I have just had the pleasure of enjoying a family holiday in the North of Wales. A beautiful house overlooking the beach, surf, good food and family. What could be better than that? Well I figured while we were in the neighbourhood it would be rude of me not to visit the summit of the awesome Mount Snowdon.
The original plan had been for me to climb it and for my family to get the train to the top and meet me there. But the phenomenal expense of the train ride put paid to that idea. A quick change of plan saw me setting off for the Pyg Track which would take me up the East side of the mountain in about an hour and a half and I would come back down the tourist route to Llanberis where I would get picked up by my family.
Happily I set off, excited by the prospect of my first hill summit in several years. The sad truth being that I have done no hillwalking at all in recent times. A fact that made the day all the more eagerly anticipated.
Spirits were high and the sun was shinning.
After a slightly slow start to the day it was already 1pm when I got turned away from the Pyg Track Car Park. How could it be full up? Fate was turning on me. The degree to which happily eluding me at that moment.
A quick decision had to be made, turn right to the tourist trail at Llanberis or turn right to the more challenging route up the Watkin Path.
No choice really.
It was 1:45pm when I set off on the Watkin Path. I had a fair idea that it was expected to take the average walker around 4 hours so I optimistically estimated that I could be up there and enjoying a summit cup of tea by 4 maybe 4:30pm. Lone climbers always move faster.
By only 2:45pm I was more than half way in terms of distance. Sweet.
I could see the summit and could also see how much more steep it rose at the peak. And the dark haze that covered the top.
I could also see the ‘scree scramble’ that I vaguely recollected reading about.
I didn’t pass many people on their way back down. Maybe there should have been alarm bells ringing at that point. Problem there being that I’m not really equipped with alarm bells.
I was feeling pretty strong and was still really enjoying the day, even though it was clear that by the time time I summited it would be shrouded in a dark mist.
Right up to the scree scramble the path was rough but well defined and easy to follow.
Where the scree started was where the path stopped.
I scrambled up the first section quite happily though, undeterred and figuring that up would obviously take me to the top!
Another 10 minutes of scrambling up loose stones and an increasingly steep surface was starting to throw a little doubt at me as to whether or not I had made the right decision. Had I missed an obvious route? Was this the route for serious climbers only? Was there anyone else stupid enough to go this way?
I did have a singular moment around that point where I wondered about going back down. The dark mist was thick around me and the wind was battering me onto the mountain face. When I looked back to where I had climbed it dropped down through an impenetrable soup of drizzle.
The only way down was up.
So I kept going. Up could surely only result in one thing. The top!
I was trying to keep a close eye on the time to help me assess distance and by this point had been using hands as well as feet for a good hour. And must be getting close.
It was 4:30pm.
No tea for me at the top I thought.
It was a ridiculous situation. Alone on the side of a mountain in thick fog, on a near vertical face (ok, maybe not quite but it was certainly steep), with no path to follow.
I could tell I was getting really close to the top now at least, as the wind had started hitting me from every angle imaginable.
So I kept going.
It was slow and awkward and I felt like I really needed that cup of tea.
And then through the wet soup of fog I could hear voices. I crawled over a big rock to see the path suddenly reappear in front of me along a short ridge.
‘Mum, there’s a person’ a little girls voice echoed in my direction.
I laughed to myself at the strange sight I must have been to the tourists who had came up on the train.
A lone girl crawling over the edge of a viewpoint out of the grey darkness.
They stopped and stared at me, forgetting to smile, just staring. I sat a moment on a big flat rock and took in the achievement of my day. A sense of pride glowed through me.
A quick visit to the wee peak, a couple of attempts at photos (to follow). And then a dash for the train.
It was 4:45pm and I guessed there would be one at 5pm.
Worth every penny.
A post walk analysis tells me that I did indeed manage to miss a path that circled round the outside of the hill and took a more gradual route to the top.
The route I followed was recommended for serious climbers only.
Now, I don’t mean to make light of the fact that I made a couple of decisions on a Mountain that I wouldn’t endorse. But I did keep a clear head. I was calculating about my choice of direction. I recognised my dangers and I came out of it a stronger person who has yet again pushed her boundaries and is delighted to have come out ‘on top’.