During May, four of my friends and I visited Wales, a country so close, it often gets over looked as a holiday destination. While we had plenty of plans for our trip, one of the highlights for me was the challenge of hiking up Snowdon: Wale’s highest mountain.
I love a challenge. Especially one where I can really push myself and to say that I have climbed a mountain (regardless of how high it is) is a pretty impressive thing to say. As a group, we weren’t exactly the fittest but spending 10 hours on our feet all day at work meant that we all had relatively strong legs and had decent levels of endurance. The route we took would take us roughly 4-5 hours to climb with the intention being to jump on the Snowdon Express for the descent.
Kitted with water, hiking boots and a sack load of conversations, we began the trek. The first little bit wasn’t too bad. A descent incline put us to work but it wasn’t anything too dramatic. Norwich is probably the hilliest part of Norfolk so inclines like this weren’t uncommon. I remember thinking to myself how easy this will be if this is all the incline was. Stupid, naive me. After ten minutes or so the path diverted away from the tarmac road we had been flowing and turned into a rocky, mountain-esk landscape. I can’t begin to express how truly beautiful the scenery around us was. Even this early into the mission, the surrounding mountains and valleys framed a landscape that Bob Ross would have been eager to paint.
The next hour was pretty steady. The incline had leveled out and it felt more like a walk to the mountain rather than an actual assent. The Snowdon Express passed us several times and seeing it was added motivation to reach the top, knowing we would have a much easier descent. Friendly sheep lined the route for us. As May marked the end of lambing session, the neighboring fields were littered with happy little bleets and bouncing baby sheep. It was a really peaceful sound.
The half way point was marked by a toilet-less cafe (I emphasis the lack of toilet. We weren’t aware that there wouldn’t be any facilities during the route and there is no way I was peeing behind a rock. It made us ration out our water a bit more sparingly). This seemed like the perfect place to have lunch. Lined in a row facing the valley, watching the sheep down below was amazing. We happened to be hiking on one of the warmest days of the year and despite my efforts, my pale completion had already begun to turn a nice shade of beetroot. Before we rejoined the path, we noticed the climb ahead of us. Despite this being the halfway point, it was not half way up in height and we were about to pay for the relatively easy, first half.
Massive stone steps climbed the sides of Snowdon. Each one being around 8 inches high. We really struggled. My tactic was to power through as I knew the moment I stopped, I would lose all momentum. The climb was grueling. While we struggles, people clearly trying to do the ‘3 Peak’s Challenge’ raced past us, practically hopping on each step. Watching them was more draining than the climb itself.
At the top of the stony stairway was a rail bridge and as you passed through it, a new landscape came into view. Different mountains encapsulating a lake of bright blue water. I have honestly never seen water that blue, especially in Great Britain. The cars deep in the valley looked like little worker ants. The next climb was just as steep and twice as high however we had traded the stony steps for a slippery dust path with little grip. This is when the group started to fall apart. One of my friends (who is quite abit shorter than the rest of us and thus had to take twice as many steps) began to suffer from significant hip pain. Not long after, another friend started to suffer from “challenge delirium”. The point in a challenge where you can’t see an end, where all hope fade: The wall. In reality, we could actually see the summit, it was just another mile in the sky.
Dispute the pain, the tiredness, the delirium, we continued together, as a family. The dirt track twisted and turned. Fallen (resting) walkers scattered along the grass banks but we pushed on. Descenders encouraged us along the way, remarking how the summit was just around the corner. Indeed it was, they just failed to mention another,yet shorter, stony staircase. At the base of the final climb, we declared to do this together, to summit as ones united. Giving it everything we had, we climbed. Blisters popping, knees buckling and the sunburn scorching. As we took our final steps, the summit visitors center game into view, as well as some much needed shade.
What we didn’t realise was that there actual summit was a steep, pointed shard just off to the left of the center. A spiral staircase run up both sides. Two of my exhausted friends deemed the end goal. The other three of us decided to climb the last little bit.
Much to our horror, the high had brought out swarms of bugs and we couldn’t bask in the success of reaching the summit for long before the hoard drove us back down. I did have time for a quick victory selfie though and why not, we were victorious!
At the visitors center and subsequently the train station, we were told that there were only three seats available on the train. That is a soul crushing thing to hear. There was not question that my friend Tom and I would be the ones walked back down. After all, we were the two in the most reasonable condition and would descend the fastest.
In all honesty, the walk back down the mountain was far more enjoyable and working with gravity meant that we managed to reach the bottom in just under 2 hours. It had taken is 4.5 hours to climb.
If you ever get the opportunity to hike up a mountain, especially one as ‘tame’ as Snowdon, I strongly recommend that you take it. It was four hours of exercise, of no technology, of pure wilderness with some of the best views I have ever scene. I would even recommend walking back down as it’ll save you the £25 train fare.
The best of all, the climb was free and only took your time. Do it so you can say:
I climbed Snowdon!