SnowdonNorth Wales, April 20-21, 2000
Once past Birmingham, I headed into Wales and towards Llanberis, where I had planned to find someplace to stay. The Welsh countryside seemed to be quite different than the miles of English land that I had just crossed, steep and lush green, and the ubiquitous sheep around every wind in the road. When I was passing through Betws-y-Coed (93 miles from Birmingham), on my way towards Llanberis, a nice little Bed and Breakfast caught my eye and I stopped and checked in. It cost only £15 and would have included a traditional English Breakfast if I had been around at 8am the next morning.
They were from the Brighton area, and had teamed up every year for a week in the Snowdon area hill walking, climbing and getting rained on. A father and son team seated behind us joined our conversation and we all shared stories of the mountains and drank lots of beers. I tried to be silent getting back into the Bed and Breakfast, but I am sure I failed.
[Map of Miner's Track and Pyg Track]
I had originally wanted to make a day-long loop of some of the peaks in the area (Crib Goch, Garnedd Ugain, Snowdon & Y Lliwedd via the Horseshoe Track), but with the weather collapsing and not many people out this morning, I chose to take the Miner's Track (6.4km/4mi, 725m/2381' gain) up the valley towards the summit (the Pyg Track departs from the Miner's Track almost immediately out of the car park). The trail leaves the car park to the south towards the Craig Penlan Cliffs. The first half of the Miner Track is best described as a road: wide, smooth and gradual. It wound around Llyn Taryn (a small lake) not too far into the hike where a group had camped the night before. The site looked pleasant but wet as I passed by. I was continnually amazed by the care and quality of the path I was walking on. The stones were well-fit together and complimented each other, it must have been a monumental project to build the road.
I'm not sure how far back Llyn Llydaw was, but it didn't seem like more than two kilometers. The Miner's Track heads right (north) to cross the lake on the Miner's Causeway, while the Snowdon Horseshoe Track keeps straight (on the south side of Llyd Llydaw) as it heads for Y Lliwedd (898m/2945'). On the north side of the lake, there are old ruins of a huge stone mining building. Shortly thereafter, I caught up with the couple who had left the car park as I was pulling in.
About halfway down the north shore of Llyn Lladaw we started up the steep part just as the rain increased from the misty drizzle to a solid rain. They were attempting to do the "Three Peaks Challenge" on their own over the Easter weekend. Snowdon was their first peak and they were planning on heading up towards Scafell Pike that evening. It was pretty apparent that the guy was fit and very gung-ho about hill walking. His partner was not. She chipped a nail within the first 5 minutes and only stopped talking about it long enough to complain about the rain and having to climb up a waterfall (most of the hill was a waterfall of some sort or another, because, by now, the rain had increased significantly). The path was not apparent, so I followed behind the twosome because the guy had been up Snowdon before, and knew the way (in good visibility, it wouldn't have been a problem to go ahead, but I wasn't sure where I was heading exactly). The map shows a lake called Glaslyn (Blue Lake), but I never saw it, despite walking right past it (I think) in the heavy fog.
The pace was slow but pleasant, and the guy was pretty interesting, having had climbed and walked in the mountains for most of his life. He told be about some other great walks in the Snowdon area (especially the Glyders and Tryfan on the other side of the road at Pen-Y-Pass), and really made me wish I had more time to spend here to hike around (I had to make it to near Newborough on the Isle of Anglesy that evening). He had also climbed the other two high points in the Three Peaks Challenge, but never all in one weekend, so he was really looking forward to doing it with his girlfriend.
The terrain, while steep, wasn't too bad. Our feet were somewhat soaked with rain and runoff, but the rocks weren't slippery, and the handholds were plentiful when they were needed. Every once in a while a path magically appeared under our feet, only to disappear again within a few steps. Leaning over to protect my face from the heavy rain, my world was reduced to a very small radius, and I really wished I could get a view of the surrounding peaks.
It started to hail, instead.
It was coming down pretty good for a few minutes, but then just as quickly as it came, the hail stopped and we were left with plain old boring rain once again. A series of switchbacks that were partly covered with snow appeared and the couple decided to take a break. I walked past them and shortly came up to Bwlch Glas (Blue Pass) where the wind that had been buffeting us below was a hell of a lot stronger. I took refuge in the lee of "the oblisk" for a minute or two, then walked towards the summit (which was to the south, or to the left after coming up to the col - to the right is the summit of Garnedd Ugain, 1065m/3493'), pausing now and then to try and keep standing against the stronger gusts. This part of the trail follows the rails for the Snowdon Mountain Railway that comes up from Llanberis.
It had taken about 2 hours to reach the summit, and as I reached the monument, a local trail runner appeared from the southeast (towards Y Lliwedd) and started to run off when I asked him from where he came. He said he was just out for a run around the Horseshoe Track. And then he was gone.
I wandered down to the buildings just below the summit, but they were all closed (I hear that have great soup, though). As I was leaving, the couple appeared and snapped my photo, then the guy told me that maybe they'd just try for Scafell Pike and pass on Ben Nevis this time...
Back at the oblisk, I met up with a couple in their mid-40s and we hid in next to the oblisk again, trying to hear each other and not get blown away in the process. They, too, told me of the magnificent views and the great walks on the other side of the road from the car park. We said good-bye and I followed the Miner's Track back down. There was a little more hail and rain, and soon I met the first of dozens of hikers. Everyone asked how the wind was and how far the summit was, stuff like that. Many different accents and lots of nice people. Back down at the lake, the weather was improving and so were the views (a little). There were a few troops of scouts as well as many families out for a walk on the lower parts of the mountain. My gear was soaked, so I left it on hoping it would dry out as I walked back (it didn't).
At the car park, it was utter chaos. There was an oldish man sort of directing traffic into the car park, and telling most to park down the road a ways (a long ways!). A few cars were circling the car park hoping someone was leaving. There was a couple parked near my car trying to decide who would go park the car and walk back up the hill. I told them that if they waited 3 or 4 minutes, I would be leaving and they could have my front-row spot. Trying to spread out all my gear inside my car was a complete farse, so I just sort of hung my jacket over the passenger seat and piled the rest in back. A quick change of clothes and I was on my way into Llanberis for something to eat (which was an adventure in itsself).
The hike was less than 4 hours round trip, very easy, and despite the weather, it was wonderful. The mountains were beautiful and the people were nice.
|E-mail me with questions or comments... firstname.lastname@example.org||submitted: 19 Sept, 2000|