March Madness 2019: Defeating Snowdon's Slopes

2nd Mar 2019
Photo of March Madness 2019: Defeating Snowdon's Slopes by Fay Elmi

Climbing to the top of the Snowdon has been an adventure on my UK bucket list for a while before I finally climbed it. I tagged along with some friends initially but dragged more of my own friends in the name of charity, and we managed to raise quite a fair bit of money for the children of Palestine. Albeit a gruelling, exhausting and punishing experience and one of the physically AND mentally hardest thing I've ever done, the top was just as expected.

Photo of March Madness 2019: Defeating Snowdon's Slopes 1/7 by Fay Elmi

One thing is for sure, nobody can ever say they experienced Snowdon quite like we did. We were punished, and we were pushed.

Getting Ready

Its 5pm and I've been ready for this a while. I'm mentally exhausted from all the waiting this week. We're leaving today and I don't even have shoes... or waterproofs. I don't have food for the next 24 hours of hell and hunger, and I don't have a bag or rucksack. Were moving at 9pm, and I'm not even close to ready.

It's Friday 01 st March, and its raining here in London. My front porch is damp and soggy, and everywhere around me, the glazed grass glistens with fiercely spherical rain droplets. How do they stay so still? Do they add to weight of the grass strand? Like... I just want to know... The lamps outside reflects and bounces off everything, and from the bend in the road ahead... a blacked-out Peugeot pulls up. I get in.

Serious Doubts

It's 09:45pm, and we move. It's one hour and 10 minutes of driving, and we get to the pick-up location in Uxbridge at roughly 11.00pm. Were joined by some hunky men of all sizes and shapes (cue the private, quiet chuckle to self). I'm genuinely surprised that more girls aren't here doing this, or none of the boys encouraged their female friends to join. Why is it that females are either considered to be too frail to challenge their body or too soft to handle a strength trial in cultured generations?

Why do people see "Handle with care" or "fragile!" smacked on our foreheads. Do they not know that what our bodies bear on a monthly would probably put their strongest man to shame? Why do women feel like everything besides chit chatting about makeup or feminism is too hard? More of us really should take care of our mental health and get out into the world, change our perspectives. Less of us are experiencing the world, less of us are raising our own glass ceilings.

Or it might just be me, I might be the crazy one who doesn't think and runs before she crawls. Either way, looking around at everyone's tired and physically drained, sunken faces... this is definitely going to be an interesting 24 hours.

The Start of many things

16 of us- 2 girls, 14 guys... 7 of my friends, 9 complete strangers, one coach, 5 hours straight to get there.

A silver executive coach pulled up at midnight, kitted out with VIP embroidered chairs and 5L steel hot pots of Biryani. Climbed in and we were off.

I'm going to plan a road trip to somewhere this year for sure and do the whole karaoke singalongs that you only see in movies. Perhaps Scotland- a camping weekend in a treehouse somewhere perhaps. Besides the point, but I'll be damned if I don't relive a coach singalong again. The windows had misted up entirely inside, and its pitch-black outside.

Word of advice: don't ever sleep behind an African brother whose snores, ricochet around the coach like a ping pong ball. 4 hours of pain, and mainly entertaining myself. Has anyone ever tried to do a freestyle to the beat of a snoring man? Or beatbox around it? Rather entertaining.


We got to what looked like an open barren of land resembling the scene of the game of thrones warzone... the sloping hills as far as the eye could see, the gigantic towering mountains, the blankets of clouds rolling down the mountain side, the murky grass that was a combination of grey and green and muddy blue.

You'd be stupid to not stand still in wonder and admiration of all of this circling us. Stupid.

Photo of March Madness 2019: Defeating Snowdon's Slopes 2/7 by Fay Elmi
Photo of March Madness 2019: Defeating Snowdon's Slopes 3/7 by Fay Elmi

It's 6.30am. It's cold.

