You may have read about my friend Dave who I ride regularly with, covering the miles on our road bikes. ( see Tramline Dave)
I’ve known Dave for a number of years and shared the highs and lows of kids football. Often bending each others ears as we both stressed over our boys struggling through the mine field of junior football, striving towards playing club football. We first met when our lads both played for the same Sunday team, moving on to setting up our own team (Shawstars) and having the most fantastic season. It wasn’t just the huge successes we experienced on the pitch, but the satisfaction of watching a team of boys gel together. And the experience of places and environments they otherwise wouldn’t have had. It has to be said that Dave was the driving force behind all of these various adventures they were lucky enough to encounter and it was through his organization and enthusiasm that they took place.
Dave was the team manager but I was only interested in the coaching side of things. I think we worked well together. We got on, and still get on, fantastically well to this day.
That season went in a blur of games and Dave came up with the idea of ending the successful year with another camping date, having camped during the previous close season before playing a tournament up in The lake District. We Had had a fantastic time, so the idea of having a weekend camping up at Snowdonia in Wales and rounding it off by walking up Snowdon itself appealed to everyone. Even more so to those who had been unable to attend the previous trip and heard all about it.
Steve, the club chairman and I, spent a busy Thursday evening shopping in Asda, stocking up on all the food we could think of that the boys would need to eat or drink for the weekend. Sugar played a big part. We departed the following day, driving up in a scattered convoy of parents and kids, to meet at the venue, a camp site at the foot of Snowdon.
Everyone was in high spirits and we set up the tents straight away, helping each new arrival to erect theirs as they turned up.
The next thing to get going was the BBQ. You just can’t beat that open air cooking and the smell of burgers and sausages floating about. One of the parents had brought up a brazier, and it was duly loaded with wood from the 3 bags I’d brought with me ready to burn as the evening grew colder. As you can imagine, a few beers were opened and consumed – only to compliment the food you understand.
The brazier was lit and it seemed to transfix the boys. They spent the rest of the night adding fuel to it and hovering, waiting for the opportunity to add more. I think if they had had their way we would have had an enormous bon-fire and all the wood thrown on in one go and lit. I don’t know what it is with young lads and fire. They would have burned anything.
And I mean, anything they could have gotten hold of. Really. Anything. Cars. Tents. Sheep. Toilet block..
The next day dawned glorious. It was a bright, beautiful sunny day with a wide blue sky framed with the surrounding hills. We could see Snowdon itself in the distance. So after the obligatory group photo we headed off. The group gradually became strung out as we made our way up the lower slopes. We had intentionally tried to pick an easier route as some people had never done any serious walking before, so we attempted to play it safe and make sure everybody made it to the top comfortably. Some people were fitter than others and marched on. Those that were feeling a little tender from the previous night automatically gravitated towards the back of the group, and I like to think this was the most entertaining part of the assembly. After all. I was there..
Anyway, as the walk progressed the distance grew between the front-runners and those of us who were Sunday-strolling at the rear. It was an incredibly hot day and it began to take a toll. Dave and I were walking with Wayne and our boys. We had known Wayne for a long time and he had always thrown himself into whatever we were doing with the team. I know he loved all the times we spent away with the boys. Well Wayne was slowly but surely beginning to struggle with the climb. And we had reached a point where it had become more-or-less vertical.
There was a climb of some 200-300 foot to get up. Having walked up the lower valley and swung around to face Snowdon, we had eventually reached this point where the going became quite arduous. The heat wasn’t helping Wayne at all. And this was reflected by his completely bald head and the permanent sheen of sweat that was dripping off it. We were literally stopping every 30 steps or so to allow him to get his breath and his colour really didn’t look good at all. Even the boys were becoming a mite concerned.
Although, from the boys point of view, I think their main concern was the fact that,
A. They were at the back.
B. This man was struggling and really slowing them down.
C. He could die
D. The other boys would get back to the camp before them at this rate and burn anything that was left to burn.
Waynes tent probably if it looked like he wasn’t going to make it.
I must admit though, I was getting worried myself with each stop we made left Wayne gasping for breath. Dave and I were sharing looks of concern and I know what he was thinking so decided to act.
“listen. I’ll head on up in front and warn the others. Take the boys with me. I’ll get Wayne a place on the train going back down.”
Better I abandon Wayne to Dave before the bastard did it to me I thought.
And seeing the look on Daves face I knew I’d done the right thing. He had probably been timing it to make his abandoning Wayne and I look more acceptable.
“Hoooo-noooo my friend.” I had a smidgen less shame than Dave you see. If Wayne was for collapsing let Dave give him the kiss of life.
In the mean time, Wayne was trying to fire a chocolate muffin down his neck, and wash it down with water in the firm, if misguided belief that it was going to have instant results.
“‘eah. ‘ood idea. I just ‘eed to get some fuel down me neck. Have a rest for a minute -”
Force more chocolate muffin in there.
“- you carry on-”
Glug water on top of muffin.
“- Trains a great idea. Don’t think I’ll make it down walking. I’m ‘ucked.”
“Whoooa! Hang on pal-” Dave..
“Yes! Your bang on Wayne. Least I can do. I’ll just scoot on up to the top and get it sorted! Come on boys. With me! left foot first now!!”
“Whooooa! Just a fuckin min-” Dave…
I was becoming a bit frantic in the haste to be away and desert Dave and Wayne, before Dave could put up a more serious objection.
