Mountains and the Mind

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Tryfan stands alone in Snowdonia’s Ogwen Valley.

Edges and exposure are a bit of a no go for me and for a long time this has held me back from doing the exciting and challenging things that I want to be doing: ridge walking, climbing, scrambling and so on. One wrong step could see me hurtling down some cliff or other. Heights in themselves I can cope with – so long as I am nowhere near the edge where I can drop off it.

I admit; I don’t help myself – I simply can not look away from the edge, how close I am to falling, and where the eyes go the body subconsciously follows. This has seen me snowboarding off the edge of a drop and cycling down a bank where no-one should ever be forced to go. To be more precise, it was more flying over the edge than cycling down it. I can’t look away and I worry that this will subconsciously land me in much more trouble than a 10 foot drop off a path…

There is something strangely addictive about it though. I would still go back and strap onto a snowboard to hurtle down the slopes or get back on the bike. It’s the same with walking. I want to achieve more and not to spend my life sat there wondering whether I could’ve done this or that. So the past few months have seen me get out on a few adventures that now seem far less extreme than I had built them up to be. Crib Goch and Tryfan have always had a fearful hold over my mind and this was something that needed addressing.

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Crib Goch, a knife-edge arrete, in Snowdonia is not for the faint hearted. A right turn from the Pyg track will lead you up the face (a grade 1 scramble) and out onto the ridge. My first crossing of Crib Goch was a slow and tedious one, the path blocked by many people who were much more terrified than me. I admit, frustration at it being so busy and slow moving probably distracted me somewhat from the exposure. It was easy to look away from the edge and concentrate on weaving a path through the crowd. That doesn’t mean there were not some hair raising moments; I found myself physically shaking a couple of times at the exposure at my back but it was over before I realised and we were on our way to Snowdon’s summit.

This achievement left me feeling better about tackling Tryfan initially but as the time to climb it drew closer and closer there were definitely a large number of nerves knotting in my stomach. It’s an impressive sight, standing solitary and strong, daring passers-by to the challenge of climbing its steep sides. It was quiet; a rarity in Snowdonia in the middle of the day. Avoiding the north face we walked around the base to the south side and followed a neat little path that took us a long way up before the scrambling began. We gained more and more height and I realised my mind had been playing tricks on me again, ramping up the fear factor, as there was nothing that I couldn’t deal with. What a great feeling – I felt that I had achieved something in conquering that barrier and really started to enjoy the climb.

Reaching the top was amazing. We were alone on the summit, surrounded by boulders small and large with the wind whipping around us. We were out in the wild. It left me with a resounding feeling of happiness and with the realisation that this is why I climb mountains: the wildness and, contradictorily, the feeling of peace that accompanies that. Snowdonia can feel so otherworldly and feeling so removed from daily life is a feeling that can be addictive.

Didn't quite make the leap of faith this time. I will one day though..

Didn’t quite make the leap of faith this time. I will one day though..

Every time I’m there I can always feel the end of the trip looming and I hate knowing that I have to leave. I will always find an excuse to come back though – you can bet anything on that.

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