OK - maybe not quite Grandma grade ... but easy
There is nothing like your little brother turning 30 to make you feel old. Luckily, this is not a blog about me, but about my brother’s 30th birthday bash, so you are spared any ‘poor me’ rant.
To celebrate my brother entering his fourth decade (OK - that IS scary) he organised a camping adventure in Wales. The guest list was limited to the elite - only 8 made the cut.
Six of us headed to Wales in the 'party van', arriving just in time to have to put our tent up outside the official camp grounds (quiet camping time had begun) and to put up our tents the dark. As it turned out, we got a good camping location as the campground was pretty crowded (what is it with English camping - they all seem to want to camp in open fields as close to one another as possible?). It was the ultimate in car camping - we even brought a four burner gas BBQ (thanks Peter!!!).
As it was coming into 'summer' (what a misnomer) our tents were saunas by 8am (the sun having been up for about three hours by then) and we were
up relatively early for a gourmet breakfast, and then headed off to climb 'the highest mountain in Wales'. Now, I know that Kosiuoszko, the highest mountain is not that high, but it's still twice as high as Mt Snowdon, the mountain that holds the honour for Wales (at 3558 ft/1,085 m).
Now if you are thinking, as I was, that 'Snowdon' is a remarkably unWelsh name, you will be happy to hear that its Welsh name is Yr Wyddfa (which has a satisfyingly Welsh number of consonants in a row).
Legend has it that Mt Snowden is the tomb of Rhita Gawr, an ogre who would kill kings and make cloaks out of their beards - lovely. (Apparently the ogre was defeated when King Arthur climbed to the top of Mount Snowdon and killed him - I am not sure if this was before or after his encounter with the Lady of the Lake, which is also meant to have happened here). It is also said that this is the region where Merlin discovered the red dragon that became the symbol of Wales, and I can definitely imagine a dragon's lair hidden amongst the craggy peaks here!!
Mt Snowden is part of the 'three peaks challenge' - a challenge where people try to climb the three highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales (Ben Nevis, Scafell Peak and Mt Snowden) in a 24 hour period (sounds like hard work) - and we saw a big group of people involved in that when we arrived. Luckily, they did not get in our way, as they were ascending by the 'easy' route (although not as easy as catching the train!!) and we had chosen the 'hard' (Snowdon horseshoe) route. We also chose it because it has been described as 'possibly the best ridge walk in the country'.
Now I have done a lot of walks, and 'hard' usually means 'hard if you are a grandmother in a zimmer frame' .... but not in Wales. In Wales, they really mean it!!!
The walk is officially graded as a 'Grade 1 'Scramble''. What is a 'scramble'? A 'scramble' is essentially, a 'walk' that lies between a walk and a rock climbing. Scrambles are graded from 1 (easiest) to 3 (hardest), but a basic requirement of all of them is that the ascent requires use of your hands (for more
than just balance). If only I had known this before I dismissed the 'hard' ranking with a flippant 'Hard? Schmard.'
We started off on the pyg track - wide, well marked and in keeping with my views of 'hard walks'. It did start to get a bit steep, with some fairly big step-ups, but nothing major.
It was when we turned off toward Crib Gogh that things started to get a bit more difficult. (As an aside, I am pretty sure that it is meant to sound like you are clearing your throat when you say 'Goch'). The track started to disappear into the rocks, but it was still easy to find our way, as we were basically heading for the peak of Crib Goch. Then the steepness started to further increase, it got harder and harder to walk upright, and I finally had to admit that the walk was, in fact, becoming hard, and start using my hands as well.
We reached the summit of Crib Goch and looked across to Mt Snowden. We then checked out the path there .... to find that the 'famous knife edge ridge' is, in fact, pretty accurately described. Must
remember this for future walks in Wales (must not apply my views on descriptors of Blue Mountain walks to Wales walks). To fall to the right of the ridge would result in a plummet of about 100m to the rocks below. To fall to the left of the ridge would result in a slide down a very steep, very rocky (but not quite cliff-like) mountainside. I would not like to be crossing the ridge in high winds, that is for sure! As you can see, I took lots of photos of the ridge (even though they don't really do it justice).
Luckily, it is not as bad as it looks, and while the ridge itself is only inches wide in places, there are lost of good hand and foot holds and few loose rocks. Once we navigated the ridge (much to Brett's delight - heights are not his thing), the only remaining hurdle were the pinnacles. Despite the temptation to pick our way around them, we headed the guidebook's advice and climbed over them, rewarded with some spectacular views.
The scrambling was then basically over and we made our way to the peak of Garnedd Ugain, the second
On top of the world
highest mountain in Wales (only 20m shorter than Snowden and a LOT less crowded!). The remainder of the walk was much easier and we reached the top of Mt Snowden with no troubles. Despite the three peaks challengers having long departed, it was very crowded - I can only imagine what it is like when the train to the summit is actually running!
We headed back down Snowden via the easy path (although my knees felt otherwise after a while!) past the mystical blue lakes (which actually get their colour from the copper mines that used to operate in the area), finally arriving at the base for a well earned ice cream!!!
Amazingly, we had the energy to play some cricket that evening (Vanessa, despite not knowing the rules is a pretty handy bowler), followed by a birthday bbq and, my favourite part of camping, toasting marshmallows around the fire.
The next day, Adam decided we needed an upper body workout to complement the lower body exercise of the day before, so we hired canoes and paddled around the lake. I even had a swim (not that warm I can tell you!). Then, tired out, it was
Before we tackle the ridge
time to battle the traffic back to London.
All in all, a great weekend.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ADAM!
Tot: 2.405s; Tpl: 0.057s; cc: 17; qc: 30; dbt: 0.031s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb