Between A Rock And A Hard Place

Summer. It’s a favorite of mine. The days are long and the nights are short. You’ll always find yourself doing more in summer. The looming threat of darkness can’t end your fun so anything in the world is possible.

Work will inevitably take up some of your time, and this summer work was sure to make an appearance in my calendar. With co-workers away and the diary choc-a-block it was clear the scales of life would be leaning on the work side this summer. But hey, It’s not the worse job in the world and these few weeks would no doubt tide me over when the winter droughts came. None the less it seemed clear that a holiday would be needed at some point over the summer holidays. So a week was left free for a little time to relax and do nothing in the sun.

Yeah, I call bullshit on that last sentence.

Sam and I had both booked off the same week to go on a holiday, but it soon became evident that our ideas of a holiday didn’t quite line up.

So a week abroad in the sun turned into a week in wales. A week jetting a few hundred miles away from any responsibility turned into a week of designated driver. A week of doing sweet FA turned into a week of climbing mountains. Already we need another week to recover from the holiday.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that there are very few things I’m good at. I’m sure you can all think about something that you’re the nuts at. Something that’s ‘you’re thing’. I don’t really have that. I’m not saying I’m rubbish at everything, just not that good at any one particular thing. The whole reason I started this blog was to talk shit about all the situations I find myself in. I think I’m doing well. The point I’m trying to make is that this whole adventuring and sports stuff is another one of those things I’m not that good at, I just find myself doing it from time to time. Which means that once in a while I like to take a break. A holiday if you will. From adventuring and stuff. If I haven’t lost you yet then you might see what I’m getting at here, and you too may understand why a week in some mountains is a little counter productive to my idea of a holiday,

Chuck in the fact that we were going to an area that had previously caused me to lose control of a few fairly necessary bodily functions, and that I still wasn’t entirely mended from an incident that claimed the structural integrity of my wrist and a promising skateboarding career, hopefully we’re all sympathetic to my absolute dread.

Emotional times like that mixed with the fact it was raining meant the drive up was a little quieter than usual. If waterproofs are a necessity one part of ‘summer holiday’ becomes a lie. However, Stopping off at small Welsh villages with waterfalls running through the town center is always a rather pleasant sight, and reminds you of all the positive things in the world. Like hotels.

We pulled up at our campsite at the base of Tryfan. The mountain which had claimed so much of my dignity only a few months before. Like on any holiday, we got to work building our accommodation for the week. I say we, Sam did it while I put the kettle on. The upside of being English, no matter how bad life gets, there’s still tea.

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Once the tent was up, we got to work cooking dinner on a trangia. If there’s one thing relaxing about camping, it’s the hours you spend waiting for dinner to cook.

One thing that never ceases to amaze you when you leave a crowded city and head for the middle of no where is how clean it is. I’m not talking about litter, I’m talking about light pollution. You’ll always be impressed when you poke your head out of your tent and see millions of stars. In bright cities stars like that can’t quite making it through the light to your wandering peepers. Another big benefit of dark clean nights is when you leave a cameras shutter open for thirty seconds you don’t just get orange glares of pollution, you get something entirely more beautiful.

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We also saw a search and rescue helicopter that we feared was out looking for us as we’d spent a while lighting up rocks. It did make for a cool shot though.
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So the first night was spent playing around with cameras, enjoying conditions that we rarely get to play in, taking shots that we rarely get to take, and watching stars that rarely get to amaze us.

In case this is all getting a little too serious, we also tested how much of your body your sleeping bag can cover and wiggled around like slugs in our tent. life is truly beautiful.

As the weather on the first full day was not quite fantastic, it was decided this would be more suited to a climbing day. North wales isn’t short of rocks to climb on, and the first one of the day happened to be a few feet from the campsite. Now it wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate to say that Sam is a much better and more enthused climber than me. So when I say climbing day, I mean Sam climbing rocks and me scrambling all over the place trying to take cool videos and doing absolutely no climbing. Yes when you’ve been out of action for a while, climbing isn’t the most fun in the world, and bouldering in North Wales might not be the best place to jump back on the wagon. But hey, Sam was happy climbing, and I was certainly happy to spend a bit more time behind a camera.

Turns out I spent the whole time videoing and got zero pictures of Sam Climbing. Here are some chickens. 198

The first boulders of the day had been conquered, and the next in line were in the next valley along, which meant something else I could enjoy; driving on long winding national speed limit roads. I might not have the most amazing car in the world, but cruising up and down roads that writhe their way through mountains is nothing short of spectacular. When you can still see the landscape out of your sunroof, your doing a good job of travelling. Or a terrible job of driving. Enjoying those national speed limits a little too much.

