On 13 November 2014 my friend Paul and I hiked up Mt. Snowdon in Snowdonia, North Wales, UK.
Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales, at an elevation of 3,560ft and the highest point in the British Isles outside the Scottish Highlands. Snowdon is known to offer some of the best views in Britain. The name Snowdon is from the Old English for “snow hill”.
We started our climb on the Watkin Path, which has been described as “the most demanding route direct to the summit of Snowdon”. Of all the routes to ascend it is the one with the lowest elevation. We started at 1040am at Bethania on the A498 and headed through woodlands on a gravel trail. About ½ a mile from starting the trail leaves the woods and you start to get a view of the scenery ahead. A view of peaks, waterfall and slate quarry incline greet you as you round a corner in the trail with a valley ahead, marking your way to Snowdon. At this stage the weather was beautiful, cloudy but no rain or wind and cool temperatures made great hiking conditions.
We continued a steady climb as the trail entered the valley ahead, bringing us to a disused building peppered in bullet holes. Paul explains this was used for commando training in WWII and still bears the scars. Close by is “Gladstone Rock” where there is a plaque commemorating a speech given in 1892 by William Ewart Gladstone Prime Minister of Britain. The plaque is weathered and in both English and Welsh. As we progressed along the trail we came to remains of old buildings from the slate quarry days and piles of slate spoil. There was a large hole in the ground showing the remains of slate quarrying.
We started to head north from the old quarry and the trail ascent began to climb significantly. The view of Snowdon was hidden in a cloud layer but still the weather was clear with views to the coast and peaks in the distance.
We reached a saddle below the summit of Snowdon which offered amazing views north and east including Llyn Llydaw reservoir, Glaslyn Lake and Garnedd Ugain peak. Here we rested a few minutes but started to feel the wind picking up. Snowdon peak was completely shrouded in mist now and we could see grey clouds rolling in so decided to start the scree scramble before any bad weather hit. However, as soon as we reached the scree the weather changed and a heavy mist and strong winds suddenly hit us. We struggled up the scree run, at one point I slid a few meters down but managed to dig into a rocky outcrop. The scree took us longer than anticipated as we had to stop several times to hold out while wind gusts blasted us. On arriving at the saddle at the top of the scree I could just see Paul sheltered behind a trig point rock through the rain and fought the wind/rain to join him. We were being battered by the weather but the summit was very close up a steep climb and decided to push on. Linking arms and taking a hiking pole each we traversed the saddle to the west side of the mountain summit and had a slight respite from the wind. Heading up to Snowdon itself became harder as the rain started to batter us with recorded wind speeds of 70-90mph. The summit was bitter cold and rain burnt as it hit our faces, it was hard to catch your breath in the wind and the noise was deafening.
As I approached the summit building I could make Paul out sheltering by a stone wall. The summit has a café which allows tourists who took the small train up to rest on nice days. Unfortunately the café was closed and there was no shelter to be had. I was amazed to see three other hikers on the summit, two ladies out for the day and a gentleman who told me in 30 years of climbing Snowdon he had never experienced anything like the weather there now. The three of them decided to descend via the railway track, although this led to the opposite side of the mountain we wanted.
The actually summit is marked by a stone cairn with a brass compass marker plate. I had to crawl up to it on all fours due to the winds blowing us over, laughing we decided to descend. That was until Paul said I needed a photo with the cairn and sent me back up to pose. The result is in the video!
Unfortunately we only had an hours light left and the route required trailblazing across a saddle to meet the Watkins Path 3 miles away. The terrain proved hard with bog, heavy grass and moss ad steep climbs. We hiked in to the dark and fortunately had packed our headlamps. Without these there is no way we could have safely made the hike over the saddle due to rocks, drops and water hazards. We had a map so know where we were at all times although a marked trail could not be located. It was 2 ½ hours hiking in the dark until we reached the lower stretch of the Watkins Path but then the trail was an easy descend to the car park. My legs were like lead but I had an enjoyable, challenging day.
We headed to the Pen Y Gwryd pub were such famous mountaineers as Sir John Hunt, Sir Edmund Hillary, Noel Odell planned training climbs in Snowdonia before heading to Mt. Everest. After a quick drink we headed to the The Royal Oak in Betws-y-Coed, for a meal and quick rest before the drive home.
My first introduction to Snowdon was an adventure, an experience and shared with a friend, I wouldn’t have changed a thing that day!