Fridd Uchaf, Wales, United Kingdom
April 17, 2003
Cons : None
With a four day Easter weekend, like most people in London the last
place we wanted to be was in London. So, what better way for the
six of us (Steve, Wayne, Davin, Chris, Bianca and I) to relax than
on a sheep farm in northern Wales?
We'd hired a place at Fridd Uchaf in the Snowdonia National Park
By the time we'd packed with 16 bottles of wine, two cases of beer,
and enough food to run a humanitarian relief operation, not to mention
clothing (no, no velcro gloves), our Renault Laguna hire car resembled
a speedboat. Nonetheless the traffic was okay and six hours later,
we pulled into our farmhouse. A few celebratory arrival drinks and
then an early night, since tomorrow we were going "scrambling".
Scrambling, for the uninitiated is defined as "more than straightforward
walking but not quite full-blown rock-climbing". Being a fan
of both, I thought this was a pretty good suggestion.
We set out early and started with a brisk walk up to the summit
of Mt Snowdon, the mountain giving its name to the national park.
Being the UK's tallest mountain south of the Scottish highlands,
we thought this somewhat of an acheivement. However, at only 1300-odd
metres (Mt Buller is over 1800) and boasting a bar on the summit
and a train running up one side, it's hard to feel too in touch
with Edmund Hillary.
The summit of Snowdon sits at the bottom of a horseshoe track -
a popular walk around the ridge of three glacial bowls. From the
summit we made our way along the Crib Goch ridge - a thin traverse
across razor-sharp slate with steep cliffs either side. Thinking
back to the definition of scrambling, I could now see that the key
part is the "not quite full-blown rock-climbing". I suspect
the only reason it was "not quite" full-blown rock-climbing
is because you didn't have a rope. Much the same way that leaping
to your death off a bridge is "not quite full-blown bungee
jumping". Sufficed to say I loved it.
After a long downhill we made our way across a causeway and started
the steep walk up the other half the horseshoe. We were overtaken
by a number of "scree runners" - very fit, though obviously
mentally unfit, guys who don't find moutainous hikes challenging
enough and so elect to run them instead.
Another ridge walk, a slate quarry (North Wales is supposedly reknowned
for it's slate), and countless sheep later, we got back to the farmhouse,
some ten and half hours later and craving some alcohol-based anasethetic
for our legs.
Saturday morning and the farmhouse resembled the impaired mobility
section of an old people's home. And what better thing for aching
legs than a bit of mountain-biking? We hired some bikes and went
riding in the woods around Beddgelert. Despite a puncture for Dav,
a faulty-front-brake-induced ejection for me and some disgruntled
bike-throwing antics from Chris, a good time was had by all.
After a great meal at the local pub, the night was spent playing
offensive card games and drinking red wine, safe in the knowledge
that Easter Sunday had been designated official day of sloth.
There were few signs of life before noon on Sunday and, after another
exceptional fry-up for breakfast, the day's athletic efforts were
limited to backyard cricket (sheep on the full is six and out),
frisbee and beer-raising bicep curls.
Wayne, Chris and I headed out, cameras on hand, for a pre-dinner
sheep safari while Davin lovingly roasted one of their compatriots
for the final night's feast. And what a feast. Roast lamb and chicken,
gravy (made to an authentic Paul Kelly recipe), more red wine, more
offensive card games and drunken guitar-playing, water-cooler impressions,
and eventually bed...
Monday, and a long drive home. Our rental car was now sporting a
grazed wing mirror, and a replacement wheel after the second puncture
for the weekend. So, to the hypnotic beating of the "STOP"
dashboard light, we made our way home, grateful for the ability
of rental cars to endure, indeed to expect, hours of sub-standard