This post could be a tale of two hikes. One a social outing, getting to know new people, sharing the challenge (and fun) of taking on one of the highest mountains in the UK, in winter.
The other a personal journey, raising money in memory of my Father in Law and also tackling an old demon (more of that later).
Firstly , a big thanks up front to Steve (http://steventuck.wordpress.com/ ) for organising it again. The weather can be unpredictable and a section of the walk has claimed some lives in the past so Steve made sure everyone was accounted for throughout the walk and had radios shared out between some of the leaders. The path we took was the ‘easy / tourist’ Llnaberis Path (in summer) but like all mountain paths it can be dangerous in winter – it isn’t easy.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowdon#Llanberis_Path.
There were some people out on a definite Sunday walk in jeans and trainers but I don’t think I saw any of them at the top. If they were – major kudos for their chutzpah or plain stupidity.
Towards Snowdon Summit - the Llanberis path monolith. camera phone but captures it well I think.
We needed those radios as it turned out. The cloud was really low in places and as the party spread out, I for one lost sight of others on a couple of stretches.
In fact I lost sight of people in front and behind me at the stretch where we crossed a fairly steep cambered path – with an ice field to one side that eventually leads down to cliffs. (see the Wikipedia link above for more info). Which leads me to that demon – fear of falling. In the morning I’d relayed, in jokey fashion, my anecdote of falling down a mountain ice field (in Switzerland) as a teenager, this was to Lisa and Mac who I’d given a lift to.
But as I got to the snow covered path above the (Clogwyn Coch) cliffs section, I really did have a ‘moment’ .. just me, the fog and a slope that in places would have had no traction, if I had slipped down onto it. I know how that feels, not being able to stop with waterproofs and ice combining to hurtle you downhill at increasing speed. A fast ice field descent was very much filling my head to be honest. I didn’t have cliffs at the end of the slide years ago, thankfully .. but .. ‘You’re not laughing now eh?’ I thought to myself.
So, I waited until I could hear some people behind me in the fog, ‘got a grip’ and carried on.
The path was covered in snow/ice in places - to the right is the slope down to Cloggy cliffs
As well as that psychological blip (which wasn’t there last year as the snow / ice wasn’t an issue) there were a couple of really tough stamina sections.
The Llanberis path is a long haul up to the top, I know people run up it but I had to dig deep on a couple of the steepest sections and paced myself with jelly baby reward interludes. I would sound more Mountaineer-like if I said Kendal Mint cake, I know.
The snow at the top was about a foot or two in places but was mostly compacted ice on the well walked parts. Still, a bit slippy to negotiate. Oh yes – a quick follow-up review for the Hillsound Spikes I bought recently – they didn’t ball up with ice or snow at all and were really helpful on the descent off the snow-covered summit. Top marks from me on those.
The weather cleared a bit on the way down so I got to appreciate the surroundings.. the way up was all head down effort but its always good to raise your eyes and see where you are!
I didn’t walk with a particular group on the way back down but what was nice was finding myself in a small group of some welsh speaking folk. To be honest, because of the snow and ice and being in a post-summit daydream I thought I was back in Iceland. Durr, it took me a moment to get my ear in and realise it was Welsh – the sound of a celtic tongue was lovely to hear. Welsh is one of the languages sent out into the stars to say hello to Aliens, by the way, (via Voyager I think) – random fact for you.
When we came off the mountain some of us stopped at the Pen Ceunant Tea House which is right at the base of the path. A really friendly little house / café and I refuelled on local beer and fruit cake.
Pen Ceunant Tea House - beer and cake re-fuelling
Then (there’s a theme here) we sorted out boots etc at the car park before heading onto Pete’s Eats in Llanberis. Also a great place and the post-mountain chat was loud and friendly over chips, eggs , beans etc.
I’ll let some photos I took do the rest of the talking, but first - a thank you to all those who sponsored me via the Just Giving page I had set up in memory of Ian, my father in law. I raised just short of £300 for the British Heart Foundation.
I also took along some Chinese take away (yes, cold) which I ate when I got to the summit. Ian really liked a take away and its something I associate with old family holidays and his treat for everyone when we visited.
Crispy Beef in (spicey) OK Sauce if you are interested. That kept me warm
Some photos from the day:
my mate Jeff - looking very determined
Mac - a lovely man and wearer of mountaineering flat caps
About halfway stage on the Llanberis path
Towards Snowdon Summit
For much better photos from one of my hiking compadres (Jeffrey Bowman), have a look here http://peaksandflow.tumblr.com/