Beauty without restraint – South West Coast Path, England

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Sandy Mouth, north Devon, England

We lit the fire with kindling and paper, then surrounded its flames with fragments of drift, their knots and heartwood damp from the rolling sea. With the heat warming our sides we lay upon the pebbles, the Atlantic in our ears, the stars in our eyes. It is times like these I will remember.

Later that night, on a headland above the swash, I unzipped my bivvy. The skies had clouded over and rain fell in thin sheets, blown left and right on the switching wind.

This is the South West Coast Path, peninsulas and valleys, time and time again, stars and rain, beauty without restrain.

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Sandy Mouth

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Sandy Mouth

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Welcombe, north Devon, England

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Welcombe, north Devon, England

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Hartland Point and the island of Lundy, north Devon, England

 

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Climbing through the fog – Snowdonia National Park

The buttress of Glyder Fawr, Snowdonia National ParkThe buttress of Glyder Fawr, Snowdonia National Park

The south-western aspect of Glyder Fawr, Snowdonia National Park

Having read several hours earlier that the weekend’s weather was set to comprise torrential rain and gale force winds, we were pleasantly surprised as we arrived into Snowdonia National Park to instead be greeted by heavy rain and strong winds. It was, in the light of perspective, a beautiful day.

‘Just to remind you Johnny,’ I said as we closed the boot of the car, ‘I’ve never climbed before and the only footwear I have is my walking boots.’

‘You’ll be fine,’ he reassured, passing me a harness and throwing a sling around my neck.

Route finding in Snowdonia National Park

Route finding in Snowdonia National Park

Leaving the road in our wake, we clambered over a dry-stone wall and onto an odorous bog dotted with large slabs of granite. We traversed the uneven ground for an hour or two, stopping momentarily to test our footing on an angled rock face just south of the park’s Glyderau Range. Having slipped from a hold after several metres of climbing, I then watched on as both Johnny and Phil scrambled to the top of the encampment with what appeared to be relative ease.

Phil and Johnny free climbing in the Glyderau Range

Phil and Johnny free climbing in the Glyderau Range

By the time we reached the buttressed scree slopes of Glyder Fawr, a 1,000-metre-high ridgeline hidden by a thick blanket of mist, my feet were sodden and my cheeks numb from the wind and rain. Johnny, a seasoned climber with an almost flawless safety record, knotted a rope around my harness before pulling himself up onto the rock. He fixed a piece of gear into a narrow crack and disappeared into the fog.

‘Unclip from the safety as you go,’ Phil said. ‘And if you hear someone shouting ‘rock’, get close to the wall.

Some minutes passed before Johnny called down: ‘Safe, climb when ready!’

Grabbing the wall, I hauled myself up, slipping on the small patches of snow that populated the exposed footholds. For 30 metres I climbed, feeling my fingers weaken and my mental strength fade, eventually concluding, as I reached Johnny on the safety of a narrow ledge, that I was incurably inflexible.

Half a dozen pitches later snow began to fleck the air and, when we eventually reached the crest of the mountain four hours later, visibility had reduced to just five metres. Feeling my heart rate slow to more familiar pace, I took in the morose scene of translucence and jagged rock.

‘It’s type II fun sometimes,’ Johnny said through deep breathes: ‘You may not like it at the time, but you’ll love it in retrospect.’

Glyder Fawr summit, Snowdonia National Park

Glyder Fawr summit, Snowdonia National Park

Glyder Fawr, Snowdonia National Park

Glyder Fawr, Snowdonia National Park

Yosemite tears

Yosemite tears

Yosemite tears

I couldn’t decide what was more beautiful, the silk waterfalls, montane forest and glaciated rock formations of Yosemite Valley, or the tears that they brought to my mother’s eyes.

The pain of a beautiful hike

The pain of a beautiful walk

The pain of a beautiful walk

Rarely do we end our day on the trail without having tripped, stumbled, slipped or fallen at some point during our journey. Indeed, I believe it so that, the more beautiful the walk, the more hazards we encounter. We peer skywards towards the call of a kestrel, tripping on tree roots and slipping in mud, and at our feet we search for wildflowers and unsuspecting bugs, bumping our heads on overhanging oaks. I guess what I am trying to say is, where there is pain, there is beauty; no doubt a consideration worth remembering.