What better way to spend a windy (although mercifully dry) Saturday afternoon, than climbing a mountain in the Brecon Beacons?
With Autumn upon us and the colder weather just around the corner, I am determined to be in some kind of shape by the time the big knits come out of the wardrobe – woolly jumpers and oversized cardies are hardly flattering, as it is! And as I sit at my desk for around eight hours every day, something drastic needs to be done.
What could be more drastic than climbing a mountain?
Conveniently, my family were visiting me for the weekend, which meant I didn’t have to take on Pen Y Fan by myself. The idea of chatting as we climbed was a lovely one, until the reality of the situation became clear – I am far too unfit to climb and talk. In fact, by the time we reached the top, I could hardly crack a smile. Kneeling for the mandatory photo at the summit, I wasn’t 100% sure I would be able to get back up again as my legs were so tired!
Whilst my heart felt like it was beating at 200mph and could leave my chest at any moment, the feeling of reaching the top was wonderful, and made even better by the spectacular views. Growing up in a particularly scenic area of Wales, I am so accustomed to picturesque views, that I rarely pay them a second glance. But the view from the top of Pen Y Fan across the Brecon Beacons is enough to take anyone’s breath away.
While I may be sedentary for much of the working day, I love walking outside in the fresh air. I saw a Clare Balding documentary a few years ago which reported on the benefits of walking and how for some individuals it is better than counselling or therapy. I honestly believe that there’s weight in this theory. Some of the most viscous arguments I’ve ever had have been resolved on a walk, and when I’m in the darkest of moods, a walk out in the open can return me to a much clearer head space.
At the same time, a walk can be the ideal opportunity to have a real catch-up or chat with somebody, especially on remote routes where there is no phone service and therefore no Instagram or Whatsapp to distract you. If a digital detox is in order, a walk in the middle of nowhere will do the trick!
Starting out, convinced I was far fitter than I actually am, I was certain I’d scale Pen Y Fan in less than an hour. Somewhere around half way, when I could hear my heartbeat pounding in my ear, it seemed quite feasible that I would keel over right there and then and never make it to the top. Pushing on, I reached the summit in 93 minutes which I was pretty pleased with, especially considering I Whatsapp’d my best friend my Last Will and Testament half way up, because the prospect of me making it home didn’t seem great.
I don’t think anybody would be surprised to hear that I’m not a natural athlete, and that my fitness levels aren’t quite what they should be (I’m working on it!). I’m not embarrassed to say that the main topic of conversation on the descent was the food we were having that evening at Turtle Bay, which as a mixed Jamaican family, we were all pretty excited about. Although the thought of washing my hair and making myself half presentable was exhausting after our climb, the prospect of Curried Goat and cocktails was just too good to pass on.