Snowdonia in Winter Hiking Snowdon & Wild Camping 2014/04/23
There's this strange feeling I get when carrying luggage through a
train station. Something about the noises and sensations that remind
me of my past travels and it fills me with wanderlust. It was this,
combined with nervous excitement that stirred my heart as I climbed
onto the escalator, ascending out of London's Underground into the
early morning light at Euston. What awaited me at the top was not just
Sunny and a greasy breakfast but a high speed train north, towards
Snowdonia in winter.
Two trains, a taxi, and a Sherpa bus later I was tightening my laces and
picking up my pack in the Pen y Pass car park. This was to be our first
of four days in the region and we would begin with a challenge. Welcome
to Snowdonia in winter.
Looking at the summit of Snowdon
covered in a white blanket.
We headed up the Pyg track for a short distance before cutting off up a
steep scramble to Crib Goch where we would follow the arête towards
Snowdon itself on a route known as the horseshoe. The weather was fine
with only a breath of gently cooling breeze.
Keen as mustard we left the track and headed upwards, it was only a
matter of meters before we were using our hands to assist our ascent. As
we scrambled upwards we became rapidly more exposed to the freshening
wind from the north and it was only a very short way up that we had to
reassess the situation. The path along Crib Goch followed a knife edge
and the wind now was already reaching a speed that made us nervous as we
A big part of what we do on these trips
is about pushing our own boundaries and conquering some of our own
physical and mental limitations but even so the most important thing is
living to fight another day, so with the wind and the unfamiliar ground
in mind, we turned and headed back to the track. Whilst I wish we had
taken the high route, if placed in that situation I would always do as
we did. But as it turned out our "easy route" was not to be as plain
sailing as we imagined.
Pyg Track Snowdonia in Winter
Back on the Pyg track we continued west, with Crib Goch ascending above
us and the Miner's Track below. As we moved on, so more and more
of the snow-capped peak of Snowdon appeared and again we began to fear
for our ascent as it became clear that our route up the valley was snow
covered towards the crest. The top of the Pyg track meets the Ranger and
Llanberis Paths to the summit on a flat topped ridge. As we looked up
towards this ridge, which stands a little less than a kilometre above
sea level, we could see evidence of an earlier avalanche and several
cornices formed by windblown snow. As we approached we carefully
assessed the situation and stopped and interrogated each passing walker
or climber for their own account of the summit. Some had made it, some
had turned back.
It was during this ascent that I was
really reminded of how much I enjoy the company of like minded people. I
have yet to meet an unpleasant person on a mountain and it really is a
great leveller. On the way up we stopped and spoke to old men, young
couples and everything in between and each was happy to pass the time of
day and share their experiences with us. I feel this is really important
and it's one of the reason's I really enjoy working with Ember; I get to
pass on that enthusiasm to others and hopefully get some more young
people into the outdoors.
Luckily for us the Pyg track, whilst steep is fairly simple and well
trodden snow proved little challenge for most of the ascent, even near
the top there were still times when we could pick our way along exposed
rocks from the track. Approximately 20 meters from the top we looked up
to see that our path would take us below a cornice and several sets of
crampon prints lead to a cutting through it to the top. With no crampons
we decided this too risky and turned to face directly upwards using the
fronts of our boots to kick steps into the snow. From the shadow of the
mountain I broke the crest first, into the afternoon sunlight and a
stunning sight. As my head cleared the snow a vision of green perfection
was revealed before me, green lush hills bathed in sunlight with
glistening lakes scattered like so many jewels between them.
The final climb to the summit is steady
from here, Sunny and I ascending the steps buzzing with exhilaration.
After some macho fist bumps we quickly descended the snowfields on the
back on the mountain and searched for our first campsite.
Over the next three days we continued to explore the area, camping two
nights and staying another in a guest house in Llanberis. Sunny had a
chance to test out the Snugpak Ionosphere whilst I stuck with bivi
bag and tarp, a setup that would really be tested in the strong winds of
the second night. Let me just say this, if you want to set up a tarp in
the open in Wales I suggest using something more retentive than regular
round pegs unless you want multiple excursions into the driving rain in
naught but your keks to re-peg the errant tarp.