About this time last week I was two thirds towards the summit of Snowdon (just above the railway bridge and with the cliffs of Cwm Glas Bach on my left as I looked up hill to Clogwyn Coch). And that’s as far as I got. Standing with son Joe and a couple of other mates (from a much larger group strung out above and below us on Llanberis path), I was ho-humming about completing the final section to the top. Some time with Joe and a cup of tea back at the Pen Ceunant Tea House won out. Down through the snow storm (and then sleet) we headed. More of that later, I’m getting ahead of myself…
I was one of the ‘Snowdon In The Snow 2013’ crew who had set off to the Pen-Y-Pass hostel on the Saturday evening, wondering what the weather would be like (as the forecasts had been pretty snow-centric). I had been looking at the @safesnowdonia twitter account and they were advising people to postpone trips up the mountain over the weekend. We set off to the hostel in any case and were hoping the Sunday walk itself would be do-able, even if shorter.
‘Snowdon In The Snow’ is an annual event / social hike organised by my friend Steve (http://steventuck.wordpress.com/) and this was going to be the third outing for me. And his tenth (happy trip anniversary Steve). There’s a core of regulars as it were but with a lot of new people coming and going each year. This time around there were to be about twenty five of us (including my son Joe and his mate Tom, who’d travelled up from Coventry) meeting and staying at Pen-y-Pass and about another ten or so joining us the next day to start the walk down in Llanberis.
Everyone travelling to the hostel had encountered thick fog and some of us (my car full) had even driven through a one-track forest road, thanks satnav. So we were all pretty done-in when we met up and said hello to mates and new faces alike. But everyone soon cheered up, the night in the hostel was great, we had a good deal arranged by Steve – hot dinner and a cooked breakfast the next day as part of the price and the beers were all good. The one downside for some of us was having to spend the night in a nest of Orcs (you know, twelve men in the same room after lots of food and not a few beers..). We didn’t all know each other when we met up but it was a sociable fun night, with live music provided by Steve, Mac and Graeme (2 guitars and a fiddle). I think there were a few sore heads on the Sunday morning 🙂
Sunday itself started misty and with the promise of dreich-ness for sure. Everyone had a hood pulled up as we headed off up past the Pen Ceunant Tea House and onto the ‘Tourist Path’.
I must have done quite a bit of walking this year as I realised I found the walk up to the halfway point of the Halfway House / ‘closed cafe’ fairly easy (I think it’s a cafe anyway, I’ve never seen it open!).
It had been windy and rainy the whole way and the rain had started to turn to sleet when we all congregated and sheltered behind the building. Putting the increasingly awful weather (more of that in a minute) to one side, I felt pretty good on the trudge / schlep to this point. It was a slog but I wasn’t chuntering like a steam train, like I have done in the past.
From the Halfway House onwards it was sleet then snow, which increasingly settled on the path / flag steps on the stretch that heads steeply up to the railway bridge / tunnel near Cwm Glas Bach. A few people had congregated in the tunnel when Joe and I stopped and the word from those we met heading back down from the summit was ‘blizzard’. Actually, some of our group had already headed back down to Llanberis, not everyone had snow spikes (let alone crampons) and those without either had found the going underfoot increasingly difficult.
I had put my ice spikes on (not micro-spikes but not heavy-duty crampons either), as had Joe and I was confident they would give good enough grip to get to the summit. And I was feeling good stamina-wise (although walking on heavy / fresh snow does get to my legs) but we paused just where the railway track heads up Clogwyn Coch. And I had a think..
The railway track was the route people were taking to go up and down to the summit. Not the path, which is to the left of the train track as you look up hill (you couldn’t see it, covered as it was in snow) but the train track was being used as a footpath. Which is why I paused for thought. The railway track was clearly visible and you could follow it all the way up (as people were doing). But I know (wikipedia, conversations etc) that this section is deceptive and people have slipped down to the right and sadly lost their lives there in wintery conditions. And I know how slipping down a steep mountain snow / ice field actually feels (see near the bottom of my ‘About me’ page).
But, surprisingly I wasn’t jittery or feeling scared. I just felt I’d had a good night, a good walk up to that point with some lovely people (some of whom had already turned around and set off back down) and whilst there were equally lovely people heading on up the rail track, I wasn’t going to be one of them. I checked Joe’s thoughts and he was actually as ‘meh’ as me. He’s a grown man (lord I’m old) and if he’d have wanted to carry on I would have gone up with him.
But as Mac had said earlier in the day (about another trip he’d been on) some days you don’t ‘feel it’. And I wasn’t feeling it maybe – not enough to get my head down in a blizzard and head up the train track just to touch the Trig point. And (surprising to me anyway) I didn’t and don’t feel disappointed not getting to the top this time. There had actually been a small earthquake in the area the day before but I’m pretty sure it’ll still be there next year and I’ll be part of S-I-T-S 2014 😉
Actually Joe and I have talked about doing a summer trip and hopefully some others will join us – it would be nice to see some of the views one day!
Until then.. the last few wintery postcards from me..