I'm getting old. This stark reality slowly began to dawn on me when I realised that I had started to think in decades:
Today marks the tenth anniversary of the last time I climbed a proper mountain—defined by me (and Sir Hugh Munro) as any summit over 3,000 ft. Now I never claimed to be a mountain man of the calibre (and, let's face it, obsessiveness) of Irish Mick, but I've knocked off my fair share of summits in my time. So how can it possibly be ten years since I bagged a proper mountain?
Despite the encroaching memory loss often associated with old age, my last mountain trip holds particularly vivid memories for me for one very good reason (see photo). Carolyn and I climbed Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales. As a seasoned mountaineer (or so I would have Carolyn believe), I came fully equipped (rucksack, waterproofs, fleece, change of clothes, food, water, Kendal Mint Cake, map, compass, camera, film, (unused) spare lens). Carolyn, on the other hand, wore what I have often since taunted Irish Mick by describing as a bikini, although I now realise that she had actually come in fancy dress, as Daisy Duke out of The Dukes of Hazzard.
Weighed down, as I was, with all my kit (well, that was my excuse and I've stuck to it for ten years), I trudged my way slowly up the Watkin Path from our Beddgellert base camp, while, way ahead of me, the unencumbered Carolyn leapt from boulder to boulder, like a magnificent moutain goat. [Younger gentlemen please note: it is not generally advisable to use goat similes when describing ladies; mountaineering is one of the few contexts where one can hope to get away with it.] When I finally coughed my way to the summit, I found Carolyn waiting for me, fresh and fragrant, doing some quick limbering-up exercises, wanting to take on another peak. Fortunately for me, however, I then had a (perfectly genuine, let me assure you) cramp attack in both legs simultaneously, giving me the excuse I desperately needed not to take her up on the suggestion.
But increased age does not necessarily bring increased wisdom. When, a few months ago, I realised that the tenth anniversary of my last mountain jaunt was rapidly approaching, I sent Carolyn a text message, pointing out that it would soon be ten years since we climbed Snowdon together, and that I was feeling old. Carolyn's reply was unexpected: "You are old but I'm sure we could still get up Snowden if we tried - shall we give it a go one day?" (seconds later, she sent another text message saying, "Sorry about spelling of Snowdon").
So I now find myself in the rather embarrassing position of having agreed to another (possibly final) trip up Snowdon later this year. If the Gruts website suddenly stops being updated in late September or early October, please assume the worst and call mountain rescue.