Sunday, 26 February 2012

Snowdon The Llanberis Path

A few weeks ago Simon, an old colleague of mine who has become a good friend, asked me if I wanted to join him and a few friends for a walk up Snowdon. Simon is enjoying downhill mountain biking at the moment and wanted to check out the Llanberis Path as a potential downhill route. Being a hill walker I know that people may presume I will have a negative reaction to the idea of people zooming down the mountain sides on mountain bikes, but I don't. I think that by working together and sensibly, most outdoor adventure sports can live side by side. And why not, after all they are all just trying to enjoy the outdoors and live a healthy lifestyle. Simon told me about the Snowdon Voluntary Cycle Agreement, which I had never heard of before. Snowdonia National Park, Gwynedd County Council and several biking associations came together to agree a compromise to avoid a total bike ban on Snowdon. The agreement is that during the busy summer period from 1st May to 30th Sept mountain bikers can only use the majority of Snowdon's paths and bridleways during early morning before 10am or late evenings after 5pm. To be honest mountain bikers have got a good deal as they are the best times of the day as any experienced hill walker knows. So with all this in mind, Simon wanted to check out the Llanberis Path to see if it would be possible to downhill the path.

Snowdon Mountain Railway & Moel Eilio beyond


I had a busy week as I had either played or been to watch football every night this week. Friday was my bosses leaving party after work and unfortunately despite saying I would only have a few I ended up having a lot more and didn't get in until late on Friday night. I went straight to bed when I got in and was then up with a hangover at 7:45am to pack and drive to Snowdonia. The missus still has a broken leg and can't stand on it, so I felt a bit guilty as I had not spent enough time with her this week and had a mountain of house work to do. I walked outside the front of the house to get in my car, only to realise that I had left the car at the tram stop the night before as I was going to be drinking. I therefore started the day by having to walk a mile on tarmac just to get my car! Being in a rush when I left I was convinced I must have left something important behind. As I rounded the slip road to the M56 I looked up to see the silhouette of Shining Tor and Shutlingsloe beyond a plane rising out of Manchester Airport, all backed by a glowing sunrise. A mile along on the motorway a huge fat Buzzard sat and watched me drive by. As usual it felt good to be in the car heading to the hills at weekend, despite the fact my head was still hurting from the beer the night before. I bought a petrol station sandwich which was absolutely disgusting, but I knew I had to eat to make myself stronger, luckily the Snickers I downed soon after had a familiar taste. I passed the Helsby Man, an inland sandstone sea cliff near the Mersey Estuary, which when seen from the M56 heading west produces a shape similar to the outline of a mans face.

The Glyders from Clogwyn on the Llanberis Path up Snowdon

The A55 which takes you from the M56 across North Wales is my favourite road, yes I have a favourite road. The tunnels, sea scapes, islands, castles, quarrys and of course mountains, always make for an exciting eye opening journey. There is a very steep hill on the A55 known as Rhuallt Hill and from the top of this hill, just before it descends, there is a sneaky peak towards the mountains of Snowdonia. If you can see the mountains from here then it is a fairly good indication of a good weather day. The most prominent mountain in view is Moel Siabod which looks awesome from the east. I could see all the mountains so hopes of a good view from the top of Wales's highest today were high. By the time I got to Llanberis Simon was already there and the others turned up seconds later. We all shook hands and I was introduced to the guys who I hadn't met before. One of the lads was actually a driver on the Six Peaks Challenge I did for Water Aid a few years ago, so we had both met before in this Llanberis car park. We set off along what in my opinion is one of the toughest parts of the entire route, the steep minor road out of Llanberis. After the road and saying hello to some friendly ponies we headed through the gate on to the Llanberis Path. The views over towards the Dinorwig quarry spills below Elidir Fawr were as fascinating as always. It was here when I took my camera out of its case to take the first photo of the day that I realised what I had left behind in the morning. I didn't check my camera gear before I left and forgot to take the camera's SD card out of my Macbook. Ah well iPhone photos it would sadly have to be. I was way too hot in my winter combo of walking trousers over my Ron Hills so I zipped off my trousers to look like a bit of a wally, but didn't care as it was too damn hot. Ridiculous weather for a February walk up Snowdon.