The next few boulders were fun for everyone, exciting routes for Sam, and surrounded by elevated rocky landscapes I could scramble over and set up a tripod on. Another rock, another success. 230

Once Sam was all climbed out we headed back to the campsite for what turned out to be one of the only anecdotes I have about tinned hot dogs.

When you do any kind of outdoor education, you get taught that tinned foods are pretty heavy and not allowed, so when you camp on your own with your car and your big boy pants, you can be super naughty and take tinned foods. They’re quick, easy, and in the case of tinned hot dogs something of a luxury and meal I was quite looking forward to. In recent weeks I had a paid several visits to my cities favorite burger van to commit the dastardly offence of purchasing hot dogs and had developed quite the penchant for american mustard and ketchup. Quite the detour from that nights dinner but it brings us to the point in which the hot dogs are cooked and in buns and I smother Colemans English Mustard all over my tasty dinner treats. I’ve never had Colemans English Mustard before, but it turns out it’s not the same stuff they put on hot dogs. Turns out Colemans English Mustard is a product that was invented to blow the human nose clean of off the human face. With a tear in my eye and a burning sensation in what was left of my nose, I proceeded to wash my remaining hotdogs that I had so eagerly smothered in Colemans English Mustard. I tried to gain some clarity from Sam as to why such a ridiculous thing had ever been invented. But he just laughed ’til he cried.

There you go, an anecdote about hot dogs. And the reason it’s taking every fibre of my being not to name this blog ‘Colemans English Mustard’.

After that uneventful dinner it was time to learn that calm, warm evenings were perfect conditions to get absolutely covered in midges. For those of you unfamiliar with midges, they were an invention of this fellow named God in the late 1950’s and became an instant success like some of his other inventions, Jimmy Carrs laugh and Colemans English Mustard to name but a few. Seeing no escape from these tiny flying terrorists, we did what any grown men would do when faced with a problem and hid in a tent.

As the temperatures dropped, so did the midges, and we saw another opportunity to head outside and play with cameras. Just like the night before we were a little bit amazed.

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The next morning came and it was time for me to return to Tryfan. Of course returning to Tryfan would have to wait until I tried to convince Sam to go it alone and leave me at the campsite, but that just wasn’t going to happen.

We set off up the mountain, my only slice of comfort was humming the theme to Lord of The Rings to Sam a majority of the way up and convincing him I was unaware of the films existence. Just like New Years the mild scramble turned into climbing above a few hundred feet of nothing. This time I got a little lucky as I could actually see more than one foot in front of my face. As it turns out most of the tricky climbs of the mountain have a fairly nice path running along next to them. Who’s a jammy bastard? It may not seem as rewarding, but retaining control of my own farts is all the reward I need. 259 293 294 283

Although some of the mountain had seemed all too familiar, the summit was a completely new experience. When I said at New Years visibility was low I wasn’t kidding. That made this ascent both amazing and horrifying. Amazing that at the top you could see the mountains and oceans that surrounded you, and that Sam could have a go jumping between Adam and Eve. Horrifying because it turns out there are a few areas where the ground literally does disappear for a few hundred feet. In hindsight not good when you can’t see your own hand in front of your face.

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The hike down was a relaxed stroll more suited to someone of my unbalanced nature. And as it was summer we had a chance to take a dip in the lake on the way down. Which it turns out isn’t very warm. So a quick dip turned into stripping down to our pants around hikers and essentially giving our legs an ice bath as any further in and I was fairly sure my lungs would collapse. After a day of walking over a mountain a leg ice bath was actually quite pleasant. Until Sam lost control of his legs.312 313

We got ourselves dressed and with wet pants finished the decent of the mountain. Walking back to the car bone dry and with a little bit of sun burn was a million miles away from being so cold and wet you weren’t quite sure if you’d ever been warm and dry again. When you can stay in the same clothes for dinner it’s hard to not call yourself fair weather.

And that’s just what we did, headed back to the campsite with little drama to eat some food.

The next day we headed home in the sun. A more amusing journey filled with screaming along to CD’s and playing the ‘drive your manual car without a clutch’ game when stuck in never ending motorway traffic. A game which it turns out I am shit hot at.

And there it is. Another time I find myself asking what the hell I’m doing here. When you’re not that great at something, it’s not always easy to be motivated, and when you’re not that motivated it’s hard to have fun. Truth be told I lucked into this entire life twice, so I spend most of my time feeling completely out of my depth. Sometimes that’s a huge laugh and joke where I’m the punchline and biggest fan. Sometimes It’s not as fun. Sometimes I’d rather lay on a beach, and non stop adventure isn’t quite as appealing as it usually is. One thing’s for sure. I let this whole life slip away once before. It might not be the easiest. It might not be the most relaxing. It might get tough. That doesn’t mean I’m going anywhere. The world is too big and the friends are too good to do anything else. This time I’m here to stay.

Until I catch up on the chance to sip drinks on a beach,

Volaticus.

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