“Yes! Best get it sorted! You may need a helicopter calling in at this rate!! Ha! Yes a helicopter ride! You’d like that Dav- I mean Wayne! ” I added looking square at Dave with a smile as I hustled the boys on up the path.
I’m sure Wayne was thinking, “What a fella. Doing this for me” as I headed off.
“Phone me if there’s any problems!”
I called over my shoulder, Which I’m sure Dave would. Many colourful things. knowing as well as I did there wasn’t much of a signal to be had for any mobile phones.
I looked back briefly once to see Dave helping Wayne back to his feet and watched Wayne gesture weakly that he “Needed fuel. And water. Please god.” Then Dave started shoo-ing him on up the slope and I quickly turned away before he could try and attract my attention.
“Will my Dad be ok Mike?” asked Waynes son
“Yeahhh. No worries lad. He’ll just be a bit thinner though.”
“Not eating all that chocolate cake he won’t.”
So on we went until we reached the end of the serious climb and it leveled out into a much more manageable walk. It was easier to breathe again and as soon as Wayne reached this point it would be a more comfortable trip for him.
You can imagine my surprise when my phone actually rang some 30 minutes later, and I fumbled it from my pocket to see Dave’s name lit up, and turned to looked back down the slope to see where they were as I answered it.
“He’s on the fuckin floor pal!!” Said Dave immediately upon hearing my voice. “Flat out. Can’t get him up!!”
I finally spotted Dave, a distant figure, speaking urgently down the phone, with his other hand cupped over the mouth piece, walking to and thro around Wayne, who was lay like a star fish on the floor.
“Give him some fuel mate. Give him some chocolate muffin. He seems to like that. And some water! Give him some water!!”
“I can’t!! He already ate the fucking lot!! And I don’t have any water left because he drank it all trying to wash the muffin down!! And then he just threw it up all over the shop. He been heaving like a professional bulimic, then he’s flopped on the fuckin floor. WTF am I going to do???”
“Well first of all you need to calm down mate. Calm down.”
“What do you mean you bastard, calm down! Calm down??”
And his voice actually went up a couple of octaves showing. Clearly. I was the much calmer person here. I felt like putting my hands on my hips and striking a pose. I can only say my calmness was a reflection of my much faster thinking and inclination to abandon Dave and Wayne. I know he was just wishing he had done it first. I was also 30 minutes further up the slope and closer to salvation.
There was nothing else for it. When you manage to drop some one else in it, you need to maintain distance and keep a perspective, while reassure them that its not as bad as they think.
“Hahahah! Your fucked mate! I’ll phone the helicoptor for you at the top!!”
And I marched on. We managed to reach the summit, where I have to say it was packed with people. I mean packed out. There must have been 2 or 300 people up there. And as we made our way up the final slope along side the train track, I looked to the right, back the way we had walked and thought it looked so gradual. It completely hid the strenuous climb we had completed.
Then I looked to the left and it was like a slope only a mountain goat would climb. It just dropped away into the opposing valley. And clinging to the side of this vertical rocky face, was a ribbon of a path threading its way up towards us. With people picking their way upwards in single file, as it wasn’t wide enough to do more. And I just thanked god we hadn’t decided to come up that route.
Because I’d have abandoned Dave a wayyyyyyyyyy sooner otherwise.
Dave did make it to the top with Wayne making a herculean effort to get there. And we left him there to rest looking pasty and weak, to gather his strength, while we began the descent down a much easier path into the town Llanberis. Wayne would travel down on the train as Steve, who was the only one sensible enough to ride up the much more relaxing route, on the train, had given up his seat to rescue Wayne. We would collect him on the way back to the camp.
We did have a moment of pause when some 30 minutes after departing the summit, we watched an air-sea rescue helicopter head up towards the summit, and we did wonder if Wayne had taken a turn for the worse. But it turned before it reached the top and hovered over the edge of a lake we had passed on the way down, then turned and headed back over us.
It took some 2 hours to walk back down in the extreme heat of that day, and it really was hot. The only relief we had was not stressing over whether or not Wayne could manage it. It was nice to finally reach the bottom and head straight for the pub for a well earned pint, sat outside the in the heat of the afternoon, absolutely exhausted..
It must have been by the 3rd pint before anyone remembered Wayne.
“Ohhh shit! Wayne!!!”
We had completely forgotten about him in our rush for a cool pint. He had been waiting some 3 hours to be collected.
Steve jumped up and drove down to the station where the mountain train terminated to find Wayne again, star-fish prone, on the embankment outside. He brought him back to the pub where he managed a cold pint. A lot more leisurely than the bottled water he had been using to try and force the muffin down.
“You ok Wayne? Feeling better?”
I must admit he didn’t look much better.
“Well, I thought I’d just relax on the train, but hadn’t gone 200 yards when I started chucking up out of the side. I can tell you I cleared ALL the seats around me sharpish. Its a wonder that the train didn’t pick up speed and run out of control with everyone sat at the front next to the driver.”
Wayne had spent the whole trip down retching and being sick out of the side of the carriage. Just to add to his misery, when he finally reached the bottom he at first tried sitting patiently, then gave up and just spread-eagle himself on the grass in despair, not having the energy to do aught else.
“I’m just glad you finally came for me.”
“Well what else could we do Snowy? We Couldn’t leave you any longer.” Said Scott, another dad on the trip, giving Wayne his new nick-name.
“It was the only thing we could do. It was your round.”
(Dave and daughter Lucy, at the start. Obviously.)