Climbing Snowdon

A couple of months ago some friends and I decided to climb Snowdon. No particular reason – it just seemed like it would be challenging, yet doable. Last week’s heatwave made me very nervous – I didn’t want to climb in that kind of heat – and we set off on a very hot Friday afternoon. After a three hour drive, during which I was ‘introduced’ to the music of country duo Big and Rich – standout hit ‘Save a horse, ride a cowboy’ – we made it to the surprisingly large Quality Hotel Snowdonia in Llanberis.

For a town that must attract a fair few tourists, there weren’t many places to eat. We’d arrived too late to book a table at our own hotel’s restaurant, and eventually ate at a different hotel. Everything seemed to shut down at 2100 though – I’m not sure what would happen if you arrived after that.

The next morning we headed to the local supermarket for supplies, then started climbing at around 1015. After a short while we realised we were being followed by the monster from Lost:

The thing from Lost

which was scary. Happily, it turned out to be the Snowdon Mountain Railway – the train that runs from Llanberis to the summit.
All change

Our path followed the track all the way up, and it’s quite the engineering feat. Also a real-world embodiment of every unimaginative mechanics exam I ever took. It does take an hour to reach the top and, as will become apparent, there are faster ways. The weather, happily, was nigh-on perfect. Cloud cover with a breeze, but no sign of rain. Exactly what I’d been hoping for.

After twenty minutes or so I started to get worried. I was climbing a particularly steep section of path and was already very tired and very slightly nauseous. I’d thought I was fit enough, but began to worry I’d overestimated myself. Happily it went away within a couple of minutes. I’d guess there’s some kind of dietary explanation to do with different energy reserves(?) People I’ve told since said they’ve had similar experiences, anyway.

Once I got over my momentary worries I was most happy. It’d been ages since I’d bounced around from rock to rock, and the climb was exactly what I’d been hoping for. There were other, far steeper, paths on the far side of the mountain, but the Llanberis track is pretty decent. It was long, but easy. Much like myself.

View across Snowdonia

We took it fairly steadily, with frequent breaks for healthy snacks, and it wasn’t too long before we reached Halfway House, a small store with tables. We were actually quite chuffed at this point – it hadn’t been too tricky up till then. The next half made up for that.

Just around the corner was a steep, very scrabbly stretch that wasn’t fun at all. I had to keep my eyes permanently scanning the ground ahead, as if I looked up I invariably tripped over or slid.

Scrabbly

After which it was time for a very well-deserved rest πŸ™‚ I don’t know why there were so many rocks in bags, though.

Resting

Around the hillside, under the railway and after another 90mins we turned a corner to spot the summit:

Top of Snowdon

Now that is a proper summit. I’ve climbed various mountains in the Lake District, and they all have boring summits. It’s climb climb climb flat-bit. Satisfying, but dull. You want a good ridge leading to a satisfying point, in my opinion πŸ™‚ That way you can pretend you’re in Lord of the Rings, albeit without the beards or evil death spiders.

It became far more crowded towards the top because of people who came up on the train, wandered about for half an hour, then went back down.

Crowds

Along the ridge and it was the summit! We took a celebratory photo:

Victorious (portrait)

then Ed and I climbed up to the actual highest point. It just had to be done. There was a bemused dog up there:

A dog at the highest point in Wales and England

He seemed to be saying ‘…and?’. Dogs don’t appreciate views.

View from the summit - 1

Not only is there a train station at the top of Snowdon, there’s also a cafe. So we grabbed muffins and ate them in a sheltered spot. A seagull wanted my muffin. It kept hopping closer and closer, until finally it made a move. I reacted with a frankly James Bond-like plan of tipping over backwards, shutting my eyes and going ‘argh’. It flew away. My plan rocked. It then made a move for Ed:

Ready...ATTACK!

but I’d scared it so much that it didn’t try anything with him. I’m so clever.

It became rather chilly up there, so before long we started back down. Except it wasn’t so simple, because thirty minutes before we left 500 runners had started racing their way up from Llanberis. The record was 68 minutes. As we crossed the ridge the first runners passed us, and they kept on coming.

Early runnersRunning the ridgeDecisions I have made

We clapped and cheered appropriately, and after waiting twenty minutes for some let-up started walking, just trying to keep out of their way. I think I’d be more nervous about running down than up – one wrong footfall on the scrabbly slope and you could twist an ankle very badly. One guy passed us, shook his head and said ‘fucking mad’. I can see the appeal, actually, although I can’t see myself ever trying it…

As we descended we discussed which of The Famous Five each of us represented. I was Dick, apparently. Anne, Julian and George were also dispensed, and this conversation ended when the fifth person realised who she must be πŸ™‚ Soon afterwards the sun appeared and burnt away some of the fog, resulting in some great views.

Llanberis view - 3Waiting trainLlanberis view - 4

It became a little hot, and the suntan lotion was starting to wane by this point. Some of us were a little red by the time we reached the town! We were rather tired, and had taken 6 hours longer than the fastest runner (67mins – a new record), but were happy πŸ™‚ All the photos are viewable here.

Not wanting to waste Sunday we drove over to Colwyn Bay. However, my normally trustworthy TomTom suffered from a mapping error and after taking us down a 1:4 hill cheerily announced I had reached my destination. We were at this point surrounded by sheep and a dearth of sea. After some choice words and a diversion into Strange Village Full of Old People we made it to the Bay and the beach. Don’t do beaches. There is nothing more boring than a beach. Not that I was annoyed – I would just have wandered off into town if we’d stayed much longer. The others enjoyed it, however:

Tempting

We tried to sneak away, but failed…Then it was over to Chester to drop Ed home, and finally back to Birmingham. I slept well last night πŸ™‚ I think a good time was had by all, and you can’t ask for more than that.