On a beautifully sunny day a month ago I finally crossed a long-standing ‘thing to do before I die’ off my list. Along with my daughter and partner, we walked to the summit of Snowdon and back down again.
Having been in North Wales for over a week before making the climb we had chosen the day with care, holding out for a forecast when no rain was due and we were rewarded well. At 8am we set off from the car park at Pen-y-Pass using the Miners Track, in glorious sunshine. We were wrapped up warmly as despite the sunshine it was a mere 9C however with a good pace for the first hour or so, layers were gradually packed away in rucksacks and arms and legs shown to the sun. During the day we did see some cloud and the sun hid from us now and then but on the whole we chose a wonderful day in which to do this for the very first time.
The first part of the Miners Path is, well it’s easy and it does lull you into a false sense of security, which is smashed to smithereens later on! However it is a very gentle ascent until well past the causeway at Llyn Llydaw. We were lucky at this time as there were few who were following this path so early in the day and so for the most part we could enjoy the beauty of the morning and our surroundings in relative peace and quiet. How glorious the landscape is. When travelling past Snowdon by road I had often thought how grey and stark it looked but once walking, it became clear that this was not the case at all. The colours are subtle and muted but Snowdon is far greener than I had anticipated.
I tried not to look upwards on my left hand side too often for there lay our destination and although we had been walking for a while, it didn't seem to get any nearer and so it was better not to look! It is a daunting prospect from below.
The water in the lakes was beautifully clear and looked so inviting. Later in the day on our descent we glimpsed hardy or perhaps foolhardy people frolicking and swimming in Glaslyn. I admit that I spent far too long lingering by the waters and taking photographs but I just wanted to drink the whole experience in and imprint the beautiful pictures in front of my eyes along with the serenity I was feeling inside, within my mind forever.
Once past Glaslyn the path becomes steep, uneven and downright difficult in parts! At stages we scrambled upon the scree and more than once I was thankful that there was no low cloud or rain obscuring the way. It became obvious why so many people come to grief in poor weather conditions on this most accessible of mountains. It’s still a challenge no matter how many people walk and climb it and shouldn't be taken as a light task. The penultimate haul from where the Miners Track meets the Pyg Track took an excessive amount of time. It is very steep and by this stage there were many people ascending and one or two early risers who by now were descending having perhaps claimed the summit to themselves as their reward for getting out of bed at ridiculous o clock! I readily admit that I found this part difficult, as did my companions although my daughter’s difficulties were more to do with not liking the drop to our left hand side rather than the strenuous nature of the activity.
The puffing, panting, grunting, hurting all melted away into nothing once we reached the post where the path from Llanberis comes up. All of a sudden a breathtaking vista opens up in front of your eyes. A few fluffy white clouds were in my eye line and then before me lay what felt like the whole world; lakes, villages, hills and in the distance the sea. It had been worth every moment of effort.
With renewed vigour we turned left and walked towards the summit. This took us another 15 minutes or so. It was extremely busy by this time with what seemed to be the world and his wife taking advantage of the glorious weather to make the climb. The train chuffed passed us on ascent and then descent but I did not envy those who had taken that transport to the summit. Apart from those who have no choice through disability, I pitied those who cannot experience the sense of achievement in having done what we were doing.
It was hard to actually get onto the summit point itself due to the sheer numbers of people attempting the same thing but we did make it for a couple of minutes. And then I found a relatively quiet spot and had a moment with my Mom. I admit to having had a good cry then. Mom would have loved it there with the stunning views and it saddened me that she had never made it up there. She told me not to be so daft because she had been with me every step of the way and was enjoying the moment with me. I pulled myself together and rejoined my companions. We purchased top up drinks and a well needed coffee from the café but if you’re thinking of doing the same, I urge you to consider which body part you will sell in order to fund such purchases. There is nothing like a captive market. We then found a quiet enough spot for the three of us to sit together and eat the packed lunch we had brought with us. We sat munching away, reflecting upon our efforts, on the fact that it was worth it and enjoying the views.
I must mention a tiny young lady of just four years old. We first made her acquaintance with her family at the car park and spent most of the ascent passing them or they passing us. She made it all the way to the summit without being carried. I've no idea if the same happened on the descent as we didn't see them again after meeting them at the summit.
We enjoyed a good hour up there to rest and recharge the batteries and then we began our descent, which was a difficult thing to do such was the volume of upward traffic facing us. One of the things that I did find a hindrance was dogs. The rules of the national park clearly state that dogs should be kept on leads. Unfortunately the majority of owners appear to ignore this rule when it starts to get tough, the pathway narrows and the dog starts pulling in a different direction to the one the owner wished to travel. A request, for the comfort and safety of yourself and for others, leave your dogs at home. Several times I was nearly tripped by a free running dog. It seriously hinders progress when you have to be on the look out for the animals and it also ruins the place having to listen to owners shout and call their dogs. You may as well be in a town park.
The decision was made to take the Pyg Track down as it gave us a different route to the ascent and finished at the car park we had started from. On the whole I don’t think it offered such good views and I didn't enjoy it, however this may have something to do with me finding it far more difficult to descend rather than climb. I always have and the advent of creaky joints and bones with my advancing age hasn't helped! We spent some considerable time being distracted by a mountain rescue that took place above us, the RAF helicopter swooping around and finally lowering a rescuer to whomever it was that needed their help. Once the rescue had been made peace once again became our preserve as by now the crowds had thinned and we were seeing less and less people.
We arrived back at the car park just under 8 hours after we had started earlier in the day. We had taken our time, enjoying the views, the sunshine, the experience and having a good rest at the summit. It wasn't a race but an experience to enjoy and savour and I hope to do it again as soon as I can although my two companions may differ on that!