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To The Top Of The Mountain And Beyond

There is no better post-divorce therapy

By Ralph EmersonPublished 4 months ago Updated 4 months ago 7 min read
To The Top Of The Mountain And Beyond
Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Unsplash

For more than thirty years I promised myself that one day I would climb Mount Snowden in Wales. Every time I went past, usually with my wife and three children in tow, en route to the island of Anglesey, where we had a caravan at a lovely place called Sandy Beach, I would say quietly to myself, "One day...."

I had muttered that phrase so many times, it became a standing joke with my family. Then, suddenly, recently separated from my wife, I woke up one bright, sunny Saturday morning, at a loss for something to do. On the spur of the moment, I threw a few clothes in a backpack and set off to climb the mountain.

I have to say, in times of stress and depression, there is no better therapy than to go climb a mountain or trek an unfamiliar route in the hills and valleys. The distance in the car was about 113 miles and it would take between two and three hours to get there. I was in no hurry, so I took the longer route to enjoy the scenery. As I went I listened to Rufus Wainwright singing 'Oh What A World', which is based on Ravel's Bolero, with the car windows wide open.

After a while, I noticed a car behind me following me. At the time I was super vigilant. This was due to a certain degree of paranoia after I had overheard my ex-wife on the phone confiding to a friend that she would like to see me dead.

At the very next traffic lights, when the lights changed to red, the car behind pulled up alongside me. The driver turned to look at me and shouted " I'm sorry to be following you, but what's that song you're listening to please, it's absolutely beautiful." I immediately relaxed and told him the title and artist. It never ceases to amaze me how music can move people and help to bring us together.

Eventually, I arrived at the foot of the mountain in Llanberis, Wales. However, the light was not too good and I didn't want to take any chances. So I set off for Holyhead at the far end of Anglesey and booked into a bed and breakfast.

By Phil Hauser on Unsplash

I was quite surprised to see a fishing fleet in port because, as far as I knew, there weren't any fishmongers in Holyhead. When I asked one of the fishermen where did all the fish go he told me it went abroad to Europe.

The next day I got up bright and early and headed back up to Llanberis. Within just less than an hour, I once again arrived at the foot of the mountain.

There was a little shop where you could buy soft drinks and energy sweets amongst many other necessities. Next to the shop was a train ticket office. I was quite amazed to discover that one could buy a ticket to the top of the mountain. However, I had no intention of taking the lazy man's route to the top.

By Jonathan Ybema on Unsplash

With a drink and some glucose sweets, I set forth. Just before I passed through some gates, I stopped and asked an old Welshman how long it would take me to get to the top. He replied, "Oh, a big, strong, young man like you, it'll take you about an hour, no more." He lied. The Welsh are not over fond of the English for all sorts of reasons. So I have no doubt he lied intentionally.

And so without further ado, I set off on what was in the end quite a long climb of some 3,500 feet. At first, the climb was quite gentle, then as I got higher it suddenly got much steeper. Also, due to the increased effort in climbing, I was building up a sweat. So I stopped to strip down to my shorts and a T-shirt.

Further up I came to a plateau and stopped for a rest and to admire the view. I suddenly saw the train making its way up the mountain. And I thought how lucky I was at being able to stop and take in the beautiful scenery. The escarpment of craggy outcrops of rocks, the dips and rises of a verdant pasture covered with the most beautiful flora and fauna. A feast for a weary mind and tired eyes, if ever I saw one.

By K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

Then, after I had watched the train shunter on past, I turned to belly crawl to the edge of the small plateau and looked down three thousand feet into Llanberis pass. It was a stunningly beautiful abyss.

The cars winding their way around the mountain far below were smaller than a postage stamp. Then I saw a military helicopter, about a thousand feet below, flying at high speed through the pass. I had only ever seen a chopper flying at full speed by looking up to the sky, never looking down. It really was a day of wonders.

After about twenty minutes I set off up the mountain eager to reach the top. At one point two middle-aged Japanese guys ran, clickety-clack on the gravel track, past me and made me feel a lot more than my age.

Not too far from the top, I had to stop to put my cold-weather clothes back on. It was getting colder, due no doubt to the increase in altitude. It was also getting quite cloudy for the same reason.

Eventually, I reached the top and oh boy, what views. I looked across towards the horizon and all I could see was that I was now above the cloud and the only terrain to be seen was nearby, lower mountain tops piercing the moving nimbus.

There was one grave disappointment; the train passengers had all alighted at the station at the peak and swarmed into the greasy spoon cafe and fast food takeaway. Outside the apex was littered with all manner of fast food trash, cartons, containers, and dirty serviettes.

What a shame to spoil such a beautiful site, and sight. As for the one-hour climb I had been lied about by the dishonest Welshman, in all it had taken me almost three hours, including a few rests amounting to no more than half an hour, tops.

After about half an hour I started to make my way back down. The two Japanese who had raced past me on the way up, now raced past me again on the way down, clickety-clack, clickety-clack. I almost caught up with them when I hit a long stretch of loose gravel. However, in danger of losing my balance and footing, I had to slow down. Let them win, I thought, they can have it.

I think it took half the time to go down that it had taken to climb up. And in no time at all I was strolling across the road to the carpark. I sat in the car listening to some more of Rufus Wainwright and feeling a great sense of achievement.

At last, I could cross that one off my bucket list. There are some advantages to getting divorced. And today was one I would never forget. Indeed, I am remembering it all now as I write with great clarity and pleasure. And finally, I could stop muttering to myself every time I passed, "One day, I'm going to climb that bloody mountain."

Marriage? Who needs that shit I thought to myself. Give me a life of adventure and some Rufus any day. That was what I thought then. Now, well now I live with a gem of a woman who more than compensates for the loss of a little adventure. And anyway, we have already climbed a couple of mountains in Japan where we live a life of sheer bliss.

90s music

About the Creator

Ralph Emerson

Author/top writer/editor for various Medium publications (2020/23).

Musician/singer/songwriter/arranger/producer (1969-2021).

Author of 12 books of short stories and poetry. Out now on Amazon.

Top Story on Vocal Media (June 2023).

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