TJS is now an obsessive Hiker. I’m pretty proud that he’s really keen to get out and has now reached that sad point (for me anyway) where he is fitter, faster and stronger than me – not too tricky these days. Whilst I’m trying to educate him to the charms of lesser known mountains like all new starters there is always that need to climb the higher and more famous peaks. He’s been hassling me for years to take him up Snowdon but it’s not exactly on our doorstep. Whilst in the Llyn Peninsula a few weeks back, less than an hour away, I finally made good on my promise.
We chose a route up the western side, mainly as it’s the closest to where we were staying but it’s also quieter and a side I’ve not seen much of.
We set off from Rhydd Ddu under a grey sky with a promise of sunshine later and headed up through the mine workings to Bwlch Cwn Llan. The sun started to peep through the clouds but Snowdon was still capped by cloud. There was clearly sunshine out west and we hoped we’d see that later – we had a long day planned
The col is a fine place, a real atmosphere of industry long gone amongst great scenery. Rather than despoiling a mountain I find these old quarries fascinating. A glimpse into the past.
As an appetiser we climbed Yr Aran to the south of the col. A summit as good as Snowdon itself but much quieter (we had it all to ourselves). After a steep climb we crested the summit in watery sunshine to a panorama around the Snowdon Massif, across Cardigan Bay and to the western Snowdonia Mountains of Moel Heog, the Nantlle Ridge and Mynydd Mawr.
I often point out to TJS that smaller hills often give better views than the higher summits and this one is a great case in point
We still had our main summit to climb and we retraced our steps to the col and began the long ascent up the south ridge. I’ve read that this is a long and uninteresting route but I thought it was grand.
For a start it was pretty much deserted, a real blessing considering what was to come. The views across to Y Lliwedd and into Cwm Tregalan were fabulous and we took an early lunch before we ascended to the summit.
The Rhydd Ddu path came in and the numbers increased as we crossed the narrow ridge of Bwlch Main. Then the Watkin path joins and the crowds and noise increase further.
Nothing prepares you for the summit of Snowdon in summer. It was awful. There must have been 300 people or more on the summit. You had to queue to reach the very top. We managed a quick photo and then found a relatively quiet spot for a sit.
There was hundreds more people on the Pyg track and the train was disgorging hundreds more. The views from the summit are awesome. Snowdon is a truly magnificent mountain. Ridges radiating in all directions enclosing deep corries and lakes. Truly deserving of the highest summit in Wales.
Trouble is it’s very accessible and massive draw for walkers. I’d expected it to be bad but it was much, much worse. I couldn’t wait to get away. We’d had some reasonable views but the summit was still slipping in and out of the clouds so no sense hanging around with the rest of the UK population or so it seemed
As we tried to get away there was an absolute stream of people on their way up still. It was like being in a shopping centre such was the commotion and noise. I took a little solace from the fact that large numbers of people looked very unhappy and ill-equipped, clearly not expecting the summit to be so cold and so far from the car. I know this probably makes me a very bad person. Staggers me how many people have no idea of how conditions can change between a car park and a summit 3500 feet up in the clouds and just how much effort it takes to get there. I felt a little sad about it all.
When I could take no more we took off from the Llanberis path and went over to the edge that overlooks the pass. The change was instant and dramatic. Suddenly the noise had gone and all was silent, the views majestic
Now we’d got the mountain back we left the crowds behind for good and headed down to Llyn Du’r Arddu. What a magnificent spot. The massive and well renowned climbing crag of Clogwyn Du’r Arddu towers above. The lake deep and blue even under a grey sky. And the thing is it was completely deserted. A sensational spot just half a mile from the throngs above and it was all ours. Mountains can be an odd experience sometimes.
I’d planned a swim in the lake but the skies were still grey and the air just too chilly. We pressed on for our return to Rhydd Ddu, picking up an excellent climbers path that traversed easily back around to the Snowdon Ranger path over Bwlch Cwm Brwynog.
Suddenly the skies cleared and the sun came out in force and we were treated to a wonderful sunny afternoon stroll back to the car. Again ignoring the main paths we found a way across the moors and picked up a fine path through the quarries back to Rhydd Ddu.
A little boggy in places and much further than it looked but the views were now sensational. Moel Hebog really catches the eye, looking much higher than its modest 782m and very surprising that I’ve never climbed it. I’ll be correcting that soon.
As earlier Mynydd Mawr and the Nantlle Ridge were also magnificent and the walk back under clear skies away from the crowds was a total pleasure. A staggering contrast to the crowds on the summit that darkened my heart so much.
Tired and weary – it was 12 mile and 4000 feet of ascent sort of day – we exchanged happy grins at the car. The choice of route had been a good one, minimising our exposure to the crowds to just over a mile.
We both agreed that any future visits to Snowdon should be out of season and preferably a weekday. The Snowdon Horsehoe still beckons for TJS, one of the UKs best mountaineering routes, just not in the summer holidays