Up Mount Gower with no survival instinct

Let’s start with some statistics. The walk up Mt Gower is one of the top ten day-walks in the world; it is about 14km long and takes you from sea-level to 850m high. Much of the ‘walk’ involves pulling yourself up almost vertical inclines with ropes, the bits in between involve staggering along a barely cleared track. This is not a walk for the faint-hearted or those with a finely homed survival instinct.

The walk starts by lulling you into a false sense of security with a stroll along the beach. But son you are dragging yourself up the cliff-side on ropes. At 7:30am, fresh and rested this doesn’t seem so tough, although there’s a lurking taught that coming back down seven hours later might be a tad harder.

You quickly gain about 100m of hight, and then the real fun starts. The only way to get to My Gower is to skirt the cliffs of Mt Lidgbird. So there is a ledge that runs for a few hundred meters along the cliff, it’s generally between 30 cm and a meter wide, and there is nothing beneath you but the sea a long way down. The ledge isn’t even flat, you have to clamber over boulders and obstructions as it undulates along the cliff. The is a rope to hold onto but the kids can’t reach it for most of it’s length. It was a truly teeth-clenching time and ¬†we were so proud of the way the boys, and Callum in particular, handled it.

After the cliff there are several hours of clambering upwards, sometime on a rough track, often pulling yourself up rocky faces. The scenery was absolutely stunning and made the effort entirely worthwhile. The views of the Island, the surrounding Ocean, and Ball’s Pyramid were amazing. The palms and trees kept changing as we proceeded upwards moving from almost tropical finally through to a moss-shrouded mist forest.

We were accompanied most of the way by petrels, which displayed the lack of survival instinct that had made so many of their colleagues on the Island extinct. A few ululating calls and they would swoop in to visit, crashing through the undergrowth to say hello. They were tame enough to be happily picked up which was astonishing. We really appreciated suddenly how easy it was for the mariners who found the islands to hunt so many birds to extinction.

Coming back down from the summit was genuinely very scary. It’s always harder coming down ropes, but add in quivering legs and general tiredness and I repeatedly questioned our wisdom in doing it.

Eventually we staggered out onto the beach all safe and sound but exhausted. Declan, paraphrasing something we saw recently summed it up with “I went up a boy, and came down a MOUNTAIN MAN!.”

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