I did not know what I signed up for nor did I know what to expect. Back in November, I received a generic email sent to the county organisation that I am a part of about participating in a weekend of mountaineering in the heart of Snowdonia in the cold winter of January. “Who’d want to do that?” I asked myself as I was sat by my laptop in my hotel room during a business trip. And at that very moment, I thought “heck, why not? What do I have to lose?” and signed up for it. It’s a new experience and the weekend will only cost £50 for hostel accommodation and food. I never knew much about where I’ll be going, who else will I be going with and what exactly I will be doing, but I wanted to be spontaneous and try something new. So I replied to the email, transferred the cost over, and confirmed my place for this trip.
“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” – Benjamin Mee,
The Friday that just passed was the day I left and organised a lift with another participant that lives close by. I did not know him but he was nice enough to provide me with a lift in exchange for a share in fuel costs. He was a much older man but loves getting on the hills and climbing in and around the UK and abroad. Learning about his experiences and passion for mountaineering pumped me up for the weekend ahead.
5 hours later, I arrived at a small but cosy hostel in Conwy that has been booked out for the entire group of around 40 or so people. We were the first few to arrive and more will come an hour or so later. I did not know anyone there although they were 2nd or 3rd-degree connections to the organisation I help out at. I wanted to start afresh and as I had nothing to lose, I let go of my shy and introverted personality to talk to a few people and learn more about their experiences and motives for going on this trip. Someone pointed out and questioned if I knew anyone and I said that I do not and soon he helped introduce me to his peers and other associates of his. After a while, I was getting burnout from talking and socialising with many people and soon I went to my bed in a dormitory of 8 people.
From planning my trip to Japan, I reserved almost my entire accommodation in hostels and from staying at my first hostel that night, I have learned to bring earplugs for when I go to Japan! The snoring from the bunk above me was extremely loud and ended up not getting as much sleep as I needed for the following day.
The next morning, I woke up at 07:00 from very little sleep, got changed and had breakfast while talking to a few people who I met yesterday. Afterwards, I got introduced to my group leader that put me into his ‘advanced’ group although it was my first time doing any sort of hillwalking and mountaineering. I met up with the members of my group and they all looked very experienced, equipped with expensive mountaineering brands such as Rab, Arc’teryx and Mountain Equipment. I got very nervous with my lack of experience, but fortunately, another member of the group was relatively new so I tagged along with him.
We then arrived at the start of our route, I was worried about many things such as not bringing enough water or enough warm clothes for the hills. To make things even worse, the group leader nominated me to navigate the first leg of the trip until we reached the first summit. I’m quite good at navigation but I doubted myself more as the rest of the group are going at a slower pace and I thought I may have missed a turn. I actually was going the right way so we went around the bend on the road, took the next right over a stile and begun the ascent up the first summit.
(note: I never posted pictures on this blog before so I hope they are correctly formatted and easy for you to view)
I partnered up with another person that was new so we worked together as we went off the trodden path and following a bearing towards the summit. However, we missed the summit by mistake as we weren’t sure if we were supposed to go right to the top, so we went round the summit and continued on our way through the narrow ridgeway to the next summit.
I didn’t know what to expect from joining the advance group but when we descended down the narrow ridgeway, it really steep and knew I was getting more out of my comfort zone – the adrenaline was kicking in and I was enjoying walking along the ridgeway whilst cautiously trying to not fall off.
We then passed the lake you can see in the picture above and continued ascending higher as the ground we walked on began to cover with snow. Reaching the top, it was extremely windy and getting colder. After having lunch tucked away in a bit of shelter, we carried on along the ridgeway towards the next summit.
It was nearing the end of daylight once we reached the next one and once you make your way up, the only way is down. It was an incredibly steep descent down the mountain and a helicopter flew by below our level on the mountain. It was very difficult as we had to literally rock climb and scramble down, but then we finally made it back just before we ran out of daylight.
Tired and cold, I had a nice warm shower, rejuvenated myself, and played a bit of Cards Against Humanity with the strangers that I can now call friends. Night then passed and it was now another day of climbing! It was a very misty day and the views weren’t as good as it was on the previous day but managed to take a few shots of the summit at the top.
It was an easier day and not so extraneous as it was the day before, but I enjoyed the views and the climb and it was an absolutely fantastic weekend.
It’s not something I’ve done before and it was very different doing it with complete strangers. However, it is something that I will do again and this will only prepare me for what lies ahead when I travel solo to Japan! Meeting strangers for the first time can be a bit daunting and awkward but it forces you to break out of your comfort zone and gives you the ability to share wonderful experiences with new friends. I never knew what to expect when signing up for this weekend and I had the initial fears of not making friends, slowing the group down, and regretting the overall experience. However, I was able to do the opposite of just that: I plan to go hiking/climbing with the guys again and sign up for more experiences with new people.
Creating fulfilling experiences and minimising regrets is something I want to achieve for this year and it has been a good start so far! Scottish Highlands next and Japan soon after, so watch this space!
Thank you for reading and until next time,