Our trip to the Emily Kelly Hut in North Wales was like a drop of pure, refreshing water in a vast desert.
As Britain baked in the harshest heatwave since the famed summer of ’76, a small band of merry mountaineers headed to the northern Welsh countryside. Despite weeks without rain and day after day of hot weather and cloudless skies, I packed my usual rain gear. After all, we were still in Britain. How long could this anomaly last? Another several weeks, as it turned out….
In North Wales, gone were the usual grey skies, wind and rain. Gone were the usual lush green valleys and fields. The sky was cloudless and bright blue. The sun beat down and left nothing but burnt, yellow ground. The hut, usually a refuge from harsh weather, was instead a heat trap, the upstairs sauna-like upon our arrival. But who am I to complain? This was going to be a brilliant weekend.
Emma and Paul cycled on Saturday, enjoying a long tour through the hills and to the coast. Despite the burning sun and exhausting heat, the two cyclists were able to survive, buoyed by numerous ice cream and pizza stops. Paul also credited his survival to powerful sunglasses, so new, he didn’t even have time to take the label off! They returned sweaty, tired, brown, and oddly not hungry.
Jo and William went on a long walk. I don’t know what they did or where they went, but I do know that William returned tired, but carrying a McDonald’s shake cup.
Robert and I took the most sensible approach in a heatwave, venturing out in the unrelenting sun and following the water pipeline up the steepest hill behind the hut. Two hours later we arrived at the foot of Lliwedd, our shirts and hats completely soaked through with sweat.
I had already drunk one litre of water. We climbed 10 pitches of enjoyable Welsh rock and then walked back. Our glory and feeling of triumph were only increased when we learned along the way that Belgium had defeated Brazil and France had beaten Uruguay to make an all-European World Cup. Take that South America!!! Also, apparently England did well. Or something.
After the usual rounds of beer and white wine, which (exceptionally) we were able to enjoy outside in the warm evening, we managed to get to sleep. Sleeping bags seemed completely out of place, like umbrellas in the Sahara. A single sheet was all that protected me from the midges.
On Sunday most of us expected a quiet, relaxing day. We all started down toward the lake to relax. Instead we ended up plodding for some time through the heat, until we decided to wade back through the water. A boulder field on the route back served to justify our swim, as if it was instead a minefield, and only Robert had the ability to cross it. I expected we would just go in up to our knees or so. How naive I was. The lake quickly drops off from ankle deep to chest deep. Soon, we were all swimming, fully clothed, packs on backs, along the coast and through clouds of marijuana smoke, people on kayaks, and birds protecting their nests. Luckily at the last minute before going in, we had realised that wallets and phones do not dry out as well as other things, so Robert saved the day by taking these and walking back over the scary boulder field.
We thought we had seen Britain at its yellowest, but the heatwave continued for weeks after our trip. The Buxton Swimmaneering Club may yet return to swim again.