"Let's go climb Snowdon" - the four words that sounded brilliant whilst chatting in the pub with some friends. What a great idea - take time out from our normal lives and spend some time walking & climbing mountains.
And as it turns out, it really was a great idea.
That great conversation left me with just under 2 weeks until we were going; I had some gear from previous camping trips, but ended up taking several trips to various outdoors stores to ensure I was fully prepared. We were making a long weekend of it, and when Thursday evening came along and the 5 of us were packed, with both cars fully loaded and ready to leave.
What we weren't prepared for was the journey. Leaving at 7pm from Bournemouth, Google Maps had us down for a 5 hour drive - not too bad. We left as planned in two cars (after a full days work); I was following my friend who was following his sat nab. Up until the outskirts of Birmingham we were making good time and had no trouble staying awake. As we came off the M40, I began to wonder where the sat nav in the other car was taking us.
We soon found ourselves in the centre on Birmingham - even though there its a perfectly good motorway (M42 / M5) that goes round the edge. No problem though, we can rejoin the motorway on the other side of Birmingham. Wrong. There were large scale roadworks and we found ourselves sat in traffic for over an hour. Thanks Garmin.
Eventually we were moving again and as we crossed the border into Wales, one-by-one my passengers that were helping me stay awake on the now dark & deserted roads were themselves falling asleep. I was relived when we finally passed through Capel Curig - our campsite was only another 10 minutes away. We arrived at Gwern Gof Isaf Campsite shortly before 2am and now it was time to pitch the tents in the dark, and the rain.
After just 4 hours sleep, we awoke to a cold, damp, miserable campsite. We found some motivation to get up, have breakfast and prepare for our first day - we were starting the trip by taking on Snowdon. We drove up to Pen-y-Pass from our campsite, and by that time, it was brightening up, a little.
There are 6 routes up to the summit of Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa), with 2 leaving from Pen-Y-Pass. We decided to take the Pyg track up and given the miserable weather (not raining though) and sight of snow ahead, we were fully layered in warm and waterproof clothes. About 15 minutes into the walk we soon realised our mistake, and quickly stopped to remove layers.
We kept on walking with a few short breaks for water & snacks, seeing only a handful of other people out - perfect! The weather stayed calm, although the sight of snow was always on the horizon.
As we got higher, the views just got better and better - plus it was so peaceful to be in the middle of nowhere without having to think about anything other than where we were heading. As we continued on, we were getting closer and closer to the snow & ice and it was soon time to stop, wrap up warm.
We proceeded on, and into the snow. What started as just a light dusting was fast became a few inches deep, also with the wind picking up and fog coming in. We passed a small group of people who were heading back down - they didn't make it the summit due to the snow. This put doubts in our heads given our inexperience, however we decided to press on anyway, not knowing how far we could get. Snow started to fall, the cameras were put away and the path soon disappeared into the snow. We found ourselves off-route quite quickly.
We managed to find the path again and continued our way up with summit getting every closer. Looking back down, we saw other people making their way up - so we weren't alone after all. We pressed on, with wind getting ever stronger and becoming bitterly cold. Ice was also becoming a problem. However the path we were on soon joined the Snowdon Mountain Railway (which was snowed under) and we knew we were almost at the summit.
We finally reached the summit and the views were, well, non-existent.
Due to the fog, the visibility down into the valleys was poor and the winds were still bitterly cold - we didn't want to stay up here for too long.
After the stereotypical photo on the summit, we took shelter behind the closed, snowed-in visitor centre and had a quick lunch stop. As other people started reach the summit as well, we decided to pack up and start heading back down. We decided to take the Miners Track which would take us back to the cars at Pen-Y-Pass - although the start of that route meant starting off back tracking our steps up. In parts the snow had turned to ice - our descent was going to be slow to start with.
We continued down at a sensible pace, and slowly but surely the visibility got better and the snow started to disappear. The scenery was stunning - I'd been to Wales before, but never into the hills and mountains. Whilst I'm sure the views are even better in the summer, looking back I'm glad we done it when we did; the snow made it much more of an experience. Here are a few photos from nearer the end of our descent down the Miners Track:
We finally made it back to the car at Pen-Y-Pass and headed straight into Betws-y-Coed to put our feet up for a while and enjoy a pint of Snowdonia Ale.
Back at the campsite it was time for a well deserved dinner and early night.
The following day we got up a little later and headed off out for second day - this time we headed for Tryfan for some "raw" walking / scrambling - there is no defined route to follow. The story of out adventure on Tryfan is one for another day.
Overall, it was a great experience and everyone should give it ago - it's nice to get away from the mayhem of modern life and just head back to the natural world for a couple of days.