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The Romantic Outdoors

By Hedera

Chamonix

What’s the point of it all? You wander trudging up steep desperately loose moraine at an ungodly hour of the day.  Legs aching, breath rasping and shivering all in the same instant. You wish you could switch your mind off for these few hours and switch on again with the sunrise, but it’s no good. Wish we’d done more training at home.

Then the sun, warm and brilliant, the rock brown and rough, its colour accentuated in contrast with the gleaming snow fields arcing away up to the blue above.  Pitch follows pitch and now it’s almost too hot.  Time distends and it’s almost as if we’ve been groping upwards forever.  Sitting on stances, gazing into blinding space the earlier sense of urgency is lulled away; to be suddenly roused again by an angry bawl from above.

At the top we can at last drowse with an easy conscience but somehow we don’t want to, half an hour for photographs and an orange, too much scenery gazing seems to dilute the magic.

Memories of the descent are blurred by fatigue, but the highlights are a series of narrow escapes as we descend at a speed slightly less than that of the rock we dislodge in the process.  Off the rock onto the glacier; mushy now with the sun.  The quick gallop soon turns into a suicidal glissade but we’re too tired to care.  Off the glacier onto the path and it is over? The path describes a sort of sine wave down, down through bushes, forest and finally down to the valley.  My poor toes massacred once again.  The last few yards are the longest of all then collapse in the homely squalor that British climbers call home when abroad.

The impressions gained on this the first alpine route are somehow more vivid than those of subsequent days.  First the heartbreaking grind when you swear fervently that you’ll never complain about the Cromlech trog again.  Then the brilliance of the snows as the sun catches them, soon turning to an eye-aching glare; above warm granite and blue sky and the endless vista of white mountains. The effects of altitude are not obvious being cumulative, you put it down to you lack of fitness.  On the descent the fatigue is soon forgotten and yet on reflection the hut flogs seem inextricably connected with the actual climbing and even the easiest climb becomes an epic by previous standards.

Dave Steel.

Chepstow

You now need your 1 inch Bristol-Newport O.S. map number 155 to help with this recently contrived walk. 

The opening of the Severn Bridge has given ramblers a new area to explore. This walk gives some idea of the beautiful countryside around Chepstow.  The walk starts and finishes in Chepstow and could be done in an afternoon – distance is 10½ miles.

Turn left from the Chepstow bus station and go down hill to traffic lights.  Turn left along the main road for about 250 yards when a path between houses can be taken.  Follow path to road – cross over and follow farm track for 30 yards.  Then turn right over stile.  Fine views from this point.  Descend to valley.  Cross the B4235 and go through gates leading into wood.  Follow wide path.  On emerging from wood cross lane and keep straight on.  Lane leads past farmhouse and continues as footpath to farm - Rogerstone Grange.  Carry on up hill to Chepstow Park Woods.  Travel N.W. through wood for over a mile until one can look down on Devauden – nice pub here if open.  On leaving pub, turn left and almost immediately bear left down lane.  Follow sunken lane to road – stile opposite leads one up steep rise to lane that goes to small village ‘The Cot’.  Keep going past village and when lane turns sharp left – north – take gate into field shortly after bend.  Climb up through wood going east, over barbed wire fence, where one can get a fine view of the Black Mountains Penterry Church close to the road is worth a visit.  Turn right along road – view towards Severn Bridge. Just past sign to Windcliffe Court take stile on left and bear right at next stile – this leads to the main road A466. Bearing right – cross road and climb over gate that leads onto Chepstow Racecourse.  Walk SW over racecourse to the outskirts of Chepstow.

Ron Pepper.

Llanberis

At the crux the mist becomes a drizzle making the slab damp, slowing progress.  The Snowdon trains climbed slowly and as slowly descend. Still Tony considered.  Then, fascinated, I belayed him as he removed first one black rubber shoe and then the other.  He became dormant once more.  I eased my cramp, then concentrate as the stockinged feet slid out of sight. One Snowdon train later I heard the sweet sound of a belaying piton hammered in.

Kangy

Pyrenees.

We moved on over snow and rock past an impressive lake bounded by snow and ice to a compact camping site on a rocky ledge in a valley at the foot of Pic d’Aneto which towered thousands of feet above.  We pitched camp about 6.30pm which was fairly early, but lucky, because no sooner had the tents been erected than a violet rain and hail storm broke and lasted for about an hour.  After the storm we had our meal and retired to bed with the wind buffeting the tent about our ears.  Although this wind continued well into the night, the tents were properly held down with large stones and withstood it.

Richard Greenway

Merry Christmas - ‘Hedera’