Looking across to the snow capped alpine mountains seen from the back seat of a motorcycle

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The Ikea Effect, Breathlessly.

Walk Date 6 Apr 2019

By Ren Withnell

The night was cold. Sharon being Sharon who suffers terribly if the temperature is below 21 degrees centigrade sleeps peacefully all night save for a break to answer nature's call. I however do my own special thing of shivering, being uncomfortable and generally only drifting into light sleep from time to time. It used to worry me, not any more, I just accept it is what it is.

The orange sun rises between two mountain peaks in North Wales Snowdonia
A chilly sunrise, beautifully set against the Welsh mountains.

By 0900 I'm dressed, washed, fed and watered. I gently poke the sleeping dragon, hoping that I don't lose my head or become engulfed in flames. No, no the dragon must be in a good mood, she merely curses and scowls before hunkering deep down into the sleeping bag, uttering such things as a man should not hear.

There are some rough looking faces this morning yet much to my surprise we're ready for our walk at 1130. 

"We're just walking up that road up there, there's a reservoir just beyond." I follow Billy's finger and spot a narrow tarmac lane climbing up the side of the valley then disappearing over a crest. Presumably the reservoir is just beyond the crest, in a dip on the side of the mountain. "It's not far, about a mile and a half." Yeah, I can do that.

Welsh mountains with snow covered caps, an arrow points out the road we are to walk
"Just up there see." Easy peasy.

I am making a classic middle aged bloke mistake. I am seeing this through the eyes of a 21 year old man rather than the slightly fuzzy vision of a 47 years asthmatic occasional smoker who spends most of his life sat on his rapidly growing ass. I mean I can see it is quite steep, but not THAT steep, surely.

Soon enough myself, Sharon and the rest of our motley crew are huffing, puffing, blowing, wheezing, gasping, panting and snorting our way skywards. I am in fact the youngest here, but not the fittest apparently as several seem to be getting ahead of me. I fear for my wellbeing, I'm at that age where men have heart attacks. Oh poop, how'd that happen? It's only 6 weeks since I was 21 wasn't it?

Between us we must surely have used most of Wales' oxygen by the time the road levels off. It doesn't actually go level, it only allows us to turn gasping and panting into exhausted heavy breathing. 

Sharon and I take another stop to lower our racing heartbeats and ease off the lactic pain. The views are impressive. Sharon quietly, succinctly, unthinkingly drops a large bomb onto my thoughts. "It's lovely here, gorgeous. Is it as beautiful as Spain? I think it could be, we just don't appreciate it the same."

Tryfan's rocky mountain and other spectacular snow covered mountain tops in Snowdonia
Breathtaking, in many ways. Sharon's right it is amazing.

Wow. Ouch. Blimey. Sheeez. I feel like Poirot when Captain Hastings makes an innocent, almost naive observation that clears up the whole mystery and Poirot declares "I am an imbecile! How could I have been so stupid! Of course, yes of course. Hastings, you are a genius". 

The Ikea effect. The cupboard or table is crap cheap flatpack nonsense but because you have made it you have invested into it. Therefore to you it is brilliant, the best table ever. It is your creation, the results of your energy and superior skills, it is a part of you.

When we went to Spain we had planned, prepared, spent a fortune on tickets, worried, prepared some more, packed, re-packed, travelled then spent 24 hours on a boat. We had invested a great deal of ourselves into getting ready for the trip and then doing it. While this did not blind us to the ordinary cities and at times dull roads did it enhance the great things we also saw?

Were the mountains really quite as beautiful as we'd seen them? Were the roads as gleefully curvaceous as we'd experienced? Or was the Ikea effect at play? Perhaps our appreciation was heightened because of the huge investment we'd already made before the trip even started?

These mountains around us are filled with the same superlatives. Majestic, towering, stunning, beautiful and so on and so on. While our breathlessness means we have worked getting up here deep down we know we are merely 2 hours from home, there was only an hour or so preparation required to pack a tent, we'll be home again quickly tomorrow. This is an easy trip.

Rugged rocky mountain tops with snow, blue skies and whispy clouds, amazing scenery
Just because something is easy shouldn't spoil its splendour. 

Maybe all this is so. However I have the best memories of Spain which I want to keep. I am also here too surrounded by wonder and awe as well as friends. I want these too be good memories too. It is good to think and to learn, it is also good to enjoy and be right here, right now, in this moment. I smile, turn on my heel and plod ever upwards again. My legs are jelly.

Sharon making snow angels on our walk into the Welsh mountains
It seems one of my "friends" is in fact a simpleton. Sharon...

We finally stop at what must a reservoir due to the man-made spillway and the buildings. It sits well in the scenery though, it spoils nothing. We sit amidst the snow on grassy knolls to eat our snacks and drink. The air is cool yet the sun is warm making for a comfortable temperature.

The reservoir against the rocky mountain top look perfectly matched
For once mankind has not ruined this scene.

Walking down does not drain the lungs but it strains the knees somewhat. By the time we're all back at the site I'm ready for a rest. I take a siesta in the tent while Sharon does something else, I have no idea what.

The evening is much like the last evening save for one difference. There's a little less booze flowing. Some (not all) of the crew appear to be pacing themselves a little better presumably to avoid a repeat of this morning's discomfort. There are many times when I am thankful I don't drink. 

Note - The best pics on this page were taken by Sharon.


Contact ren@bikesandtravels.com if you want to share your own micro adventure.

Getting To Gwern Ren is hoping this trip goes better than the last one. Sharon has been replaced by aliens. Just another ordinary weekend then.
The Ikea Effect, Breathlessly. Ren is getting Zen as well as realising he's not the man he still thinks he used to be. Is appreciation relative to effort?
Coming Home How did Ren never realise what a great road the A5 is? Anyway, he'd best get home.

Reader's Comments

Mr C said :-
We often take for granted the splendour of our own country.
24/4/2019 10:50:38 PM UTC
Mike Lawence said :-
We all take what's on our doorstep for granted. I live near Llangollen and have only been up castle Dinas Bran about 10 times and the views are amazing, also the single tracked road across the tops to Minera has everything especially if you start in Trevor and go up to Garth and along to Llan. Only done that a handful of times as well.
25/4/2019 7:12:24 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
We do seem to have this blind spot right under our noses so to speak. While Bolton isn't exactly pretty there's still the odd fascinating place I come across even though I've lived in the area for over 25 years now.

Mike - don't suppose you'd have some sort of map or way to follow the route you're talking about?
25/4/2019 8:46:18 AM UTC

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