The day had arrived for us to make the climb up to the Snowdon Summit. There was no putting it off any longer as this was the last day the five of us (myself, Barry, his Auntie Chris, cousin Gary and his girlfriend Triin) were going to be together to climb it. The weather looked ok, the rain had stayed away throughout the night so we were hopeful that it would stay dry for the rest of the day. It was still grey and cloudy but we could cope with that.
It was a nine-mile round hike, which was estimated to take about 6 hours. Although it wasn’t cold where we were starting out, it was windy and the temperature as you near the top was going to drop. With all this in mind, we packed a bag with plenty of snacks and water, thermal layers and our hiking poles. We’d not used them too much before, but with the steep inclines we were due to face, we felt sure they would come in handy. Just as we jumped in Onion Pussy to set off, the rain began to fall. Typical! At least all our gear was waterproof so this wasn’t going to stop us. We’d found these great waterproof over trousers in Millets that packed into a small little bag so you could carry them. No need to weigh down our bags with these though (not that they weighed anything!) straight on they went over my thermal leggings!
It was a 40-minute drive from our campsite to the starting point of the summit trail. There are a number of routes you can take to the top of Snowdon, but we’d chosen to do the Llanberis Trail. It was the longest, but easiest trail. No sheer drops off the edge of the path (my biggest fear) and the least steep of all the trails.
As we neared the start point, I was noticing mountains all around us. This was sending me into a slight panic. You see, when Barry announced that he wanted to do the three peaks for our holiday I can’t say I was that excited. I have a fear of heights and whilst it has gotten better over the years it’s still very much there. It’s not very rational (as no fears are really). I did a skydive in New Zealand (don’t ask me how!) and this didn’t seem to panic me at all. I climbed up a glacier and repelled down a crevasse in Alaska. Flying doesn’t worry me, be it in a plane or a tiny helicopter, but what does scare me is sheer drops and being up high, outdoors, completely exposed to the elements. I have a fear that the wind is going to blow me over the edge or I’m going to suddenly trip and go tumbling down to the bottom. I was so anxious about doing these climbs Barry had planned that I actually went to visit a hypnotist to see if she could cure my fear. I only had one session as she was confident that this had cured me. She made me rationalise everything – why would I trip and fall? Do I normally trip and fall when I’m walking? Why would the wind blow me over the edge? Is it normally so strong that it will blow me over? When I left her office, I felt confident enough to climb Everest, but as the weeks went by and we got closer to the trip, the anxiety crept back in. I kept having to repeat her words to convince myself I could do it. Knowing that we had three other people hiking with us, made me feel better. I don’t know why, but I guess a part of me felt there was safety in numbers and I didn’t want to let them down.
So, the day had finally come to do the first peak and as I saw the mountains appearing around me, the anxiety set in and it took everything I had not to let it overwhelm me and stop me from doing what we came to do. We reached the car park and were met by a guy who was taking payment and directing cars to the correct spot. He was so excited to see our colourful Onion Pussy that he let us in for free – £8 saved! We parked up, got our gear together and headed for the starting point. The rain had stopped by the time we started out, so that was a relief. We reached the start point and were raring to go. Already there were people coming down the trail. I wondered what time they would’ve started out to have completed it already? It was about 10:30 at this point and if the 6-hour estimate was anything to go by, that was an early start for them!
Starting The Climb!
As we entered the starting point, we were met with a fact sheet about Snowdon, confirming how many miles it was and how long it would take. This was it, we were on our way! The first section was a tarmacked pathway, nice and smooth but very steep. I was full of energy so bounded up this part, although it was pretty tough going. By the time we reached the top of this first section, rain started to spit down on us, it was only light but I knew it would no doubt get worse. We then reached a wooden gate, confirming that this was the Llanberis path we were about to embark on. At this point, Chris had decided it was just too steep and had to turn back. It was a shame as I really wanted her to be able to say she’d done it, but it was so steep up until this point and we all knew it was only going to get harder from there on so we supported her decision. I secretly wished I could head back with her!
This is where the true trail kicked in. The path became rocky and we were surrounded by mountainsides covered with sheep. As we hiked higher the land below got smaller. There were sweeping valleys which you could see for miles, with rivers running amongst them. These views didn’t last for long though as the rain got heavier and the clouds crept in. Before long all the views disappeared completely and you could barely see anything more than a few meters around you. Before we embarked on this trip I spoke to a friend’s boyfriend about when he’d completed the three-peak challenge (doing the three highest mountains in the UK within 24 hours). He said it was really cloudy when he did them all so he didn’t get to see anything. I told him I’m sure that would be even worse for me as I’d worry about walking off the path into the unknown abyss, however, he was convinced it made it better. I have to say I now agree with him. I think if I’d seen the drops around me I probably would’ve panicked, but fortunately, the clouds never gave me this option.
It was a steady climb at this point and although the path was a bit rocky, it was relatively smooth. The path was also very wide so there was no scooting to the edge when others were passing you by.
We made a few little stops on the way to have snacks such as bananas, Pepperami or handfuls of homemade trail mix (nuts, raisins and chocolate M&M’s) all good energy foods.
After we reached the top of the first uphill stint, the path turned into a real rocky one where you had to carefully tread around rocks and over an uneven surface. This didn’t last for long before the path plateaued out and turned a corner, where we went under a little bridge for the railway line. Yes, there is a train that goes all the way to the summit. This only runs when the weather conditions are good and unfortunately today wasn’t one of them! We’d already been warned by the guy in the car park that the wind was very strong today and that the rescue helicopter had to be sent out a few times the previous day as people became stranded. Thinking about it now, I really don’t know how I didn’t let this put me off!