Feathery Hoar Frost on grass on Snowdon

We soon realised that one of the lads wasn't wanting to storm up the mountain so Simon and myself stayed behind with him whilst the other two went at their own faster pace. Unfortunately one of them had his waterproof jacket so he wasn't best pleased when we got higher. Luckily I had a spare as I was using my wind shirt instead. I actually enjoyed the slow pace as the last time times I had come up Snowdon this way I was more or less jogging. We passed the half way house and then ascended the steep section to Clogwyn. All the way up admiring stunning views across to the Moel Eilio ridge. I have to come back one day and do the circuit of Moel Eilio as it looks like a great day out. The view over to The Glyders that hits you after passing under the railway at Clogwyn was amazing as it always is. This path gets a bad name and is often referred to as the Tourist Path, but it is a brilliant walk with stunning views. As we ascended away from Clogwyn we entered the cloud base and for the first time all day it finally felt like winter. Extra clothes now on we made our way up to the Finger Stone. Mark who was really buzzing off his first proper big mountain would have loved the views from here, I was really gutted he couldn't see them as all the way up the Llanberis Path he was really buzzing off the views. I love seeing people walk up mountains for the first time who enjoy it as much as he did. The rocks and grass were now covered in beautiful feathery hoar frosts. We also met the two other guys at the Finger Stone who were now on their way back down. There was the odd patch of snow though not much. We went up to the summit cairn and took the obligatory summit photo. When you stand on top of Snowdon, Ben Nevis or Scafell Pike you are literally the highest human being on land in the country at that time. That is something I love reminded people of as its a hell of an achievement to stand up there no matter what anyone says about Snowdon.

Simon, Me and Mark at the Snowdon summit cairn

No views from the summit, just freezing cold and cloudy. We checked out the summit shelter and used it as a giant wind break where we shared a triple pack sandwich that Simon kindly shared between the three of us. In a rush in the morning I also forgot the food I had brought with me. There were a few mountain bikers at the summit so Simon talked to them about the routes they had taken. We set off on our descent down the Llanberis Path. When we finally reached Clogwyn station, although we had finally come below the cloud base, we could tell that the weather had certainly come in. Surrounding hills and mountains were now shrouded in cloud. As we made our way down the steep section below Clogwyn a few more mountain bikers were coming down. I watched in amazement at how well their full suspension bikes descended down the steep rocky footpath. If you'd told me someone could go down that path on a bike I would never have believed it. But after seeing them come down it I could now see it was totally possible. Simon was loving it as this was exactly what he had come to see. The descent was straight forward back to Llanberis. I absolutely love Snowdon and love that so many people including tourists and first timers get to enjoy it. Many of these people go on to climb hundreds more and find an appreciation for the outdoor world forever. Those that end up in trouble through lack of the right gear or planning, which is a small percentage of those that actually climb the mountain, will learn important lessons. At the end of the day, if you want a quiet mountain, choose one of the other thousands of incredible mountains in Britain, don't whinge about this one. I have climbed this mountain more times than any other and I get very protective, can you tell? It was a great day out with new people and great to see Simon. Until next time Snowdon.

I have uploaded the photos from the day here.

Route Map...

6 comments:

  1. Amazing mountain Snowdon. Who do you need to protect it from?

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  2. I do like a trip report that starts with a hangover. You could pass for Scottish sometimes, honest.

    ;0)

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  3. Mark, I feel protective of Snowdon as so many people give it such an undeserved negative reputation. :-)

    Scott, ha ha pmsl I do have a bit of Ginger in me! ;-)

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  4. There are just so many good routes up Snowdon. It's a great mountain. I was lucky enough once to walk out of the rain on Crib Goch into a complete inversion. The sun was brilliant and hot and the few peaks sticking through the cloud was stunning.
    One of my best days.

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  5. My lovely friends organised a birthday weekend for me in Sept, to walk up Snowden - othe women get diamonds! Most of the walk was in thick fog but as we came down the tourist track the cloud cover broke and the views - wow.

    We had hangovers too...

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  6. Hi Alan, had a few moments on Crib Goch like that myself in the past. I walked up there at 3am once and came out above the clouds whilst on the ridge then watched the sun come up from Snowdon and didn't see a single person until half way down. Amazing mountain and way more than just a tourist attraction as some people scar its reputation as being.

    Hi Alvina, that moment when it clears like that is brilliant. I remember the first time I climbed a proper mountain with my wife several years ago and she was in tears at the sheer sight of the view as the clouds cleared coming down off Moel Siabod in Wales. I had the same thing on Snowdon's summit once with someone I did a charity challenge with, training day and we went up in drizzle all the way then at the top it opened, she just sat in awe and cried. Good hangover cure the fresh air of a mountain walk! ;-)

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