24 December 2018

· Clwyd ·

After an evening on the whisky with Dad last night, and several text messages reminding her not to forget her hat or gloves this year, I turned up at Carolyn’s for my 31st consecutive Christmas Eve ascent of Moel Famau in North Wales, only to discover I’d left my fleece at Dad’s. Despite the thick fog, I decided to risk going without. Forgotten winter clothing is all part of the hopelessly disorganised tradition. As is taking a wrong turn at one of the roundabouts on our way there. We drove in a convoy of three cars. I was in front with Carolyn’s son, Aran (whom I tried to blame for the wrong turn); Carolyn followed with Hazel, Chloë, Chloë’s boyfriend, Max, and Minnie the Great Dane. Carolyn’s niece, Nikky, brought up the rear.

We were lucky: the dense fog lifted a couple of miles before we reached the hill. The weather was absolutely glorious. I was so glad not to be wearing a fleece!

The annual walk up Moel Famau is the closest thing I have to regular exercise. This year, I’m proud to report I didn’t get at all out of breath. Not that I think I’ve got any fitter, you understand; it’s just Carolyn and I gabbed so much, we hardly noticed how slowly we were walking. I’m sure everyone else did.

Moel Famau, Christmas Eve 2018

Up at the incomplete, ruined tower at the summit, we had our customary mugs of tea, mince pies, flapjacks, and biscuits, followed by the obligatory group-selfie using the trig-point as a tripod. Then we climbed up on to the tower to take in the panoramic view from Snowdonia in the west to the Pennines in the east. As we took more group photos, we were approached by a rather glamorous woman who spoke immaculate English with an accent I guessed to be either German or Dutch. She wanted permission to fuss Minnie. It turned out she was a Great Dane fanatic, whose own two dogs recently died. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but perhaps her mysterious accent was Danish! She was close to tears as she fussed Minnie. A couple of minutes later, she returned to take a selfie with her new best friend. I reckoned it would be a matter of months before she had a new great dane of her own.

Following the customary reminiscences about that time, all those years ago, when Carolyn and I took the wrong stile from the summit and spent hours lost in the woods, trying to get back to the car, we took the correct stile and headed down via our traditional, longer return route through the trees. When we got to the part where, until last year, we’ve always taken the wrong turn, I had to overrule everyone else by insisting I distinctly remembered turning left last year—even though my memories were far from distinct. Fortunately, to everyone else’s astonishment (and mine, if I’m honest), I turned out to be correct.

Roll on ascent 32!

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Richard Carter is a writer and photo­grapher living in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteFacebookTwitterNewsletterBooks
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