Bad Nights in the Hills – Part 1, Volkswagen Golf, Snowdonia

We pulled into the Cromlech boulders lay-by at about 1:30am. Somewhere to our right, through the mist and rain was the famous Dinas Cromlech walls, featuring some of the finest trad climbing in the UK. To the left was our route for the day, Parsley Fern gully up to Snowdon’s summit. We were disinclined to step outside into the rain and put up a new tent that none of us knew how to pitch. Rightly or wrongly, we opted for a night in the car.

We had desperately dashed from London to Snowdonia that evening and planned on cramming as much as possible into the three days we had off of work. We were thus cornered into going out whatever the weather and arriving in the dark.

Rob and Simone love outdoor gear more than they do their families, so this meant filling the two-door Volkswagen Golf to the point where you question if the suspension is up to the task. Once we had filled the car to bursting, Simone realised that bringing his skis was a wasted effort (that and neither I nor Rob can ski) that served only to annoy those on the Piccadilly line on their way out from work.

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I am no stranger to kipping in the car and even the best of these nights have been pretty terrible. As warm and comfortable as I may get myself, no night is ever that comfortable when your bladder is as weak as mine. Once in Norway in the dead of night, upon opening the door to pee, I inadvertently set off the car alarm. I have never seen a man more startled than Matt was, jumping out of his seat as if he’d been tased in the backside.

Here in Wales, there was no fear of having to reluctantly wrench myself from any warmth or comfort to go outside. It ticked all the boxes in terms of discomfort; cold, cramped, damp, head on a hard, angular surface, bladder full, shoes still on. As Rob negotiated the steering wheel, looking like a woman in stirrups giving birth, I contorted myself into a ball with my feet resting against the handbrake. However, in this position I was violated by draughts, exposing my arse and lower back as my jacket went north and trousers south. Continuing this highly erotic theme, our three bodies in the glorified tin can steamed up the car like the sex scene in Titanic.

To compound the misery of my companions, I had to get out three times. With the light coming on everytime I did, I should’ve felt more guilty, but Rob is afflicted with the same pea-sized bladder as myself so we frequently ended up like women accompanying each other to the toilet anyway. Simone, annoyingly, seemed too comfortable and content for my liking. About the same size as a large dog, he was able to stuff himself into the back seat and become indistinguishable from the luggage. With something to lie on, little need for leg room and the ability to control his bodily functions, he claims to have slept a good five hours.

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I have slept more on a park bench during lunch breaks than I slept that night, snatching sleep in chunks too small to even be called bite-sized. I must’ve slept at some points as I had those moments of sleep psychosis, completely incoherent thoughts where the brain goes on the magical mystery tour or rapid-eye-movement.

With no discernible sunrise, daylight slowly crept into the car, a relief as we could get up and out. Whatever the weather was doing, it is was better than being in there. Mercifully, by morning the rain had somewhat abated and the mountain performed a little striptease for us, exposing the snowline and our route. I unfurled my aching body and perked up my tired mind with coffee, and stepped out from one of my worst nights to embark upon one of my best days.


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