going beyond the event horizon of a black hole. Despite my resistance I was inexorably drawn towards it as well. One last surge of will power threw me and my aching hips onto the top of a cloudy rock-strewn summit. My greeting was a rendition by the other three of a rousing song to pull me those last few metres to where they stood, ignoring the stares of the few strangers sitting around recovering. Not far to the trig point and a veritable conference was taking place with a crowd of people standing around chatting inanely about their latest car or wife or holiday. All they needed was cheese and wine and this would no longer be one of the greyest mountain tops in Snowdonia. We pushed through them with heads down perhaps in shame to head for the descent. We dropped off to the north-north-east going against the contours hoping to find the small lake we knew would signal our last trek home. A few calculations and bearings later and we pour down the almost vertical slope dropping 200 metres to sit skimming stones on the slate flat surface of the llyn. With muscles seizing up we decide to get on with the last few inches of map and yomp back to the car through uninspiring valley walls. Coming round the last hill we see our car waiting and beyond it the formidable route we’d just completed. Up on that Welsh hillside, somewhere, lies my green fleece for the sheep to use and spilt coffee for them to drink.

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