Sunday, 24 April 2016

Snowdon: a first ascent

A weekend in Snowdonia with my neice Tamsin.
Tamsin and I walked up Snowdon in April, her first ascent of a mountain and my first ascent of Snowdon. We  drove across Wales the previous afternoon and stayed in a fine B&B in a farmhouse  on the edge of the park. 

As we drove up to the start we saw beautiful lakes with morning sunshine reflecting off  them. The car park was manned by volunteers who checked that we had warm clothes and waterproofs. Our ascent starting in sunshine and we admired the landscape and the evidence of old erosion.  The tiny train taking passengers up the mountain ran parallel to our walk. We had coffee at the Half way hut and enjoyed the beauty of the landscape opening up ahead of us. There were some steep sections, then we reached the train station and the numbers of walkers increased hugely. We had a longer haul walking up along the cold north face where snow lingered in the crevices and Tamsin was keen to be photographed on snow. The Snowdon summit (1085m) is at a convergence of 5 different paths up of varying difficulty. We took the Llanberis path.  Being at the top was awesome with beautiful views of the treeless mountain tops, several big lakes, valleys with trees and farmsteads and the sea in the distance.  Tamsin celebrated our summit by doing a breakdance routine twice because I failed to video the first one satisfactorily. Others were drinking champagne and everyone took a selfie. It was fun being part of a large crowd celebrating being at the top. I was surprised that on a cold April day we had to queue to reach the summit. The top was bitterly cold with a wind chill of -4 and flakes of snow swirled around.

 The descent was chilly, the banks of snow beside the railway looked like scene from a Russian novel.  Then it rained and we both became very cold and I just focused on the cup of hot chocolate that would warm me at the Half Way Hut.  The rain then cleared and we had a good descent to the lake at the start of the walk. The walk took 7 hours. I was very disappointed that we could not get a hot drink at the start of the walk.  It was a fine walk. I was surprised by the numbers of people at the top. Tamsin was surprised by the range of weathers that we experienced and this validated the volunteers checking that we were properly equipped before we set out. She had huge energy and on the descent I was plodding away whilst she skipped around.  We drove back to our BB rested briefly, then headed out to Criccieth where we had an excellent supper with fish and leeks.

On Sunday we drove through the park. The trees and rocks are beautiful in the spring light with the green leaves about to come out. Bedgellert is an attractive village when the sun shines with small grey stone cottages and larger hotels for the walkers and a helpful visitors centre where they have 100 visitors per day. We had coffee in Betyscoed a beautiful large village with many stone house that have a very northern feel and we watched a man taking a cautious but reckless dive into the chilly water! At the arts centre a young woman was creating large bubbles from a pair of sticks dipped into detergent, Tamsin played with the toy enjoying the simple pleasure of seeing bubbles form and move in the air. The girl told us that they visit the Calais camp regularly to let the refugees play with the bubbles and have a carefree moment.  We had a long drive back to Abergavenny first through the mountains of North wales, the old slate mines of Blaenau festinnog  are still dramatic rocks. Mid wales comprises a huge area of farms and pleasant but remote countryside and seemed never-ending. We had a v late lunch at the ecology centre and ascended the mountain side there in a water driven pump lift.  I shall return there another time to check out the centre more thoroughly.  I was surprised at how long it took to drive across Wales, the roads are small but empty.

This was great weekend, I enjoyed introducing Tamsin to the mountains and loved the rocks and scenery in Snowdon. 

Good the beauty of the snowdonia park
Bad the chill factor
Surprising the numbers of people at the summit.

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