MediaCo team up to climb Mount Snowdon – Matilda Todd shares her story and fascinating insight into the challenges.
“A few years ago during the events of the 2020 COVID Pandemic I suffered a lower spinal injury that debilitated my ability to do anything physically taxing which included walking. The idea of me being able to walk more than twenty minutes without feeling pain was fanciful at times. It really pulled me down as a person, who tries to stay active for my physical and mental health. It really lowered my confidence in doing anything like climbing a mountain or going on a long walk because I worried of the debilitating pain I would get through my back, hips and legs.
Entering this year has been filled with a lot of sadness for me with the recent passing of my Grandfather who was an inspirational man. Having lived as a major stroke survivor for more than 30 years he had been the true definition of life can’t get you down. He had been amazing, giving his all to his family until the very end. It’s because of him that I was able to purchase my first home nearly one year ago. With his passing, there was a lot of emotion as well as other news of further family members either in ill health or passing unexpectedly. I was bogged down with loss. The Snowdon climb with my fellow colleagues gave me something to look forward to and something to do as a way of pushing through that barrier of uncertainty and sadness.
With the encouragement and enthusiasm of my co-workers; Chris, Leon, Junaid, Clare and Steve, it gave me the motivation to at least say, ‘I’ll have a go.’. There were doubts at first, weather being a constant change and the thoughts of people potentially being injured during the climb seeding doubt in people. I tried to stay optimistic, keeping close tabs of the weather and reassuring people that it may be a mountain but in my eyes ‘it’s just a big hill with a fancy name’. Treating it lightly seemed to at least have some sort of comedic effect and the closer the day came, the more motivated people became.
On the day, there showed promise for good weather and a tiring but fulfilling climb. The initial drive through a rain cloud dampened our spirits early in the morning, but with a quick look at the weather forecast we found that it would pass and we would be greeted with light clouds and sunny skies. Motivation and spirits were high and the anticipation of facing this mountain had a smile permanently on my face, all thoughts of my back being a hindrance, gone from my mind.
The difficult part to all of this didn’t seem to be with the climb initially, but meeting up with the other parties. Driving separately meant that we had decided on a single meeting point. I rode with Chris driving, Clare and Steve with me as passengers. Something must have gotten lost in communication because on arrival we couldn’t find anyone. It was a good ten minutes of trying to find everyone before we even started the climb. Everyone was in high spirits though, chatting about what they anticipated, how they were, what they had been doing in preparation. It was a real team of motivation and laughter. What we were to face at the beginning was going to be the real test.
The start of the climb was probably the hardest part. A full incline on tarmac with little grip and full bags in the early morning. It was a challenge but we were quick to help each other out. I like to refer to myself as being vertically impaired and with a bad back and an unfortunate joint problem in my left leg, it meant that the pushing to get to the top of the steep beginning was difficult. People were quick to help others out though, Junaid and Leon offering to carry heavier bags, pushing others further up. People coming down the incline even gave motivation, saying it was only going to get easier once we had past this first bit. Some people who had just been up with their dog even gave some helpful advice. The train wasn’t running that day so the tracks were free to walk back down. The route would be easier for people and would make for a quicker way back down the mountain. It was a good bit of helpful advice, something we would use in the future.
After some time, we eventually made it past the high slopes and on a more gravelly and rocky surface with uneven ground, making it a little bit easier to get your footing, like using each large stone and rock as a step on a staircase. Already it was draining my energy though, the unexpected steep beginning zapping quite a bit of my energy. My leg had already started to protest. I knew that I would need to push myself to get ahead and others encouraged me, helping to carry my heavy bag and walk with me. The main help I got though was bringing my walking stick. It helped give me a metaphorical third leg, giving me better purchase on the more uneven surfaces and helping me to propel myself further up the slopes and steep hills faster.
We took a few rest stops along the way, staying in good spirits with conversations a mixture of complimenting the view, the weather, how people were feeling and work. Comments on clients, jobs and any difficulties people were facing passed between everyone. The view was the main focus of my attention as I took up the rear of the group, my pace a little slower than the others. It meant that I was able to take in more of the landscape. Waves of green with a sky of bright blue, flushes of white and the dotted sight of sheep over the landscape. It was like something out of a fantasy movie. I thought at one point I would see a dragon or something of the imagination peek its nose out through the blanket of clouds from above.