My hands are wrapped in leather gloves, and the winds racing between the valleys nearly take us off our feet. I'm wearing a black poly cuffed utility jogger over 2 pairs of leggings, with a snug turtle neck and the coziest Karrimor Microfleece I've ever owned. I'm also wearing, on my feet, some heavy Gelert Altitude walking boots and some three layers of fresh socks. Walking around isn't easy, and the gear feels like an awkward second - and third, and fourth - skin. I've got a Jordan cap on and nestled so deeply into a thick, padded Superdry coat.

There's good reason for all this protection- Snowdon is the highest mountain in both Wales and England, presenting views over most of the western region. I look down at my phone, the weather sits at 2° but feels more like its -20°. Yes, that cold. Two 100m landforms stand majestic and sturdy above us on both sides of the Pen-y-Pass carpark (LL55 4NY).

Photo of March Madness 2019: Defeating Snowdon's Slopes 4/7 by Fay Elmi
Photo of March Madness 2019: Defeating Snowdon's Slopes 5/7 by Fay Elmi
Photo of March Madness 2019: Defeating Snowdon's Slopes 6/7 by Fay Elmi
Photo of March Madness 2019: Defeating Snowdon's Slopes 7/7 by Fay Elmi

An hour later, bags fastened, and our heads held high, we begin our trek at 07:38am.

... and We begin

Our group is varied. Most of us, including Me and Sahra haven't climbed a mountain in our lives, whereas Tarik, Farhan and Alex trump us with some 3- or 4-times experience in. We move, taking the Llwybr PYG track, which varies in gradient along the way. It snakes around the base of Snowdon, before a very very steep, very vertical, very scary steep ascent into the clouds.

Our first real challenge.

We divide into two here- our lot and a slower group. And Although we were faster, I could really hear my heartbeat loud and clear, ringing around me. My breathing deepened, my focus sharpened, my steps slowed down.

One misstep and I'd be hurling down the cliffside onto jagged granite and boulders of rocks.

Me and Sahra looked back at the cliff we just scaled.

"Yeah, I'm good here, we good. Let's go back, I'm done I'm not doing this."

Agreeing, I laughed inside.

"we got this."

Around us

The wind is so wild, unrestrained and tumultuous. It's going west, at about a strong and heavy 49 mph now with gusts of 52mph. The clouds engulf us, leaving us with extremely poor visibility and submerged in constant white fog. We could only see 10 steps ahead of us... and the raaaain.


The rain started off as light as a feather... only tapping our skin to begin with. It's as though one leaves the tap dripping into a large cup. In no time, the padded coats we were wearing soaked up the rain and became full to the brim. We were walking, waddling, brimming and bloated cups of water, only 30 minutes in.

And Only 6 hours and 40 minutes to go.


"For the first time, I knew what it meant to say, "Your stronger than you give yourself credit for."

Some points I really doubted I could do it. The track really tests your stability, agility and steadiness. You need to be able to lift your entire body weight at some points and have the willpower to make your swollen ankles climb just another 200 steps.

My glutes hurt, my calves are panging, and my walking partner is leading the group, skipping along ahead like the world is all daisies and fairies.

I've been paired with Lorik, who is probably the fastest climber Snowdon's seen. He climbs Snowdon faster than a fat kid chases an ice cream truck, faster than a freight train down a mountain and probably, most likely, almost certainly just as fast as Usain bolt sprinting 100 meters. He's bloody fast.

Shit person to pair up with really, I think I looked ridiculous panting away at the back behind him. He works out quite abit you can tell, practically rock climbing with ease and poise. No surprise he reached the top a good 30 minutes before anyone else. A little part of me did a fist pump in the air that one of us hit the top first, made me gloat inside.

The only pain I can compare it to, that my mere 24 years on this planet has experienced, is the Stairmaster in the gym. When your already sweating buckets, the steps are drenched, the arch in your back feels like it might be permanent, and you can't carry your head on your shoulders anymore... that pain there. Capture it. Bottle it. Remember it. The pain. The paaaaain.