Then, the tough bit kicked in and it was a true uphill struggle. The terrain was really rough and we really had to use our trekking poles to pull ourselves up. I really don’t know how Triin and Gary did it. They didn’t have any poles with them, but for me, they were a God send! We took little breather breaks every few minutes which helped to keep the momentum going but it was hard work. About half way up this section, we saw a couple of ladies sitting on a rock at the side of the path. They weren’t very enthusiastic which isn’t what you need when you are determined to get to the top. They told us they stopped and let their husbands go on ahead. They claimed it was too windy and felt it was too dangerous to continue. Not at all what we needed to hear! We chose to ignore them and keep going. We’d made it this far, we weren’t going to give up now.
A short while later, we came across a guy who was a lot more upbeat and told us we only had about 10 minutes to go. This was music to our ears. We’d been walking now for about 2 and a half hours and the rain was getting heavier to the point it was stinging our faces. We then reached a stone pillar that pointed towards the summit, I thought this is it, just a few more steps and we’d be there but no! The path narrowed and the wind picked up speed. The rain battered down on us and the temperature dropped rapidly. These conditions had to mean we were almost there. The clouds swarmed and you literally couldn’t see more than a few feet around you. We had no idea what was ahead, to the left or to the right and it felt like if you took one step either side, you’d shoot straight off the path. The wind was blowing at a speed of about 50 miles per hour and we really had to dig our feet in and use our trekking poles to stay grounded. There were a few times when Barry had to grab my backpack as he thought I was going to fly over the side. The path got narrower and yet people were still passing by so it was really quite nerve-wracking. Still we were going higher but the path had become more like stone steps so fortunately, it was smoother. Given my biggest fear was getting blown off the mountain, I’m proud to say there was only one point when I had to take a moment, a big deep breath and push myself on. Having survived the section of high winds and what we thought were sheer drops, the summit was in sight!
We Made It To Snowdon Summit!
We climbed a few more steps and made it to the top. I was so relieved! The four of us cheered ourselves for making (surviving) it and took the obligatory selfies. Once the joy of reaching the Snowdon summit had worn off, the reality of having to go back down hit me. It was then that I instantly decided I’d had enough and I needed to get the hell off this mountain NOW! I was done.
What Comes Up Must Come Down
The wind was unbelievably strong and I didn’t want to hang around any longer than necessary, so we all started our descent. We had to make our way back down the stone steps, which were really quite slippery in the heavy rain that was now pummelling our bodies. As we crossed the section that had no rocks either side and we could only presume were sheer drops due to the lack of visibility, the wind sent a huge gust across the path. Everyone around us got their bodies low to the ground to stop themselves from flying over the edge. We followed suit. At this point the path was narrow and there were just as many people coming up as there were those going down. Barry was holding onto me and every couple of steps we had to pause to let the wind blow past. You didn’t want to have a foot in the air when that hit you! There was one particular gust that blew my beanie off my head, fortunately, I managed to catch it, I would’ve been gutted if I’d lost that, it’s been all round the world with me!
After we passed through this danger zone, it did get easier. The rain was still hammering down and the clouds still swarmed around us, continuing to hide the view from us, but I was on a mission to get down as quickly as possible, so barely even noticed what was going on around me. There came a point when I’d powered on ahead and didn’t notice that the others had stopped to question whether we were taking the right path or not. Barry called out to me to ask if I recognised a pile rocks. I shouted back yes, so we all kept going. Barry then approached me and said they were worried as just before the pile of rocks there was another pathway. I didn’t notice it, so hadn’t even questioned if we were on the right path. We then came across another pile of rocks and then another. I only remembered seeing one pile on the way up. Could it be that we had taken the wrong path? No worries said Gary, we’ll just get a taxi back to the car if we come out at the wrong point. That sounded great, but I was more concerned that going down another path would lead us along some small ledges, which I knew Barry had purposely avoided so I wouldn’t have a panic attack trying to get across them!
Panic did start to set in for me here, but given that I was the one who said I recognised the piles of rocks, I couldn’t now change my mind, so I didn’t say anything and we just kept going. I was praying it was the right one. Then Gary pointed out the rock where we saw the ladies sitting who had tried to put us off going any further. Of course, it could be any rock, but he was pretty sure that it was the same one. As we started the descent down the really rough terrain, this all seemed really familiar so I was getting more confident that we were on the right path. It was here that the pain in our legs really took hold. Surprisingly, getting up to the summit wasn’t too bad. Coming down was another story. You had to really concentrate not to lose your footing going down and letting your feet just run away with themselves. My calves and shins were in pain and I was so grateful for the trekking poles to help me keep my balance. Seriously hats off to Gary and Triin, they were the true troopers here!
Eventually, we reached a spot we definitely recognised. The railway line ran right by the path and was a point where we’d stopped to have a sugar fix with some chocolate. I was beyond relieved. As we continued on, the clouds dispersed, the rain stopped and the view appeared. I was a little nervous looking out, but the path was so wide I didn’t need to go anywhere near the edge and so could enjoy it from a distance. It was pretty cool to see.
The rest of the journey was pretty smooth sailing and we had enough breaks in the cloud to give us a few great shots.
9 miles, 18,000 steps and 5 hours 22 mins after we set off, we finally made it to the bottom. The highest peak in Wales and England was conquered! Wet, windswept and exhausted, it was now time for a well-deserved pint in our new “local”.