Long ago, walking used to be fun - a pleasant relief from caving. However, EXCS can turn a gentle stroll across the fells into a ferocious competition in which all you see is the blur of a fast-changing view, seen through bloodshot eyes as you struggle to keep up with the hunched, crazed figure bounding through the bogs ahead of you. It's then that you start to wonder if you are really enjoying yourself.
The traditional Easter meet in North Wales was, as usual, held in sunshine and shorts weather (traditional means we went last year as well). Conditions looked perfect for our planned assault on the Welsh 3000's. So 6 a.m. one April morning saw Tony, Andy and me starting up Foel Fras, the first of the fourteen 3000 foot peaks. Simon had volunteered to act as the support party, plying us with lemonade and sticky cakes at the roadside. Being the most experienced walker, he couldn't imagine why anyone should want to "do" all the peaks in one day. One or two, yes, but not fourteen.
No one else is in sight as we silently climb the first long slope. There is just the view across to the coast, the hillside stretching upwards and the morning sun. It is all very simple. Just keep going for the next fourteen hours - admire the view, stop to eat, and another challenge conquered. We are soon on the summit and you can see the walk ahead. The rounded Carnedds in the foreground - they should be easy. Then the rocky outline of Tryfan and the Glyders. Snowdon looks a long way off. Surely we can't walk all that distance, but we know we will.
The sun disappears in cloud and we are soon walking by compass. Now there's only grey mist swirling around the bogs. The summits come and go and look just like any other lonely, foggy fell in the Dales. But just as we start to worry about the cloud slowing us down, it all clears. Below is Llyn Ogwen and a rapid descent sees us joining the Easter crowds in the valley. We feel very righteous as we pass the ice cream van and mingle with the hordes trekking up Tryfan - they have only just started but we have done a good day's walking already. We insist on overtaking everyone. A brief halt on top, sharing a boulder with one of the school parties and on up Glyder Fach. Halfway now, and it feels like it. We plod over the Glyders, following in the stream of walkers. The final grind up Elidir Fawr nearly finishes us. We sit and look and think.
It's not far now - just another ten miles and 3000 feet of ascent. Wouldn't it be better to lie here admiring the view and then amble down the valley in time for tea. Yes, says Tony. But Andy and I have no will power. We run off down into Llanberis Pass, stride up the road and along the path to Crib Goch. Then on to Snowdon and it's all over. We have done the Welsh 3000's but we still don't know why. I wonder what flower collecting is like.