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Wales day three – Snowdon day

Sorry to bang on about the weather again but, when you’re going up a mountain, it’s important to be prepared. So after seeing the latest forecast we decided to head out early to try and avoid the worst of the weather (rain in the afternoon). We were going up Snowdon via the Ranger’s path – I’ve only done the Llanberis path before so I had some idea of what going up a mountain involved, but not by this route. As has been said before, I’m not the fittest of people by any means, but I’d been preparing for this trip with weekly 10 mile walks, cycling to work (when it wasn’t raining) and adding in the odd session on the x-trainer. I was hoping it would stand me in good stead…

Up and at ’em by 8.30am, we got to the youth hostel – the start of the Ranger’s path – and we were on the base of the mountain by 9.10am. The path meandered and zig zagged over rough grassland, which was covered in sheep and their new lambs. It was a steady but noticeable incline, which seemed somewhat unrelenting. The path was, at times, very rocky and, as we got higher, it seemed to be the natural route down the mountain for any rainwater or melted snow. This meant it got rather wet underfoot in places, but my new gaiters were doing a smashing job of keeping my ankles dry and mud free.

The further up we got, the windier it got and, looking ahead, we could see the cloud base was low and we saw our first glimpse or the snow higher up. But, looking back down, there was lovely sunshine and a brief rainbow over the lake behind the youth hostel.

The path started to get harder work, with some wet rocks to scramble over, but we could see our route etched into the mountainside ahead of us. It didn’t look that far to go… But oh how wrong we were! The cloud was hiding snow and freezing driving rain, with no sign of our destination through the whiteness. The more we trudged, the harder it got. Thankfully we were all suitably attired in waterproofs and decent boots and I was glad I’d put my thermals on. We still weren’t prepared to meet two insane mountain bikers, in shorts(!), who were, apparently, going to go down the rocky path we’d just struggled up. They had some awesome bikes I have to say, but I think you have to be slightly insane to throw yourself down a mountain on a bike…

The Ranger’s path joins up with the Llanberis path above Clogwyn – not that you could really tell because everything was white. I’ve got to admit, the last hour was really hard work, what with the snow, the wind, the freezing rain and the relentless incline. But then, lo! The summit! Head down, I persevered, thinking Anna was trudging behind me but no, she was on the phone having picked up a signal! So, by the time I got to the top, she was nowhere to be seen, lost in the cloud… Just as we were going to go and look for her, she emerged from the mist and we all got a photograph of us at the top, taken by a young lad who was waiting for his mum to catch up with him.

A break for food was called for so we ‘sheltered’ at the back of the visitor’s centre; tuna and feta wraps, a cup of tea, and a bag of cheese and onion Hula Hoops – lovely! Then it was time to head back down, something we weren’t particularly looking forward to after some of the wet scrambles to get up…

But the snow had formed a soft, stable ground that made it surprisingly easy going, if a little slippy now and again (when you were least expecting it). We managed to get down below the snowline with hardly an incident (although I did slip but managed a classic ‘save’ by sticking my arm out and stopping my arse from hitting the ground) – it was only when we got back to the rocky path that we had a ‘Man down!’ Actually, it was a two ‘Man down!’ – Vicki somehow slipped on a rock and fell sideways, managing to eject her drinks bottle over her head as she fell. Carly, the nearest to her, went to her aid, only to slip on the same rock and almost topple on top of the prone V. No major injury resulted from the fall at the time, but later inspection revealed a skinned knee, bruising and a swelling – war wounds!

My knees were killing me on the way down, so it was a relief to get passed the rocky bit and move onto the more level zig zag path before enduring discomfort once more in the final descent off the bottom of the hill towards the youth hostel. We were all knackered, there’s no denying it. But we’d already decided that our ‘prize’ for conquering the mountain would be a feast at Pete’s Eats in Llanberis, the most awesome cafe ever! Okay, so I know thousands and thousands of people have gone up Snowdon, so our ‘victory’ was by no means unique – but it felt like an achievement to us (up and down in 6 hours, including breaks for tea and lunch at the top), and that’s all that matters when you’re cold, wet and knackered, with aching knees and battle scars.

We had earned our Pete’s Eats feast, that’s for sure, so a pint of tea, a spinach and chick pea curry with chips and a luscious brownie later, we headed back to the cottage to shower and collapse for the evening. A glass of wine each has pretty much finished us off, so I reckon tomorrow will be rather sedate.

Images on Flickr