I’ve just (yesterday) returned from the annual walking trip (this year to Snowdonia) in the mountainous midge breeding ground that is Wales. I managed to write a brief record of our daily activities so here is (more or less) an illustrated account of our adventures.
I’m trying out Picasa as an alternative to Flickr so all the photos I’ve published of this trip are in my Picasa Web Album.
Sunday: Journey up
This was rather boring until we stopped at Betws-y-Coed (the teachers pronounced it roughly as ‘Battersea Coyd’ – I’m pretty sure that’s wrong) for lunch. It appeared that they were having some sort of summer festival so we grabbed some burgers and sausage rolls from a rather smokey and carcinogenic-looking stand and sat on a bench contemplating a police car that appeared to be on show (pop music emanated from its speakers, its sirens went off at apparently random intervals, and members of the public kept crawling in and out of the car while two police officers stood nearby sipping pints), a madman standing in a fenced area wielding a chainsaw (there was a sign saying ‘wood carving’ though the ‘toadstools’ that he produced were arguably less aesthetic than the original stumps) and a van with ‘water incident unit’ painted on its side (we postulated it had something to do with rescuing vehicles / people from lakes, hence the dry suits hanging up inside. I prefer the hypothesis that it rushes to the rescue whenever it rains and erects a large umbrella). We sauntered further into the town and saw the railway station, though we decided the ice cream shop was far more interesting.
We left Betws-y-Coed and passed by Beddgelert (where the most awesome and famous ice cream shop of Wales is) where we saw this rather amusing advert on the back of a bus:
Finally we pulled into the campsite with Queen blasting through the minibus’ stereo and set up our tents in the otherwise deserted campsite.
In the absence of KPZ, it was GL’s turn to cook – dinner was rather good but plagued by a flashmob of midges (which lasted for the next six days). We 8th formers did the washing up to set an example and returned to find the entire campsite had been invaded by a small battalion of siege cows.
We retreated from the insect-mammal assault into the minibus (where we could observe the campsite owner attempting to chase the cows off his land with a quad bike) and played a game of mafia (very difficult in a minibus). We eventually got to bed at around 10-11 pm.
Monday: Light walk, blazing sun
Everyone was awoken by the dawn chorus at the unholy hour of 6am – if not for the cows joining in I might have been able to get some more sleep before the planned 8am breakfast, at which GL described the previous night’s cooking as ‘look[ing] like a polluted river’: he’d cooked it in Specked Hen which created a substantial amount of froth…
We split into three groups for the walk, after which two groups stopped by at Beddgelert for ice cream. DAE decided to pull an amusing trick on GL: since GL had already parked when we (DAE’s bus) had arrived, with endorsement from TCIM (‘what could go wrong?’) DAE moved GL’s bus somewhere inconspicuous and parked our bus in its spot, and went as far as transferring GL’s sandals to DAE’s bus! After a most satisfactory ice cream we watched mirthfully through binoculars from an unsubtle distance as GL became increasingly stressed!
Several hours after we returned to the campsite, we witnessed the much anticipated arrival of Max and Marius, two OPs who left the U8 last year but wanted to join us for a laugh. After dinner we all sat in the TV room and watched one of the most drawn-out tennis competitions I have ever seen which lasted until 10:30 and resulted in Murray winning 6-3 (I think). It was about then that I discovered the campsite offered free wifi and began downloading the missed episode of Top Gear (S13 E02).
The weather was perfect on the ascent: it was cloudy and breezy which made walking uphill effortless and chilled. As we reached the top we began the customary cursing of fat tourists sitting at the top of Snowdon wearing snow white trainers who had evidently taken the train up but still had the impudence to buy badges and T-shirts with words to the effect of ‘I walked up Snowdon’. Suggestions were made about using the fattest ones as train fuel (!), making the train treadmill-powered, not providing a train journey back down the mountain, and stopping the train half way up Snowdon, forcing everyone to do some work before reaching the top. I was also disappointed by the lack of free drinking water at the cafe – apparently tap water there is straight from the lake.
