Climbing Mount Snowdon

Feb. 4, 2017

I’m alive, well, and exhausted. Huzzah. 

I didn’t know that Mount Snowdon was climbable this time of year. Apparently, tons of hikers were heading up there, but from the looks of the icy snowcaps from afar, I kept my distance. 

Well, until I found the footpath and realised how easy the trail was…

More on that in a bit. I spent the day in Llanberis, a tiny village at the base of Snowdon – and only 10 min by bus from the bunkhouse I was in the night before. If I had known that Llanberis was the main village for Snowdon, I would have just stayed here for two nights – it’s such a cute little place with endless trails and beautiful landscapes. 

I walked up to the Ceunant Mawr Waterfall on a trail just off High St. (here we go again, High St. being the main street – even in Wales, haha). I’ll never get tired of seeing waterfalls. There’s something really relaxing about seeing a ton of water flowing into rivers below. This one was definitely a beauty, similar to the ones I saw in Ambleside. 

Speaking of Ambleside – Wales definitely seems like a continuation of the Lake District. They are pretty close in distance – but man, this place is picturesque. How lucky can the Welsh and British (and Scots and Irish) actually be, to call these areas their home?!

I spent the majority of the day hiking (my feet are never going to heal at this rate)- and I should have researched better and set off for Snowdon bright and early in the morning, but instead had no idea and chose to just wander around aimlessly in the woods.

I got some pretty stellar aerial views of Snowdon and the bordering mountain ranges when the sun was out in the morning- a true difference from yesterday’s consistent rain and sheer fog and gloom. There was a massive rock quarry trail that I also climbed, in which I could see both the lakes Llyn Padang and Llyn Peris. Absolute gems. 

That same trail led into Coed Dinorwig, a lovely forest with about five different trails to choose from. I ended up coming down on the opposite side of where I started, below Vivian Quarry. It definitely looked like the towering gates of Mordor. 

Rock quarries are so cool, and this one particularly looked like something out of the mines from the Snow White film. I found it really neat that there was a tiny PADI shack set up outside the entrance – apparently lots of divers go into the quarry’s lake. I passed by two divers who had just emerged from the water when I went around taking photos – I can’t imagine how frigid the water must be, even with wetsuits on.  

The ruins of Dolbadarn Castle also were incredible to check out (it was only a small tower and little bits of the wall, so there wasn’t an admission fee- it’s like a national monument mainly).    

The National Slate Museum, Llanberis Lake Railway, high ropes course, Snowdon cafes, and Snowdon Mountain Railway were all closed until March (as expected). The steam train that goes all the way up the mountain and back would be lovely to see during the summer, but I’d probably want to climb Snowdon again rather than train it. 

So about Snowdon… at around 3pm (half the day gone), I saw a clear sign leading the way to “Snowdon footpaths.” 

I intended to just climb for an hour and then go back down to get back to the village before the sun went down. 

I ended up climbing (most of) the mountain. I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t summit it. I would have, if I had started in the morning (WITH PROPER RESEARCH) – and because the snow, winds, and the last bit of the trail leading up looked really perilous. 

Well, actually, that’s not entirely true. I mainly was just dumb about this whole thing. I THOUGHT that where I ended up at 5pm (when the sun was just fading away, so I couldn’t stay for long) was the summit because it had such an incredible view. I saw the train tracks and sketchy path up to the top of a higher peak and thought, “Hell no, I am not going to be blown off the top of that mountain.” I probably would have attempted it if it was earlier, though. Regret #ilostcount of this trip… 😉

Because of this spontaneous climb, I obviously wasn’t prepared (not like I was going to have the gear anyway)- no crampons, no trekking poles, a little bit of water. Thank goodness for the right clothing and my headlamp that I use practically everywhere. I had on thermals underneath my trousers and four layers (three coats), so I wasn’t cold at all, actually. 

Yet, it’s still a miracle how I manage to hike solo everywhere and haven’t wound up as a report on the news. I’m so stubborn that I wasn’t really willing to hike most of the way up, only to just turn around without scaling some snow. 

The path itself was surprisingly easy. It wasn’t massively uphill and definitely not nearly as exhausting as Mt. Batur (Bali). I was dilly-dallying and kept taking photos and breaks on the way up, so it took me around 2 hours up – but 45 min racing downhill, because I wanted to get the heck off the mountain in the darkness. And also because it started snow flurrying as soon as I was done taking photos. 

Running downhill in four layers, hiking boots, and a massive backpack – definitely a formula for disaster, and yet nothing happened. I’m blessed by the travel Gods, HA! 

The most beautiful part of the trail was the trickiest because of the snow – the icy part uphill. Some of it was paved with rocks, and some was just sheer snow. The soft powder snow was fine, but the slippery rocks and wet ice was awful because you never knew if one wrong slip could lead to an injury. Most of the path uphill was right along a plunging cliff, obviously – so going downhill was particularly scary, especially being alone. Because it had rained so heavily yesterday, there was a heap of fresh snow as well. Still worked out in my favour, since the more snow, the merrier – absolutely love winter. I’d much prefer these views than ones of the summer. 

The best part was having no one in my photos when I reached the semi-top. The worst part was knowing that I was the last one up for the entire day – no one else was behind me nor had passed me on my ascent. If something went wrong, no other hikers on their way down could have sent for help, and it was a little scary realising that. I’m always alone and no one knows my whereabouts- not even my friends who live in the UK, because I’m not going to message them constantly about my plans for each day. All I could think was, “I’m the worst REI employee ever.” But in my defense, half the people who passed me on their descent were kids, families, dogs and their owners… so if they could all summit Snowdon, I probably should have risked the winds and snowstorm as well (just kidding, not when it was already getting dark). 

The view was beyond breathtaking, though. There was an icy lake near the base, limitless sheets of white everywhere, and panoramic views of huge mountain ranges. 

 Lesson learned? Always research. Always start hikes early morning. And just pray with all your might that you won’t slip and go rolling off the side of a mountain… thanks for the adventure, Mount Snowdon. xx

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