Thursday, 25 June 2015

The Snowdon Adventure

Back in late 2014 one of my work colleagues asked me to organise a trip to Snowdon to walk Crib Goch, a host of invites were sent out and accepted and the planning began. The loose plan was to walk the Snowdon horseshoe, which goes up Crib Goch to the summit, heads down via the Watkin Path before heading up Y Lliwedd and then on to Cwm Llan and returns to the car park at Pen-y-Pass via the Miners’ track. Priority for the trip was a relaxed enjoyable weekend and not a test of endurance.

Fast forward 6 months and said work colleagues had abandoned the idea and this left Emma, Lee and myself as the sole adventurers on what would turn out to be a fantastic weekend in Wales.

I’d booked us into the superb Plascurig hostel ( which boasts a five star rating with comfortable and well-appointed bunks. Emma and I were staying in our own private room and Lee was bunked in one of the dorm rooms. We arrived early and got settled in, spending some time chatting with the friendly staff and guests where we learned that Jude Law was apparently filming nearby, hence the fleets of off roaders and film trucks in the area. The facilities in the hostel are superb with a contemporary design punctuated with individual pieces of furniture, large kitchen and dining area
and comfortable living areas. A host of showers meant at worst a short wait to get washed and the backdrop of Snowdon and the river helped set the scene for a truly memorable weekend.

A short stroll down to the river and along to the village gave us a chance to unwind from the journey and to check out the river. Lee announced this as the perfect habitat for dippers and we began to suspect that his interest in birds ran a bit deeper than first hinted at.  Shortly after this the first dipper was spotted and ever since it’s been our most sort after bird.

Over a decent evening meal (thanks Emma) we discussed the possible routes to take. Knowing Emma’s fear of heights and my tendency to underplay the technicality of things (never trust me when I say “it’s just a small technical trail”) we agreed to modify our route and follow the Miners’ track to the summit rather than face the exposure of Crib Goch. At this point I have to confess to withholding that the route up Y Lliwedd may be more of a scramble than a walk, but hey there has to be a tricky part. Route confirmed, we retired with the aim of getting an early start.

Saturday morning arrived to a bright and clear day and I was surprised with the number  of people leaving the hostel at 7am. None the wiser to what this indicated we breakfasted and left at around 8am for the Pen-y-pass car park.

Which upon arrival was full.

Following instructions from the car park attendant we headed down the road about 2 miles and found
a layby with a bus stop opposite. A strong cold wind greeted us as we exited the car and after a short wait we squeezed onto a very full bus. The cries of sympathy for the late arrivals held no sway for the bus driver who’s clearly overloaded bus could simply take no more people. I certainly felt sorry for the dad and two young kids facing a half hour wait in the bitter wind.

Upon being deposited at the Pen-y-pass car park we did a quick kit check and then set off along the Miners’ track on the start of our walk. The high winds certainly made the decision to avoid Crib Goch more favourable and we enjoyed the gradual climb and shelter of the lower path while taking in the fantastic views along the way. With no time pressures and no kids to worry about we strolled along the Miners’ track to the start of the climb to the Pyg track, stopping for photos and snacks as we went.

The climb to intersect with the Pyg track was steep and we had warmed up nicely by the time we joined the main track and followed the stream of people up to the summit.
The wind was howling over the summit with a frost coating the vegetation at the top; and as we climbed the cairn for the obligatory ‘I conquered the mountain pose’
we struggled to keep our footing in the high wind. The bright clear day offered us impressive views of the surrounding countryside and we could see Ireland across the sea. With heat being stripped from our bodies we didn't linger at the summit, instead choosing to drop down into the leeward side of the mountain to have lunch, bundled up in our extra layers.

Taking lunch out of the wind
Our choice of lunch spot proved great entertainment, as with the café at the top closed (you can also take the train up!) we watched people searching for a toilet spot only to turn a corner and find three people watching them, which resulted in some hilarious rapid retreats.

 I collected a summit rock for our daughters rock collection and we began our descent via the Watkins path. The steep and loose path contrasted the gradual and well warn Miners’ and Pyg tracks we had used to ascend and we deviated off trail to take in the views around the ridge (translate as ‘we got a bit off track’) before beginning the ascent to Y Lliwedd.

Scrambling to the top of y LliweddThe trail soon turned to a scramble and Emma’s fear of heights reared its head, reassuring me that the additional exposure of Crib Goch would have pushed her too far outside her comfort zone.

Summiting the west peak of Y Lliwedd we stopped to enjoy the more sheltered view and removed a few layers as the temperature began to rise. I was glad I applied some suntan lotion as a precaution as the full power of the sun could be felt now the wind had dropped.

We then started our dascent (a term Lee coined as yet another of my “it’s all down from here” comments revealed yet another climb), following the well-worn path down gullies and steep descents to join the Miners’ track again in the shelter of the horseshoe. In high spirits we enjoyed a strange game of hopscotch with a veiled lady determined to be the first down. Fortunately we gained the upper hand on the next dascent, clinching the victory and reaching the carpark first.

A short trek back to the car and we were soon on our way back to Plascurig for a well-earned shower.

Suitably refreshed, our next port of call was obviously the pub. Our destination was the Tyn-y-Coed Inn at Capel Curig, a short walk (with obligatory dipper spotting) down the road from the hostel and we all enjoyed a hearty meal. I opted for what was possibly one of the largest desserts I've ever eaten and was certainly ‘calorie neutral’ afterwards. A few pints later saw a much slower return to the hostel and we ended the evening with some Jack Daniels Honey before retiring for the night.

Sunday morning saw us heading back home where our families waited. A quick stop for breakfast at the café next door to the hostel where Lee confused everyone by playing bird songs on his phone (told you his interest for birds ran deeper than first revealed) and then the long drive home. Definitely a highlight of the year and opting for the more sedate adventure in great company over our usual demanding adventures made for a relaxing and enjoyable time.

Roll on the next trip.

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