And when you want to give up, and you wish it to all be over and look over a 50ft cliff to realise your stuck on this ride, and mentally start dividing your assets and writing your own will. When you question your intentions, and you're thinking and your own sanity... that there. Only when you feel like you have no way out, and no way to give into the pain, can you realise the power you have in yourself. You pull it out of nowhere, it comes from crevasses in your limbs that never harboured space for it before. For the first time, I knew what it meant to say, "Your stronger than you give yourself credit for."

4 hours in

"You alright?" G says, as I miss my footing on a slippery rock. The rain obscures everything, and the constant strength in the smack of wind barely kept my eyes open. I reach out, practically crawling. I can't do this.

"Yeah buddy" I muster. It's getting colder. I can't get my phone out. My fingers are rock solid under my frail leather gloves. Literal rock. I can't remember when the blood stopped pumping in them. Its pretty hard now. Were about 4 hours in. Snot everywhere. Tear ducts are flooding uncontrollably, and I can't muster up the energy to pull my arm across my body, and wipe anything.

A mess.

Head down. We carried on. Our faces frozen solid and drenched in fake tears. We carried on. The weight on our backs and the endless winding rungs of doom... we plodded on. We all gave up speaking to each other at that point. I think we just wanted it over and done with.

I think lowkey my friends hated me for dragging them along at this point... I think everyone regretted saying yes, the first time I put it in the snapchat group. In that moment, I felt like laughing at the idea that these people are really just as crazy as me in trying new things... and that I'm really surrounded by such good people.

The dagger look I got from one of them burst my bubble. I laughed wildly inside.

The Summit

I'll probably go back to experience this moment, I don't think I got to experience the full effect. The summit is on what looks like a pimple on a rock, with a spiral staircase around it. Between the torrential cold, pouring rain and the exhaustion, we were so over it. Literally.

The touching the summit was for show.

If you come on a good day, you'll be able to appreciate the unparalleled, panoramic views of the welsh hemisphere. The brass plate on the trig point is used to identify all the different summits. We couldn't find the summit building- which offers refreshments and a toilet- but we basically didn't care at that point. It also has a station for the railway. You may be able to get a return ticket down, but it isn't guaranteed, and you are recommended to ring and book if you intend to do that.

The first time in my life that my body was about to quit on me entirely and the damn thing is shut. The railway was shut on March 01 st, 2019, the one day we go, due to adverse weather conditions.

Sod it.

Holding onto Alex for dear life... and I mean dear deeeear life, we began our descent.

We caught up with some other friends, and 4 of us... began our descent.

Its true that there is less strain on your body going down, but in our conditions- when everything is a steep drop below you and kicking a tiny rock sends it hurling into an abyss, it was the scariest thing I've ever done. Worse that going up.

Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere. And sometimes, in the middle of nowhere you find yourself.

"It's going to get harder before it'll get easier, but it will get better. You just have to make it through. "

"It's going to get harder before it'll get easier, but it will get better. You just have to make it through. "

"It's going to get harder before it'll get easier, but it will get better. You just have to make it through. "

I wouldn't ever be able to look my baby brother in the eye and teach him about strength, if at the first sign of pain I couldn't pull through. I couldn't tell my friends about self-discipline and undeniably painful persistence, if even after my body says no, I couldn't challenge it and overpower it to say Yes. I couldn't speak on mind over matter, and how powerful the human mind is once we set to it a task. It all begins and ends in your mind, what you give power to, has power over you. You can go as far as your mind lets you, what you believe, remember, you can achieve.

I learned my own strength that day. That I can challenge my own limits and actually come through. That I can rely on me and me alone to not only think I can't do it but attest to myself that I can. There are no frikkin limits. Bruce Lee once said "If you always put a limit on everything you do, physical or mental, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them."

I really taught myself that I am my own strength, that whatever my mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve. I taught myself crying won't get things done, whinging, stopping and staring or throwing stones, taking breaks... none of these get anything done. You gotta keep moving. Keep pushing. Strength doesn't come from the things you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn't.

And with that, I took in a mouthful of fresh, clean and unspoiled air... with energy I didn't know I had and thought Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere. And sometimes, in the middle of nowhere you find yourself.

It's 6pm. Time to go home.