Wednesday, 8 June 2011

To a Falls and an Unexpected Hill

Last week I headed out to the village of Abergwyngregyn for a trail run up to Aber Falls. My legs felt very stiff as I made the initial climb along the well worn path up to the falls. It was a bit of a struggle which was well rewarded by the sight of the plummeting white water of the falls. This sight brought back memories of childhood, when I was dragged along by over enthusiastic parents to these sorts of touristic areas. It is strange that twenty years later, I willingly throw myself along these pathways completely aware of the beauty around me.

I stopped at the falls to eat some Jelly Babies and have a sip or two of water. I also took the time to study my map and decide where I wanted to go. I had planned to run back, northwards then onto the North Wales Path. However, the looming presence of Moel Wnion had other ideas. Its domed summit looked inviting in the distance and I knew that I was going up. I couldn’t see any path either on the hill or on the map so decided to aim for the top and start climbing. After 20 minutes of gruelling ascent I was beginning to regret my full on approach. The angle of ascent was getting ridiculous and the top seemed to get no closer. I was using the thick heather to pull myself up in never ending zigzags, stopping every so often to catch my breath. The hillside had looked so smooth and barren from afar, but now up close, I was knee deep in heather and loose stones. I was quick to tighten my loose shoelaces in fear of a shoe falling off and rolling down the hill. As soon as I reached what looked like the top there appeared in the distance, yet more up. Eventually, the cairn at summit came into view and I plodded the last few feet and placed my hand triumphantly on the cold stone. I then decided to have a little lie down.

After I got my breath back I sat up to appreciate the view. On the windswept hilltop I could see Bera Mawr and Bera Bach looming above the falls in the east. Any higher peaks were obscured by a thick carpet of grey cloud. On a clearer day one would have seen the tops of Foel Fras and Carnedd Llewelyn to the south and with Snowdon lurking still further in the distance. To the north, the sea and Anglesey looked almost impertinently flat compared with the violent ripples and tears of the surrounding landscape. It was a view worthy of a hard climb and I sat for a good twenty minutes looking into its distance until the sweat dried on my face and the chill returned to my bones.

Full of Jelly Babies and refreshed with gulps of water, I started the descent. Once again, I decided to ignore the paths and bomb down the hill on a bearing of my choosing. In thick heather this was a much better idea in my head than it turned out to be in reality. I tried to stay light footed with the purpose of keeping my momentum on the steep terrain but was often reduced to plodding for fear of leg breaking stones or hollows hidden in the undergrowth. Despite a headlong detour into a gorse bush the descent was quick and it wasn’t long until I met my intended route of the North Wales Path. From there it was straightforward. The path led west before meeting a small road which turned back eastward towards Abergwyngregyn and the sweet stillness of a car seat.

The nine miles over an unexpected hill were hard work but allowed for a beautiful adventure into yet a new place of the world. It is also another stepping stone on the long road towards become a mountain runner. I am still learning to read the slopes and terrain to make much better and sensible descents and ascents. This is not to mention the huge gain in fitness I need to gain to move over this type of ground. The skills I pick up on these low fells will serve me well when I venture further into the wilderness.


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