09 August 2019 by Jess Borham
Here at the Ramblers we often say, it is about the journey, not the destination. Well what a journey my Snowdon at Night trek in aid of the Ramblers was. Nothing could have prepared me for the experience I had, what I learnt, and what I overcame. If we measure our lives by the moments we share, this one will carry weight for years to come and I am grateful for having the adventure I had - despite my aching legs and tired body and mind.
When I arrived at the meeting point for the trek, I knew I wasn’t feeling myself – lacking the confidence I needed to believe I could take on the challenge. My body just didn’t feel at its best – I was tired, nauseous and already tight-chested (asthma, anxiety, the weather? I don’t know). The reality of a group hike, where I couldn’t set the pace, surrounded by super fit people and hiking experts suddenly seemed so daunting. But I remind myself now, that walking doesn’t require expertise. It is for everybody, as is the enjoyment of our national parks and other green spaces and beautiful landscapes.
The first part of the walk saw us march across the countryside from the YHA Llanberis to join the Llanberis path part way up Snowdon. Over stiles, through gates, past the shining eyes of countless sheep in the dark and across streams – the path through the farmland a public right of way, no doubt fought for, protected and maintained by a Rambler or two.
Around 45 minutes in I knew I couldn’t match the pace of the group any longer, not even the slower ones. My chest was tight, my breathing bad and my nausea getting worse. That is when Tom stepped in (one of the mountain guides and one of two back-markers). He hung back and reassured me to keep to my pace, sending the other back-marker forward with the rest of the group. And so our journey began, just the two of us. Me determined to keep going, Tom my companion and supporter.
What followed was easily one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Despite the pain and discomfort, despite my lack of physical fitness, we walked on. Every time Tom or I thought I had nothing left in me, I kept climbing. We set smaller goals…keep going until the path flattens out, reach the half-way house, reach the post full of coins left by walkers making an offering to the mountain, see if you can get to the bottom of Allt Moses (a steep set of steps climbing up the mountain). At this point, with the toughest bit of the walk looming in front of me, the freezing rain and wind battering us head on and little energy left it would have been easy to call it a night. But I wasn’t going to leave that mountain without knowing I’d given everything I had to give. So, on we went. One foot in front of the other, one step at a time. We made it up the steep climb to Clogwyn, the final summit just above us and there at my own personal summit, the clouds cleared for long enough to reveal a sky filled with countless stars. As a Londoner I never stop being taken aback by the wonder of a full night sky. As night began to turn to morning, just behind Crib Goch, to the east of Snowdon, blue light started to peak behind the clouds creating an eerie yet peaceful glow that began to reveal the mountain around us.
Other walkers passed by, and stopped to chat, as had every single person we passed during our journey. Walking creates community in remote and at times harsh places in a way the places we build for community doesn’t seem able to. Out there, free from distraction, we are more connected with ourselves, and therefore each other.
The journey saw us share with each other openly, and once safely on the descent, good humour, in ways we rarely feel able to do in everyday life. We talked about family, mental health and why walking and access to green spaces is so important and in doing so found things to connect us to each other and our surroundings.
We returned down the mountain at greater speed and comfort than the ascent, the stunning Snowdonia countryside opened before my eyes. It was on the return journey I was reminded of something very important - it isn’t about the destination, it is the journey, made up of special moments and breath-taking scenery and natural landscapes that makes walking so magical.
This is the reason I am proud to be a rambler and proud to support the Ramblers in all they do to protect our rights as walkers and the landscapes and green spaces we all love to enjoy. I am proud of what I achieved on Snowdon at the weekend. I am proud of what the Ramblers achieve every day and I am inspired to see more and more people enjoy the outdoors on foot and benefit immensely from the experience, like I have.
You too can be part of our mission to create a country for walkers – take on your own challenge and, who knows, you may just have an experience that teaches you something important about yourself. You can show yourself just how much you are capable of, grow your confidence and have your own incredible adventure and hopefully meet some special people who will help make it an experience you’ll never forget.
Ramblers challenges are for everyone, you don’t have to climb a mountain, but instead can set a goal that means something to you.
Join the fight to protect walkers’ rights and green spaces.