I sat in my campervan at the car park for Carnedd Llewelyn, the side door open, and me, staring out at the curtains of rain driving across the landscape in front me, wondering if this is as good an idea as it seemed when I left the comfort of my house an hour earlier. There, my beautifully pregnant partner is likely sat with the heating on, nursing a bad back and a growing bump. Now I, sat here, contemplating the seriousness of my wander out to Dulyn Bothy, the van rocking fiercely in gale force winds, rain drops hitting it’s windows with the force of pellets . My bag already packed with essentials like smokey whiskey, fresh coffee, fire wood, and the delight-for-the-senses that is Summit to Eat’s dehydrated Spag Bol. For the last few weeks this weekend had been set aside for a micro adventure, and I was determined to make the most of it. Come hell or high water, I was getting out into the wilds of wales. The only thing missing, and the main reason for my hesitation, waterproof trousers. Which I now realise, are stowed neatly, and rather impractically, in the boot of my motorbike, some 50 miles away.
As my eagerness was building, a car pulled up alongside, the driver dressed ready for what can only be described as miserable conditions. His pack sat up right in the rear seats, loaded for a night out in the Carneddau. I braced myself to say hi, and to see if our plans aligned on this grim Friday afternoon. Through short sharp shouts, barely audible over the howling winds, i discerned that he was planning on a camp, out of the bothy, and in a tent, with the caveat that he may well find himself in the Bothy also, if the conditions were as dire as they appeared. I wished him luck and he set off. As he started up the track, his bright orange rain cover caught the wind and took off, flying back toward the car park, ending up pinned, helplessly against a fence some 200m from the Walker, who was still wholly unaware as he struggled on, walking that awkward walk that only strong head winds and driving rain elicits. This probably should’ve served as a sign to abandon my plan and head for somewhere sheltered and dry.
But it didn’t.......
Within minutes of starting along the rough track, my trousers were already dampening, and after several minutes more, sodden. The only saving grace was the fleece lining of Rab trousers, trapping any heat my clumsy, weather-challenged gait could generate. But with head down, trekking poles to aid balance and act as propellers, I wandered on. Forever optimistic that the few miles required to reach the sanctuary of the bothy would pass quickly and not too uncomfortably.
As the step count grew, the gap between the other walker and I shortened. Eventually meeting again, just shy of a stile. We turned our backs to the wind and rain, to offer shelter for our wind nipped faces and comment on the extremes of the weather. Differing forecasts were discussed, his with substantially lighter winds than we now faced. As our brief exchange ended, we parted ways, I for the bothy, he returning to his car. As I walked on, my thoughts lead toward the purpose for pursuing this weekend, of escaping the challenges of new job roles, and reflecting on the nearing birth of my son.
Supporting people who are affected by homelessness is a little like trying to climb a mountain. In the analogy, safe, secure and permanent housing is at the mountain summit. Sadly this, for some, often seems like it’s forever out of reach. But the journey toward it is important all the same, on occasion even more so, as it with each of the steps you take toward it, that you are helping to enable the biggest change, to help shift behaviours so long entrenched, the trauma’s that evoked them now buried deep in their psyche. I love my job, after 13 years in the different Homelessness services I couldn't imagine working anywhere else, but it's not without it's challenges and demands on you as a person.
Perhaps worthy of a new blog - Homelessness - Climbing a Mountain… ?
Head down and onwards…
As I passed the first of the lakes, Melynllyn, I could feel the swish of water against my toes with each stride. From my waist to my feet I was soaked right through, and I had a little chuckle to myself at how awkward it would be walking in to a bothy full of others and needing to strip down to my boxers to dry off and get warm. I had been assured by my partner that this area was beautiful and she’d even recited some stories about the lakes here. One in particular about Dulyn had really intrigued me, this I wanted to refresh myself with before coming, but somehow had forgotten. It was something about a distinct lack of bird life and weirdly proportioned fish. Do you know the one?
I wish I had actually gotten to see these lakes though, as the wind was so strong, and the rain drops were tossed with such force, that to pick your eyes up from the floor was simply not worth the discomfort. The openness of the area here produced uninhibited gusts of wind and harsh sheets of rain, forcing me sideways on to my trekking pole often. Gratefully, the steep path down toward Dulyn Res and it’s Bothy became obvious. No lights in the windows, no smoke from the chimney. My legs and feet picked up the pace, thrilled that there was to be a break from the relentless drenching they have taken.
Walking in through bothy doors to the smell of old fires and seeing the assortment of non-perishables on any shelves, always brings a smile to face, regardless of the conditions I have wandered in through. And Dulyn bothy was no different, the shelves here arranged neatly with saucepans, first aid supplies, tea, coffees and all the condiments a walker could wish for, though would rarely use, ironically. After ringing out my socks and trousers, and shrugging off early shivers, I spent much of the next few hours trying to keep my measly fire going. Between the faulty door preventing a good seal, and the blasts of wind across the chimney tops blowing out the flames, my hopes were soon extinguished. The few morsels of heat, monopolised by my damp, cold and slightly shrivelled feet.
I’m used to camping alone in the mountains, and rarely have trouble sleeping these days, quite the opposite typically. But the strength of the wind continued through the night. As each gust smashed against the solid stone walls they sent vibrations through the entire shelter, rattling the doors, and conjuring feelings of anxiety in me. Not that I was scared or even worried, it was just that kind of sound I guess. Like this sound was pre-programmed in our brains to set off alarm bells, almost instinctually. That's right. I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t scared……..
At some point through the night, the rain eased. The wind did not. Though any sense of relief that I felt at not having to walk back in the storm, was soon quashed by the prospect of having to put on wet trousers, socks and boots. Likely for this reason, I didn't hang around in the morning. I was up with the sun, and out the door as quickly as if I was being carried by the days able winds.
The return leg was infinitely more pleasant, aside from the following of a very feint, and incredibly boggy path, which, given the still saturated nature of my boots and socks, did little to detract from the joy of a dry day..