We are climbing Snowdon. Three generations, aged 11-74, me sandwiched in the middle with the continuing array of weird symptoms and a nose bleed at 3,000ft for good measure. Some Leeses express uncertainty that they’ll make it to the top. As I’m teaching the teen and teen-in-training The Rules of Hiking – with Rule #1 being ‘Stick together’ – I make all the right noises about ‘having fun’ and ‘doing our best’. But secretly, I have high hopes. And bribes in my rucksack.
Our ascent along the Snowdon Ranger path is our last hurrah to an August jam-packed with visits to friends, sunset hot chocolates at the beach and a trip to London to marvel at all the teen-in-training’s favourite superheroes, made from two million Lego bricks. With work squeezed into the gaps between, I’m exhausted. I look across Llyn Ffynnon y Gwas at how far we’ve come, and upwards, at how far we have to go. A change of pace is needed and it’s coming – but not today. Today is a different kind of exhausting; the best kind of exhausting.
We overtake and are overtaken by all sorts; families, dog walkers, a guy in pink leggings carrying nothing; no bag, no water (Rule #2: Be prepared). We chat to a lady bearing two sticks and a joyful smile, who I suspect has the kind of condition that would scare the shit out of most of us but appears to be having her best day ever. We reach the saddle of Bwlch Glas, where the sun-lotioned promise of far below gives way to a bracing wind needing the four layers we’ve lugged this far, and the atmosphere flicks from warm, unhurried encouragement to a rude tourist hustle. Selfie-stick bearing groups charge past, unaware of or unconcerned for toddlers in back carriers and teens and teens-in-training. There’s a wobble from at least one of us, but I hand out chocolate (Rule #3: Always carry chocolate. See ‘bribes’, above), the troops rally and we push on up the final steps.
Fifty feet below the summit, we stop. With hundreds of people around us clambering up and down Britain’s busiest mountain, I look at the elated but exhausted faces of the teen and nearly-teen and the decision is made. They have most definitely climbed Snowdon, without needing the trig point selfie as proof. I first did this at the ripe old age of 15; their achievement at 11 and 13 is huge and I’m bursting with pride. I pull out another tissue and pretend it’s for the nose bleed, then we herd ourselves back to the saddle and the peace below.
The descent is both longer and jollier than I expect. The engine-obsessed teen-in-training gets up close to the mountain steam train as it whistles and puffs past, and manages to fall over three times in the space of a mile. Both slide a considerable way down the grassy bits on their bums with such glee that at least one senior Lees briefly contemplates having a go, and no one is grumpy. We return to our campsite in the shadow of the enigmatic Mynydd Mawr (on the list for ‘next time’) and the teen-in-training sleeps through a five-hour storm while the teen and I lie awake debating whether it’s better to be struck by lightning while in a tent or a camper van.
After about 20 minutes’ sleep, we pack up a mangle of canvas, poles and mud and make the long journey through Mordor-esque mountains until they give way to gentler, verdant slopes, and home. Among the doormat pile of Farm Foods leaflets and mail to the previous occupants is a letter bringing the date of my next MRI. I think of the lady with the sticks and the lovely smile, and of ‘next time’, and I have high hopes. And chocolate. Always chocolate.