January 2011 – A new year…fresh from the quiet Christmas that I had, spent over a bottle of wine and roast duck with my 78 year old neighbour.

We celebrated in great company: a trip of 6 friends up to Snowdonia and a cold-floored, but equally cosy, bunkhouse. So many memories of this trip, kept fondly in my mind: from Jonny-G to camping outside under a tree in sub-zero temperatures (while the hearth kept us warm)…to Jonnie-W daring us to follow him down a snow slide (we were more sensible – he ended up in a tiny waterfall), to our “great ascent” (but greater descent) of Tryfan, and our uselessness on the eve of the 31st.

We love the outdoors; each one of us. It is the lifeblood of our friendship. The mountains, the rock, the sea. It is what keeps us close, fostered through trusting in each others’ company…so much so now, that we don’t need an excuse anymore to want to stay home, or see a film, or just go out for dinner together.

The New Year of 2011 was a turning point for this friendship, because while we were ravishingly consuming our midnight meal, we all laughed and realised that had it not been for Tim, (who was in France over the Christmas and New Year holidays), none of us would have met. We had just finished an epic scramble+climb up Tryfan. Only Jamie and Jonnie, who lead the climbs, had decent mountain footwear, while the rest of us followed suit, roped up, and gingerly climbing the 6 pitches in slippery soles.

Our group was an interesting, yet well-jived, mix of personalities. Jamie – reserved, sure-footed, reflective, cautious. Ian – calculating, cowboyish, adventurous. Jonnie-W – pure cowboy mixed with care, daring. Jonny-G – no gear, will try anything, doesn’t forget the ladies. Nikki – small frame, strong willpower, big dreams. Me – clumsy, good enough cook, bad sense of direction.

Earlier that day, we set off for Tryfan, all stoked up ready to do our last climb of 2010. We arrived at the route chosen by Jamie and Jonnie-W; a route that was both friendly enough to our abilities, but exciting enough to call it an adventure.

12:15: We reached the base of the climb, after battling through a beeline route covered in mounds of heather. Having had our lunch by this time, we set off working our way through the pitches, lead well by my two friends, and done in fairly good time given the fact we were 6 climbers.

14:45: Pitch 3, light good, stopped for a little break and hand-warm up. Ian scaled this rock pillar that was solid, but leaning out of the slope. I covered my eyes as he started to climb back down, commenting to himself “That was stupid…” Jamie prepared to lead Pitch 4.

16:00: Pitch 5, penultimate pitch. Freezing cold…hungry, sunlight dimming. WHO FORGOT THE CHOCOLATE?! And why on earth did we only take one sandwich each?! We all laughed and shivered as Jonnie-W handed out minute rations of Biltong sausage and ginger tea. Nope, we were not made of the ‘tough stuff’ – not yet, not all of us anyway. But, we wanted to get to the top.

17:15: We summited in full darkness – photographed by Ian, we stood on the rocks nicknamed Adam & Eve. Head torches on, Ian, Jamie, and Jonnie discussed the best route down. Nikki and I agreed, yet quietly wishing that we still had the light of day on our side. Every meter was crucial, not having a good path to follow, we scrambled down loosely-piled boulders. In a way, the limited area lit by my head torch gave me a sense of submission, not being able to see more than 5 meters ahead. All we wanted was to get down and eat.

The next few hours ticked by too slowly for comfort. Ian had somehow managed to scramble down in record time, Nikki and I lagging behind the group due to our “bum-on-ground” downward climbing style…we lost our way a couple of times enroute, Jamie and the Jonny+ies giving us a hand now and again. The final way down was a snow slide…woop!

22:30 Grateful and safely back on level ground, we drove off back to create our New Year meal of Haggis with Neaps and Tatties, which we prepared as a team; and gobbled up in a matter of minutes. Tired, but happy.

00:00 New Year brought distant explosions for fireworks, we sipped whiskey and had nothing other than our beds on our minds…oh, the joys of the mountains.

 


photos by Ian Thornton (cover) and Jonny Gibaud (gallery).