So in the quest to keep up my training for the upcoming trek in Transylvania to raise money for Mind, my travel blogging has been suffering a little. I’m finding that most weekends I’m out walking which leaves little time for writing and organising photos. Hopefully all should be back to normal after the trip and I’m sure that I’ll have lots of new experiences to share!
In the last couple of weeks I’ve been out to explore Upper Derwent in the UK Peak District a number of times (blog post to follow) and eventfully, I also climbed Snowdon.
Snowdon is the highest mountain in England and Wales. It’s also a beast of a walk. I knew that I was in for a rough day when it took us longer than planned to get parked up. After a two hour drive, I was ready to get walking, but the busy parking situation meant that 45 minutes later we were still looking for somewhere to park. Once we’d left the car behind, we then had to battle the unhelpful and unfriendly shop workers to purchase a map of the routes up Snowdon. I get that tourists are a pain but if you sell maps, you have to expect that people are going to ask you for the maps, right?!
By the time that we hit the Llanberis path, I was not in the greatest of moods and that was about to get worse. The path itself isn’t too bad: clearly marked and fairly comfortable underfoot, however as the path started to level off, the weather took a turn for the worse and started to rain. Already fairly stroppy, I was highly unimpressed at getting soaked and took shelter in the cafe about half way up. Two ladies heading down in the opposite direction asked about the time to the bottom and their expressions reflected my feelings – they had another hour and a half to descend and I had another two hours to climb up. None of us were happy!
Setting off again, my hood was pulled tight and I was cold and pretty soaked. To make it worse, as we crossed under the train bridge, a thick fog draped over the mountain and it was impossible to see more than a couple of feet ahead. Being quite honest, this completely panicked me. I am not great with heights or edges and the thought that there was a very steep and very narrow edge close by that I couldn’t see or locate was terrifying. I spent the rest of the assent in a state of panic, struggling to control my breathing and stopping every couple of minutes to try and calm myself down. Groups came and went and every time another group disappeared into the fog, I was convinced that we would either end up lost, wandering a mountain alone or falling off an unseen edge. Trying to gain some motivation, we asked a couple of people how far it was to the summit. A mixture of responses, including: “10 minutes“, “about 40 minutes” and “another hour, but it’s horrible up there” didn’t make me feel much better. At one point, we were seriously considering turning around and going back down. The thought of getting on the train to come back down the mountain was the only thing pushing me to the top. That and the thought of the pizza I was going to demolish when I arrived home.
Upon reaching the top, there was no celebration or taking of photos. For one, it was far too wet to risk taking out my phone to snap a shot or two and secondly, the photos would have showed fog and not much else. By that point, I just wanted to get somewhere warm and dry. I didn’t care that we had just scaled the highest mountain in England and Wales; I just wanted to go home. Heading to the visitor’s centre, hair plastered to the side of my face and dripping, I closely resembled a drowned rat.
Alas, the plan to return down the mountain via train was not to be. There were no spaces on the train (of course not; the weather was terrible, no one in their right mind would have chosen to walk over taking the train) and so, after spending far longer than necessary huddled over the hand dryer in the toilets, we set off on our descent.
As soon as we headed out in to the fog again, I could feel the panic trying to take hold. Then came my saviour. A guy in front of us, hiking with his two young children (who simultaneously made me feel ashamed for panicking and reassured that if they could do it, so could I) was talking about how many times he’d done Snowdon, his approach to the different routes and how to stay safe in the mountains. So we did what any logical people would do; we stuck close to him down the mountain, pretty much latching onto his group until we reached a lower point on the path. They didn’t know it, but that man and his children were my saviours that day!
In total, it took us about 5-6 hours to go up and down Snowdon, however we later worked out that it took us around 4 hours up and only an hour and a half to come back down: a sign of how desperate I was to get back to the car and the warm heaters!
Looking back, I’m glad I did it. Taking on the challenge in the bad weather has given me a chance to realise how quickly the weather can change in the mountains and how well prepared you need to be. It also gave me some practice with heights and edges, regardless of how much I wanted to be on lower ground. That being said, it wasn’t a walk that I enjoyed. So it’s one to add to the tick list, but I think that I’ll leave Snowdon to more enthusiastic walkers next time!