It was an experience of pure comradery. Snacks and sweets shared, photos taken of tired smiles and aching limbs, but we all cared little for the aches and the pains. The joy of reaching that summit was what kept us all going. It was nice seeing everyone out of the work environment, more relaxed and pushing as a team. We often reminded everyone that ‘No man left behind’. It seemed to be Chris’s main mantra with his pure determination to prove all the naysayers wrong. Some people sometimes needed time to catch up, which we all stopped for as much as possible, often calling to people further ahead to just take a pause. We always waited, especially when it started becoming more cloud than landscape. It was like stepping into a different world, the very outside, nothing but white. You could only see maybe twenty feet in front of you, figures quickly becoming grey silhouettes and conversations becoming more distant. As we got further up, conversation became more spaced, people focusing on putting one foot in front of another.
Surprisingly I had found a good rhythm, and without thinking I was able to push to the middle of the group. It was unthinkable that I was able to keep up with everyone let alone with a walking stick and injuries. My back had not hurt once as we reached further up, rocky slopes and inclines testing our resilience, but we were all determined to reach our victory. Larger stones proved difficult on tired limbs, but we pushed with some finding it easier, having more experience with the difficult climb, but we stayed together. Junaid had already climbed the mountain once in recent times and others were regular outdoorsmen.
The rock that told us we were closing in on the summit was a real confidence boost for all of us as the temperature started to fall and a chill wind blew. The cloud still hung around us as we pushed forward, the slope not really much of an incline now, but the footing a little loose, making it difficult to stay stable and easier to slip and fall. My stick helped against my clumsiness and aided in the new pain that was starting the spread through my left leg. The joint was not appreciating the strain of working so hard, but it was easy to ignore, the adrenaline keeping me distracted. I was so focused on getting to that point. Even with what had happened to debilitate me for the past three years, I wasn’t about to let it stop me from getting to that final goal.
Leon had been concerned at points, worrying that I wouldn’t make it, especially after my initial struggle, but was surprised by my new found burst of energy. My swimming experience and deep breathing exercises helped me to really push up those last few rocks, large stone steps leading to the eventual summit point. It was an indescribable feeling of joy, pride and accomplishment. To have reached that point after years of struggle to walk down a street, or to be able to get out of bed after a long night. The hard work and the physical therapy had all led to this moment of triumphant success. We all hugged, shook hands, patted each other on the back, congratulating ourselves for making the climb. We had all been determined and we had all worked as a true team to make it to this very point.
The views on the way up and down were indescribable, something that will be a picture of fantasy in the back of my mind for years to come. Doing it with people I worked with was a great bonding opportunity. We all strive to be healthier both physically and mentally. This was a key part in that but it was the camaraderie and getting to know everyone that little bit more that really made it something special. Being a rather introverted person, this experience was something that got me out and helped give me a confidence boost.
Climbing back down was enjoyable, though without that goal of getting to the point, the aches and pains started to make themselves known. In the first part I opted to take the train tracks route with my coworker Steve. It was easier on my knees and I was able to steal a stone to commemorate the moment. We were able to reach the meeting point before everyone else who were impressed by our quick thinking to take the easier route. The rest of the walk down was a little bit more tricky. I have never been good at walking down stairs that are steep, cautious of being able to put one foot in front of the other, so this was a true test of resilience. The effort to get up the mountain showed in shaking legs and tired shoulders, but all I could think of now was some hot food and a drink.
The view continued to be breathtaking even with the few spots of rain that made the descent that bit more slippery. Something that Chris and myself felt was, on the way back down the mountain, time dragged on a lot more. Without that goal of reaching the top, you didn’t truly realize how far you had actually gone until you didn’t have that finishing point in your mind. We often found that we would get to a point in the route and feel as if we were nearing the end until we realised that we still had miles to go. A tranquil landscape that kept going on forever soon wasn’t the focus of the journey, and instead it was the idea of sitting down, changing our socks and shoes and enjoying that deep relief of being stationary for more than a few minutes.
We made it back down and even though one half of the group had gone ahead a while ago, they still waited for us so we could all finish the final push to the car park together.
After a good meal, the feeling of accomplishment and the chatter of being home with a long shower or bath and a warm bed in mind, our day was concluded, our missions completed and another thing ticked off the bucket list so to speak.
For me it was a true milestone that I never thought I would be able to accomplish. With joint troubles and freshly healed tendons, never did I think I would be able to make it up ‘that very big hill’. We all succeeded in conquering something as a team, something that we all do on a day to day basis, whether that’s simply making sure a colour matches correctly, to working closely with other departments to get artwork printed just right.
We are already talking of tackling more climbs together, running marathons to help raise money for charity, or even just enjoying a good night out on the town.
What am I doing? I’m climbing Snowdon again in the near future.”