Parking Buzz the motorhome in a convenient lay by just opposite the bus stop we waited by the side of the road for the bus to come. Before that happened a Snowdonia Taxi, part of the Snowdon Sherpa service arrived, picking up 3 lads and asking us if we’d like to share. The fare was £2 each but we didn’t have any cash so told him we couldn’t. After a few moments of umming and arring, he gestured for us to get in and said he’d take us anyway! Arriving at the Pen y Pass car park we peered up the hill trying to see the summit of Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales. The path didn’t look too steep, it didn’t look too high and didn’t look too far. Surely we’d be up and down in no time? Although the knowledge that Edmund Hillary trained here before conquering Mount Everest should have given us a clue that it wouldn’t exactly be a doddle, (even though he would have taken the more difficult route than us)!
The last time we climbed anything challenging was in San Rocco in Italy and we weren’t exactly well-equipped, underestimating how long it would take and wearing the completely wrong footwear. This time around we were kitted out with plenty of food and drink, various layers of clothing and most importantly some sturdy walking boots. The Miners’ track is 8 miles long and used to be used to transport copper from Llyn Glaslyn to Pen y Pass. The estimated time given for taking this path is 6 hours and with rest stops, lunch and taking the Pyg path on the way back that seems about right. The walk starts off at a bit of an incline but on an easy, fairly flat track, dotted with grazing sheep.
The weather outlook wasn’t great with a cloudy start and a bit of a white out at the summit until around 4pm, but we were here for a purpose and we weren’t going to put it off. There are six routes to choose from varying in length and difficulty and we’d decided to go up the Miners’ track and down the Pyg track for a bit of variety. The summit towers over the village of Llanberis at 3,560 ft above sea level and on a clear day offers fantastic views over Snowdonia, Anglesey, Pembrokeshire and even Ireland. There is also a Snowdon Mountain Railway train that goes up to the summit which is quite a tempting idea and ideal if you’re unable to do the walk.
Just 20 minutes into the walk and we were already hotting up, taking off our coats and wondering why we’d brought them. The incline is just enough to get the heartrate going, get you warmed up and realise this is going to be quite a long, hard slog. After the initial fairly easy bit, the path begins to climb steeply to Llyn Glaslyn, where it becomes a considerably harder climb over scree and uneven rocks with some quite high, awkward steps until reaching the intersection of the Miners’ and the Pyg Tracks. The path then zigzags upwards to Bwlch Glas, and then finally on to the summit.
The route is interesting and varied with some fabulous views, lakes and remnants of mining activity, the crushing mill and barracks along the way. All good reasons (excuses) to stop, take a breath and pretend you are taking them all in rather than just gasping and trying to get your breath back! We love doing these kinds of walks and while tiring at the time, it’s so rewarding when you reach the top. You get a real sense of achievement which is doubled when you get back down to the bottom.
It was a real sense of relief when we reached the summit. The breeze had got up and it was noticeably cooler with moisture in the air. The only downside was that it really was cloudy and the spectacular views we would loved to have seen were obscured and all we could see was a white mist hanging in the air. We took our place in the unfortunate queue to get to the very top of the summit with its direction dial mounted on a stone stand and then sat down to devour our lunch and have a coffee knowing that the one and only toilet facility was now at hand in the Hafod Eryri summit visitor centre!
Refreshed, refuelled and invigorated, we made our way back down, this time taking the Pyg trail. Although going down takes less energy it still takes quite a bit of concentration. The path is very uneven and again quite steep in parts so easier but not easy.
Reaching the bottom, we saw a bus pull in that we could have caught to take us back to where Buzz was parked. But we also saw a hostel and bar on the road opposite and the thought of a long, cool beer was just too much to resist at this point. We thought we’d earned it so we crossed the road, got a beer and took a seat on an outside bench, relishing the drink along with the feeling of having just walked up the highest summit in Wales. Cheers!