Tuesday, March 4, 2014

13 Snowdon

Snowdonia is an ancient land of Nordic Rally Drivers.

In fact, Snowdonia is more spectacular than my company’s new photocopier.

Therefore it is with no surprises that I think back with excitement about her folded up by plate tectonics and smashed in by the ice age glaciers scenery.

Yet there is a splattering of bitter to flavour my sweet Snowdonian memories. Why couldn’t I have owned a Bugatti Royale or a BMW 507 Roadster or an E Class Jaguar and toured Snowdonia in style? Rather than walked it in a pair of chunky boots with Vibram soles.

Snowdonia is car advert land.

Long U shaped valleys with imposing cliff walls flanking the Nant Ffrancon scream out for a pant wetting 90 mile an hour Porsche 911 Tiptronic rally experience, preferably with a trailing helicopter capturing on digital Hi8 video some zero under steered turns and marvellous driving lines.

In such a machine my holiday YouTube upload would brim over with snippets of macho gear changes and effortless dashboard switch flicking. Automatically winding up the windows and flipping down the hood. All this while my missus adjusts her silk headscarf and does that thing with her sunglasses.

Alternatively, I could have my wi fi web camera perched on the rear parcel shelf to record a Snowdonian reply to the opening sequence in the 1969 version of The Italian Job. As Matt Munro lilts out Quincy Jones’ lyrics “On Days Like Theeeeeese.”


After the knickergripping rugged terrain scene shots I could park my phallus on the vast beach at Llandudno and draw a huge heart shape in the sand with my toe as the helicopter flies away, the video pans out, and the aerial shot shows I’ve lashed my lass to the post card rack outside Caernarvon castle and chosen to elope alone with an Aston Martin DB8.

Snowdonia. It is so damned macho. Snowdonia. It is so damned romantic.

Just try and pronounce some of the old Celtic / Welsh language associated with the morphology

I can't but help hear harps and lutes playing in the background. But pronouncing Snowdonian words is not that easy. The Welsh have got this unique double l thing on the go... at the START of their words. And a stroppy, look down from above, who needs vowels attitude.

Cwm - a lake thing.
Llyn - another type of lake thing.
Llan - no idea, probably to do with lake things.

This is something else that makes Snowdonia extra special. People need a PhD in Druidery to get the lingo anywhere near right. I'd bet the Welsh language wreaks havoc with Microsoft's spellcheck. But don't expect me to try it, it might crash the web.

I'd suggest that when people get to Snowdonia they buy an Ordnance Survey map and give the place names a lash in the warm comfort of the hiker’s cafe at the base of the Devil’s Kitchen. Aber, Gwyn, Beth, Ogwen, Idris. They’d be forgiven for thinking you were trapped in an episode of Oliver Postgate’s “Ivor the Engine”. The ultimate spot has to be “Llyn Cwm Y Ffranon”. Where? Get the throat lozenges out. Totally incomprehensible.

I've heard that hikers in North Wales are briefed that five people die accidentally every season (summer included) in the mountains and foothills of Snowdonia... because of the landscape and weather. It may be Britain, it may be lovely Wales where they play rugby, yet is all deceptively dangerous. One minute it is sunny, the next the clouds have come down and Harry Hiker is out of Mars Bars.

That mountaineer writer, Jon Krakauer, would have a jolly time with the five deaths statistic...

...He could ditch his "Into Thin Air" sort of thing and change to writting "Up Through the Snowdonian Drizzle". Book sales would be as high. I could relate to the experience. My hiker mates could too. And John would save a fortune in costs by not having to get his kit to Everest's Base Camp.

A Global Positioning Gadget and a mobile phone is unlikely to help the mountain tripper survive the nasty Welsh weather. So I might, if you don't mind, hypothise that it is not the scenery and the rain that contributes to the five corpses. I believe we need to add the importance of ridiculous local pronunciations into the mix. I'll give you an example. Two fat septics decide to see Waleshire and between doing Bath and ticking off Scotland, that being Edinborrow, they dcide to go for a walk in Snowdonia. We get to listen in to one side of the phone call for help conversation...

“Hello? Hello? Is that Mountain Rescue?”

“Yes sir buddy sir, this is Mr. Kurt McWitstengeinstern Senior here buddy sir.”

“We're somewhere on a Snowdon Mountain, Sir. We're dying here.”

"No, not a single bar left, eaten them all in the first 30 minutes, sir."

"Say that again?"

“We're about thirty minutes off the A5 Expressway.”

“On the map it said Line Quam something...”

“L for London L for London Y for Yellow N for Norway C for Connecticut W for Washington DC home of democracy the land of the brave an armed militia is a what, what, what, sir, sir, ? …”

...and that's the last we hear of Kurt Snr and his lycra'd wife, as their Nokia batteries pack up in the wet fog.

My suggestion? If anyone struggles to pronounce “Gloucestershire” they should play it safe and visit the Lake District instead.

- - - - -

And another thing...

The BBC once got one of their presenters to drive a Landrover up to the summit of Snowdon for their Top Gear program. To use his terminology, he got a right rollocking from the herbal tea and Kendall Mint Cake posse. Apparently he drove over a protected sub strain of lichen and crushed it. Well, just what do they think twenty thousand pairs of hiking boots does to the stuff?

Once upon a time a Welsh rock band and their groupies pre-bought every ticket on the Ffestiniogg Railway on a Bank Holiday Weekend. They rode to the summit in the toytown gauge train carriages that trundle across the watershed, performed a rock gig at the café on the peak. And drank them out of lager. This “real” culturally Welsh activity also brought down the wrath of walking groups, who were denied their own train ride that day, and believed that mountain tops are for being quiet on.

Jeesh. If the grassies get their way an Act of English Parliament would be passed to send those Welsh rockers to instant purgatory and damnation
It's because Snowdonia no longer belongs to the Welsh. It’s become an enclave for the beardie foot soldier eco tourist from urban-shire. Before they bog off down the motorway in their it-has-never-been-off-road sports utility vehicles and home to their Aga.

The only way to avoid this lot is to go up a mountain when it is raining, as we did in my late teenage years. Easter was always a good bet. In a northern hemisphere Celtic downpour the two organic egg sandwiches and a pot of PG Tips battalion will be sitting it out in tea shoppes and visitor emporiums back in Betwys-y-Coed. Except for a few other “real” environment seekers we had the mountains to yourself. There were two kinds of eco warrior as I recall.

First up (and they usually were)  the lunatic trainee Special Air Service squaddy who trotted past you at one minute mile speed with a rucksack loaded full of breeze blocks, on his third lap of the mountain that morning. Probably barefoot, just for the hell of it.

The second was the Duke of Edinburgh Award School Groups and nymphomaniacal mixed sex Venture Scouts Units. They were easily identifiable with their green corduruoy trousers tucked into their bright red socks, and Hally Hanson fleecies up on top to keep them cosy. And they have a Reddy Brek / nuclear glow of testorone visible from three miles. (Mine most certainly was.)

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