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Mountain Lily - 14 by 14

There are fourteen 3,000 foot (914m) peaks in Wales. Six months ago, I decided to climb all the peaks before my 14th birthday on March 6. I knew this would be fairly hard but I was ready for the challenge.

At the age of five, I completed my very first peak: Snowdon (1084m). Being the biggest and most popular mountain, it was wise to do this first. We started in Pen Y Pass, as our plan was to walk over the mountain right back to my house. Many Haribos were consumed on the ascent. I live above Llanberis right underneath the mighty mountain, so the return journey was shorter than most.

My second summit was the most popular amongst mountain walkers. I climbed Tryfan (915m) at the age of seven. I completed this mountain alongside my amazingly mad cousins, uncle and aunt, who weren’t exactly used to 3,000 feet mountains but did incredibly well nonetheless. A very steep but fun mountain to do.

Crib Goch (923m) came next at the age of 10. Definitely the most serious and dramatic ascent but still a fun journey. At the summit, my dad and I met two very friendly walkers and I discovered the joys of dunking a chocolate bar in hot chocolate while balanced on a knife edged peak.

Next up was to climb Glyder Fach (994m), advance on to Glyder Fawr (999m) and finally do Y Garn (947) before descending. The early part of the journey was fairly steep, alongside a beautiful stream. We scrambled up the majestic Bristly Ridge with a rope around my waist and when we emerged, it was on the summit of Glyder Fach. After a break, we continued on to Glyder Fawr. On the way, we stopped at the cantilever, a massive rock that had balanced to become a sort of diving board. A few pictures later, and we were on our way to the summit of Y Garn.

We set our sights on the exceedingly remote Carneddau. With a total of six mountains, we knew we had our work cut out for us. As we started our journey, we noticed the overflowing side streams of the Afon Lloer. This later proved to be a problem, as we needed to cross the river. We got over it eventually and continued our ascent of Pen yr Ole Wen (978m). A bit of scrambling was required here and there, but we reached the summit nonetheless. I then recited movie scripts to entertain us as we continued on to Carnedd Dafydd (1044m), Carnedd Llewelyn (1064m), Yr Elen (962m) and Foel Grach (976m). As we reached the summit of the final mountain, Foel Fras (942m), the wind really picked up.

It was gradually getting darker and we knew we would have to descend mostly in darkness. Luckily, we had packed torches. We started the return journey descended with a bit of reluctance from me but continued nonetheless. At one point, a rescue helicopter appeared and circled the nearby lake before flying straight up to us. This was completely and utterly terrifying. The thought that my mum had become paranoid and sent the helicopter for us crossed my mind. We had to turn to avoid being blown away and the helicopter eventually flew off.

The next peak was Garnedd Ugain (1065m), via Parsley Fern gully after a big snowfall in December. This would be my first ice climb ever. We started clear of snow but that didn’t last long. We wrapped up warm, as we knew it would be exceedingly cold. Very quickly we were transported to a magnificent winter wonderland.

A little higher, my dad showed me how to use an ice axe. It took me a few tries but I managed to lodge it into the snow eventually. Then, we encountered a frozen lake. I enjoyed walking on it and trying to dent the ice with my axe, with no success. We advanced up the mountain, before my dad tied a rope around my waist for safety on the ice climb to come. Then, I put crampons on. We ascended carefully. I had to follow my dad’s footsteps – quite literally, if I wanted to avoid sinking into the snow. Soon, the bottom of Parsley Fern gully loomed in front of us. The slope steepened intensely and we started our ice climb. I had to flatten the snow and make a “step” by kicking into the snow and stamping my foot in the dent until I was sure the snow was firm to climb.

I had trouble getting in to a rhythm but when I did, it was very gratifying. I fell time and time again and it did irritate me thoroughly but I persevered. The higher we got, the colder and windier it got (the clouds had come in so I had no idea where the top might be). At one point, my foot, while trying to make a “step”, broke all the snow until I couldn’t lift myself as I had no place to put my crampon. I panicked but managed to pull myself up with my ice axe. The angle eased suddenly and we were walking again but now in extreme wind which sent hard flakes of ice and snow into our faces. With zero visibility I was continuously wondering where the summit was when my dad announced we had made it. This completely shocked me, as I hadn’t truly looked up for a while, as I was busy focusing on following my dad’s footprints. We then pulled out a shelter, sat on our rucksacks and pulled the cover over us.

The sky was darkening rapidly as we set off down the mountain. My dad and I had to link arms to stop me from being blown away. After running in the snow, being forced through the Snowdon railway tunnel with the highest wind concentration I have ever experienced and falling over countless times, we reached an iced over path which I have walked on many times – just not with ice on it.

The transformation was simply stunning; from featureless, high snowy mountain to rapid descent of the rain-soaked tourist track. As we progressed home, the decision whether to wait to use the torches or not was forgotten after an impressive but painful fall. After a brief navigation error from my dad near the bottom, we finally made it on to the right track to our house. It came into view soon after and we got a warm and wonderful welcome at home as we peeled all our wet layers off. Looking back on it, it was definitely type 2 fun (fun in hindsight) and the hardest of my fourteen peaks experiences.


St David's College

- Est. 1965 -

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