Wilderness Wales


Cliffs in the Mist

The Snowdon Horseshoe

An Early Start

5 a.m. It's beginning to get light. I shout across to Nigel's tent to inform him that it's time to get up. A stunned "Are you real?" echoes back. Yes, I am real, and we are getting up, now! Ok, ok, I'll cut a long story short, we pack up our tents and walk the two miles back to the car, drive to Snowdon, only to find that the tops are covered in hill fog. Maybe it'll clear later we think, optomistically. We're the first in the car park at Pen y Pass. We're greeted by two mightily inquisitive sheep who take a very cheeky interest in the contents of Nigel's rucksack while his back is turned. He shows them who's boss and we start our way up the Pyg Track.

It's pretty easy going at first, the fog actually seems to be lifting, there's even a few stray rays of sunlight here and there. This brightens our mood slightly. Then the sky starts spitting at us, forcing us to don our jackets. The weather's in a playful mood today.

Crib Goch & Crib y Ddysgl

Soon the fun begins. There's an awkward bit to get past, not sure which is the best way to to go. We choose left and enjoy a short scramble. It's steep now but the rock feels good. We'll be up in the mist before long. Time to take a last look back at Llyn Llydaw. The sunlight is reflecting off the lake while the mist swirls around us. It's a nice sight to leave behind, pity we won't be seeing many more.

Nigel gets to the top first as usual, he's the racer, I'm too busy taking photos to care. I'm using a video camera as well, but you can't see that of course. It's getting pretty damp now, the rocks are soaking wet, which makes me slightly paranoid, but the grip is good in spite of that. Looking over the cliff edges we see nothing but mist, the drop could be a hundred foot, a thousand foot, there's no way to tell. We imagine it's a pretty long way down.

A fellow walker catches up with us, or rather we slow down to let him catch up. He's somewhat older than us and seems a little nervous, he's crawling along some parts of the ridge. He says he saw us come up this way so he figured it must be ok. He seems happier to have a little company, but he's having difficulty keeping up with us. He asks if it would be easier if he dropped down to the left. We don't know.

By the time we get to the pinnacles he's disappeared, we feel a bit guilty about leaving him, but it seems safe enough, the visibility isn't great but it's perfectly calm, not the slightest breeze. It's really quite eerie, in an excellent kind of way. Scrambling over the pinnacles is great fun, although there's one really exposed short ledge we have to walk along. I'm not sure if we've taken the correct route in the mist, but we don't have any problems. The hill fog has a way of distorting our sense of space and distance.

At the beginning of the climb to Crib y Ddysgl, we're again unsure of the route. When we replay the video later we realise that we should have gone straight up, but we don't, we veer off to the left instead. It seems easy enough at first but gradually gets more difficult until we find ourselves doing some rather awkward scrambling over some very jagged rocks. Still, we like scrambling, so that's cool.

At the top we meet our first trig point, which signals that the rough going is over, it's an easy stroll from here.Just after we begin our descent we meet a couple of girls who think they're climbing Snowdon. I point out their mistake but suggest they continue anyway since they're almost there, that way they can boast of having climbing two summits instead of just the one that everyone climbs.

Approaching Yr Wyddfa

Soon we arrive at the railway and join the line of walkers who chose to follow the train. After the solitude of the two Cribs, we don't enjoy this part much, the crowds of people, the stench of oil, the noisy train as it rumbles past us. Soon we reach the summit and fight our way through the crowds to the trig point to take the obligatory photograph. As is often the case up here, the view consists of nothing but mist.

Now we pop into the cafe for a rest. Normally we wouldn't enter this place, but we're tired and we really don't fancy sitting outside in the rain. While we're in there we grab a bite to eat. I take out my video camera to record the moment. Big mistake. Condensation! My super-intelligent camera gives me a moisture warning and decides it would be better if I refrained from using it for the rest of the day, great! At least I still have my reliable 35mm SLR.

Occasionally we hear messages on the loudspeakers telling people not to consume their own food on the premises. Could they possibly be referring to us? I'm too tired and hungry to care, besides, where do they think we are? It's not as if we're walking through a town centre. Many mountains provide some kind of shelter on the summit for a rest in bad weather. I think we're entitled to be here.

Just before we leave, the guy we left behind earlier enters, an hour behind us. We're rather relieved, we were starting to develop guilt complexes about leaving him. It turns out that he did drop down to the left, missed out the pinnacles and Crib y Ddysgl and came up the zigzags instead. We bid him farewell, our consciences clear.

Y Lliwedd

It's raining more heavily now, but it's a joy to get away from the tourists. The scree slope on the way down to Bwlch y Saethau is much easier going down than it is coming up. We finally get out of the mist and actually see a view, which makes a nice change, and gives me a reason to take a few snaps. Nigel is impatient, and wants to get on with Y Lliwedd, he doesn't seem to care about me recording these moments for posterity. It's a pleasant stroll along the col, with Y Lliwedd looming just ahead.

By the time we reach Y Lliwedd, the mist has descended and the rain is belting down in earnest. The climb is best described as a miserable, endless slog. I daresay it would be great fun in fine weather but it isn't in these conditions. The rain has completely penetrated my 'showerproof' jacket and I'm literally soaked to the skin. I did anticipate some precipitation, but not this much. I should have remembered that it's August, the monsoon season in Wales. After the uneventful summit there is the consolation of going downhill all the way back.

The last section past the lake would be quite pleasant were it not for me being so cold and wet. All I can think about is getting back to the car. I don't know what Nigel's thinking, we're not bothering to talk much. Once back at Pen y Pass it's a great relief to get changed into some dry clothes. We feel pretty satisfied, in spite of the bad weather. As we drive south-west the sun comes out. As we pass the beaches we see people sunbathing. When we get back home our family tells us we were lucky to have such a nice day for it. Apparently it's been sunny all day.