The descent was extremely hot and humid which made most of us feel like jumping into the remarkably clear plunge pools of the river running alongside the path. GL was keen to return quickly to the campsite to grab meat for a BBQ that night so we would have been unable to grab an ice cream from Beddgelert if not for a rather timely and extremely spectacular incident involving the contents of a 5th former’s stomach and several people around the epicentre who took some … splash damage. This event occurred precisely outside the ice cream shop, forcing DAE to do an emergency stop in the shop’s car park. I jokingly suggested to the Reverend (who was with us on that trip) that God must have really wanted us to have an ice cream. Max and Marius arrived and chauffeured GL away to do some meat shopping leaving us with the rather iconic image of a grinning Max sitting in the back seat clutching two double ice cream cones. That evening after the BBQ some of us watched Top Gear and played Dawn of War on my laptop until about 11pm.
When I was on the same trip three years ago this was the first day mountain. On Wednesday we approached it from a different face which involved quite a lot of scrambling. It was hot and humid but the steep ascent and striking view from the top made it all worth it and not much of a slog. We made our customary stop at Beddgelert for another ice cream, then we downloaded and watched ‘Night at the Museum’ (both I and II).
Thursday: Beach / Campsite
We awoke to the soothing (or alarming, depending on who you are) sound of a torrent merrily splashing onto the tops of our tents. The weather forecast was unpromising so we had the option of going to the beach or staying at the campsite (by now there were several people feeling unwell from the heat of the previous days). Max and Marius left (but not before tearful goodbye hugs from everyone who happened to be around), and Guy and I stayed at the campsite (I wanted to get on with some reading and he played an 8-way dawn of war battle). I ended up cooking a rather sumptuous sausages and eggs for us at which point I discovered what a mess the kitchen was.
Dinner was lamb, mushrooms and potatoes with cake dessert, after which we watched Alien v Predator 2 until midnight. It had rained most of the afternoon and night.
Friday: Half-day walk, getting lost
We woke up to an extremely wet morning so we cowered in the communal tent for breakfast. We had lunch in the campsite then ventured out in the sunny afternoon to where we had gone the previous trip to do orienteering. We got lost several times, and I managed to get a large number of amusing photos of our leaders peering confusedly at the map. Most of my downhill journey was spent making witty banter with the Reverend about religion terminating in us finally agreeing on where we were on the map. Again the trip ended in ice cream at Beddgelert, and we returned at about 5:45 to the campsite where we discovered rather rude campers had decided to pitch their tent between the school minibus and our tents!
Here are several pictures of our group leaders getting extremely lost:
… and the absolute classic (caption competition anyone?):
After GL’s slightly tipsy Scheherazade (all teachers are young at heart, especially after a few pints!) some of us congregated in the TV room to watch Saw (which seemed to have quite an impact on the subject of conversations for the rest of the trip) followed by Jonathan Ross interviewing Emma Watson. I then made some attempts at taking night photos before going to bed.
Saturday: Rainy walk
We woke up for the third day in a row to torrid rain, but at 10:30 the teachers decided we might was well do a walk around the base of Tryfan. The highest point of the walk was extremely windy and wet making for freezing horizontal rain. We lunched inside the (extremely) orange emergency shelter which wasn’t quite large enough for all of us which caused us some entertainment. We also got a bit of a laugh from imagining people outside asking a heaving, seething, complaining, munching orange mass in the middle of the footpath on the side of a mountain whether it was OK, and whether it had seen a party of six people walk past!
Eventually the sun came out and even though we’d been shivering some of the way down the mountain we decided an ice cream at Beddgelert was called for (I went for a double cone: Chocolate & Ginger and Run & Raisin).
At 5pm the internet was abruptly cut off while I was downloading Saw II and we were told we’d been downloading too much and were using up the monthly cap. We’d been getting 600KB/s; I knew there had to be a catch. So instead of watching a film we rebuilt our dam from three years ago I took some more photos.
Sunday: Journey back
There’s not much to say about yesterday: we packed everything up, woke the apparently unwakeable 6th formers and helped them pack their tent, and drove back to London. We all cheered when we saw the sign welcoming us into Shropshire at the Welsh-English border and listened to Queen’s Greatest Hits as we coasted down the bus lane on the M4.
I thought it was an altogether highly enjoyable trip. The mounds of earth that had segregated our part of the campsite from everyone else three years ago were gone and there was no electricity near our tents which was a slight inconvenience, and I felt too many days were rained off / taken lightly … but overall I think most people had a great time, nothing / nobody got broken, and it was a great way to relax after the end of a tough school year.
Meanwhile – this is too good not to repeat:
Perhaps if someone thinks up a good caption … ?