Tuesday, 27 October 2009


When I decided to “do” Offas’s Dyke I was discussing it with my younger brother, Alan, and he said that he’d always wanted to climb Snowdon. Obviously “ever ready” herself said “Well why don’t we?”

We very quickly hatched a plan that we’d all do it October half term. All being our parents, our other brother and his partner, Alan’s wife and all 6 of our kids.

Bearing in mind it’s virtually on our doorstep none of us have ever got close to climbing it.

My sister in law put her sensible head on and said it would be too much for the little ones. My big brother decided he couldn’t do it. My parents were having their loft insulated, my eldest nephew was in work, Cait was ill so yesterday that left me Alan, my son Jim and Alan’s son Haz.

I’d pulled off quite a bit of information from the internet. Del an old school friend suggested we do the PYG route, Phil a work colleague suggested we do the easier Llanberis route and Alan in his infinite wisdom decided we should do the Snowdon Ranger route.

I’d had an email from Sue a couple of weeks ago asking if I’d managed much training for my Snowdon trip. I must admit I was pretty dismissive after all it’s ONLY 3¾ miles. 3,046 feet of ascent – how wrong I was, I know I should ALWAYS take Sue’s advice.

The forecast for Snowdon over the weekend had been pretty bleak with gale force winds. Yesterday looked the best day but there were warnings of hill fog.

We decided on an early start and for once in my life it wasn’t my fault that it didn’t happen. It was however my fault on the navigation to the mountain. I haven’t quite mastered this sat nav system on this new iphone. Consequently we didn’t start the ascent until noon.

All the signs and all the info suggested it would take 3 hours up and 3 hours down.

Start at the Snowdon Ranger youth hostel beside Llyn Cwellyn about a mile and a half further along the A4085 from Rhyd Ddu. Cross the stile and follow the track of the Welsh Highland Railway until you can turn right onto the metalled track going up to Llwyn Onn Farm. Beyond the farm the trail climbs steep ground but is well graded on a series of long switch backs eventually reaching more level ground as it enters Cwm Clogwyn with Yr Wyddfa towering above. The path crosses a couple of streams and skirts round the edge of Llyn Ffynnon y Gwas before beginning another zig zag climb to gain Bwlch Cwmbrwynog, the ridge connecting Yr Wyddfa with Moel Cynnghorion (see route 8).
From the ridge there are tremendous views north across the Cwm of Brwynog to Llanberis and Lyn Padarn. Behind you to the south and west are the lakes of Cwellyn and Gader, the peaks of the Nantile Valley and the forests of Beddgelert. The path ascends the ridge passing above the brooding cliffs of Clogwyn Du’r Arddu, the forcing ground of a generation of talented rock climbers in the sixties and seventies. The cliffs rise above the small Llyn Du’r Arddu. On the other side of the ridge to your right you can see the three lakes of Cwm Clogwyn. With more zig zags the Snowdon Ranger ascends to meet the Snowdon Railway coming up along the north ridge. There is another finger stone marker here. Cross the line and follow it for the final 15 minutes and 350 feet to the summit.

By the time we got to the railway track I was totally out of breath and of the opinion we should turn back now with all that mist coming down. The views were stunning so we carried on. The path was narrow and quite wet underfoot as it did follow numerous streams. It soon became apparent that I was seriously slowing the boys down. I urged them to press on but they kept waiting for me.

As this was one of the easier routes I think I was expecting a stroll in the park. I was very wrong. The ballast was quite hard underfoot but was nothing compared to what was to come. We literally had to scramble up rocks, I’m not sure what the surface of the path became, rock or slate but I know it was loose and you had to watch your footing.

When we eventually could see the café I was exhausted and it still seemed a very long way off. There were lots of people now making their decent, all urging us on and telling us it was worth it. One girl actually told me that she was crying on the way up but wouldn’t have missed the experience for the world.

At around 2:30,when the boys had waited for me yet again, Alan was of the opinion we should turn back to ensure we got back before dark. I asked the next group of people coming down how long it would take to get to the summit and as their reply was 20 to 30 minutes I made the executive decision that they should go on without me and I’d turn around when they met me on the way down.

I don’t know if it was the sight of the summit but I managed to get a spurt on and when they met me on the way down said I was so close I couldn’t possibly not make it. The last part was particularly difficult with what looked like concrete steps. I fell over a couple of times but eventually, on my hands and knees managed to reach the Pinnacle.

The feeling of euphoria is difficult to describe. The views were spectacular; the only dampener was the thought of a 3 hour climb down and the light beating us.

So off we trotted, literally. We jogged were we could. My confidence in my footholds grew with every step. I ended up on my bum on numerous occasions, dignity went out the door. We just needed to get down quickly. I hadn’t actually hurt on the way up but coming down my knees really felt it. About half way down my boots suddenly became too small as my toes tried to force themselves out through the front.

The thing is you’re halfway down a mountain and no matter how much it hurts there is no alternative you’ve got to get down the rest of the way.

Fortunately we were off the shale/rock/ballast and onto the stream paths by the time it got dark, and the dark did close in on us pretty quickly. It was no fun. We could see the road so knew we were pretty close but it was still quite a hair raising experience.

We got to the railway track and Alan offered to go and get the van to pick me up. There was no way I wasn’t going to complete. I ended up walking sideways as the pressure of my toes against my boots going forwards was extremely painful.

I had to be manhandled into the van as I couldn’t drag myself up the step.

It was without a doubt one of the best experiences of my life. I will definitely do it again. I’d like to do the other 9 routes. I thought I’d given it respect by being properly equipped. I hadn’t. It was pure stupidity coming down in the dark and I should have heeded Sue’s advice climbed some hills in preparation.

At the end of the day I’ve climbed Snowdon and I’m very proud of my achievement.

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