A 6pm start from home, on March 5th, saw The Walking Dan and I set off for Wales. Somehow I’d copped for driving, even though I’d driven the last time we went to Wales and on a recent trip to Whitby (to walk the last part of the Cleveland Way). His car is waaaay better than mine too, though that’s not saying much.
Dan had stayed at ours the previous night, taking advantage of Debbie’s attempt to create a mini-boutique hotel in the spare bedroom. This allowed us to nip for a quick sherbet down the Sphinx Nest pub. A bit of poor timing from me saw us clash with a girl’s night in. A house full of drunk/cackling women didn’t make dropping off to sleep easy, but gate-crashing their Indian takeaway was a bonus.
We left a very snowy Huddersfield behind us as it had tipped it down on Thursday putting the whole trip at risk. This is probably why I was driving – Dan’s Beemer doesn’t play well in snow. The snow actually disappeared once we’d left God’s Country and crossed The Peninnes into Lancashire leaving us thinking that this could be a snow-free Snowdon in the Snow. We were wrong… thankfully!
I’ve done Snowdon a fair few times in the past as part of the National 3 Peaks Challenge, with the Huddersfield Snowdon in the Snow Group and just for sh*ts and giggles. Albeit a trip up there with Heather once, was less of the ‘giggles’ and more of the ‘scaring the total sh*t out of us’! The Walking Dan had done it once before, last Summer, and needed my 12 year old son to hold his hand up the steep bit past Clogwyn Bridge – wimp!
We made decent time, even with the obligatory stop at MaccyD’s for a Sosso and Egg McMuffin, hitting a very rainy Llanberis just before half past nine.
We parked by the Information Centre and stuck a couple of pint’s worth of coins into the parking slot machine. We didn’t win! Our walking companion for the day was none other than the world famous Matt Lawrence ‘Matt Lad’ – because his name is Matt and he’s a lad! Tony came up with that one, clearly a Marketing genius wasted in Digital. Matt Lad, to everyone who knows him, is a ‘Legend’ – an absolute ‘LEGEND’. He and I worked together for a number of years and is a complete genius in everything he does workwise, but can be a space cadet outside of it sometimes. Matt Lad’s legendary status come from, amongst others:
– his fear of spending money (pot calling kettle, I hear you say),
– bringing two 2-litre bottles of water on the Y3P Challenge and then carrying them for 26miles without drinking any of it and
– bringing a double blowup bed to sleep on in a tent half that size (gotta find the pics)
Matt Lad didn’t let us down again. His attire for the trip, up Snowdon, in the snow, in Winter, in a rain-soaked Llanberis was – a nice comfy jacket, a pair of tracky bottoms and a Liverpool scarf! – I kid you not. Luckily, knowing Tony usually lends him half a wardrobe, I’d brought some extras (just in case), so I soon tooled him up with some waterproof trousers, yaktrax and gaitors.
After a fair bit of pre-trek , changing in the back of the car ‘faffing’, because of the weather. We set off, in the rain, in multiple layers and hats and gators and neckgaitors and, of course, IT STOPPED RAINING before we’d even gotten out of Llanberis itself. Cue a complete unwrapping and much heavier packs.
We were doing the ‘Tourist Trail’ up Snowdon as I’m sure some of you knowledgeable lot will have guessed from where we’d parked. It’s still a pretty demanding trek and not for the faint-hearted, but not a patch on the effort needed to get to the top via the Pyg Track or Miner’s Track. It’s also great for people-watching as I’ve seen all kinds of people in all kinds of clothing heading up there. God knows where a lot of them were thinking they were heading.
We made good time to the Half Way House, getting there in less than a hour. It felt longer as The Walking Dan and Matt Lad were talking photography and comparing lense sizes for most of it – Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, Yaaawn! ‘get a room, you two’. No snow at this stage, just a little bit of sludge. We had a couple of quick snacks and put on our Yaktrax. Well, me and The Walking Dan did… poor old Matt Lad was using some borrowed from me, which I’d borrowed from Heather, which didn’t fit him (unsurprisingly in retrospect). Doh!
Onwards and most definitely upwards! The path up to Clogwyn Bridge, after the Half Way House, becomes a touch steeper as it is and the addition of snow (we found it at last – yey!) doesn’t make it any easy. We saw a fair number of people struggle valiantly (stupidly?) to the Bridge before calling it a day. Having some traction on the snow and ice definitely helped the old fellas, me and The Walking Dan, but Matt Lad just laughed in the face of potential slippage and kept on marching – like I said – ‘A Legend’.
The dog-leg right after Clogwyn Bridge proves that ‘yes, it does get worse’ and ‘no, you are not nearly there yet’, just two of the answers to questions posed by a few muggles huddled under the bridge. The cold had now increased quite dramatically and the fog had gotten worse, giving no-one any of the spectacular views of the Snowdon Valley. Discretion won over valour pretty quickly as we piled onto the train tracks rather than risk the perilously icy path. And then, for the next 45 minutes, it’s just head down, one foot after the other, pain, lack of breathe and whiteness, complete whiteness.
At this point in the walk the, in theory, disadvantaged and Yaktrax-free Matt Lad had shot ahead of me and The Walking Dan, on a slope that had previously proved to be his nemesis, had fallen behind. It’s a touch disconcerting to find yourself, seemingly alone, in a completely alien-like white environment. White below, white above and a white fog all around. Whilst you can’t see anyone, sound carries, so you can hear people near you (maybe!) giving you some comfort that you’ve not somehow found a non-wardrobe route into Narnia. But I’d done the route before, could see the edge, and knew that there was only one way to the top so I gritted my teeth, pretended my calves weren’t screaming in pain and got on with it.
I waited at the top of the slope for The Walking Dan. A strange 5 minute wait, in total whiteness, not seeing a single sole – before out of the light trudged a pack leader, his group of teenagers, and at the back the grizzled, wobbly, red-faced Walking Dan.
The final march to the summit is usually relatively painless, in good conditions, but in the cold, and driving winds it proved to be a fair old challenge taking us both longer than we thought. We found Matt huddled up against a wall at the top, hiding from the elements, having got their 15 minutes before us. Getting to the top felt great, but at the same time it was seriously cold and windy so we were all keen to get up to the trig point, take the obligatory selfie and get of the rock.
A check of the watch showed it had taken us two hours to summit, from The Half Way House, a good 45 minutes or so longer than normal. All down to the conditions.
Heading back down is usually easier, even for me and my knees, and we hit Llanberis two hours later – soaked, sweaty and bedraggled. Two hours of jogging slightly as you pass people on the way up, nodding smugly at them and them slowing down straight after. Two hours of playing the ‘will they / won’t they’ game, where you guess if they are going to make it to the top or not. Ironically, the Yaktrax-free Matt Lad didn’t fall on his arse at all in the snowy conditions, he waited til we’d crossed the snowline to do that. Someone always falls over on a walk, always! I also somehow managed to lose one of my Yaktrax on the descent too.
I’d learnt my lesson previously on a snowy trek up Snowdon that having a change of clothing in the car would be a good idea. Chapped legs and chapped wotsits are no laughing matter and not forgotten quickly. So after a quick change in the Tourist Information Centre it was time for a touch of civility and a cup of tea and cake, before the Walking Dan and I said our goodbyes to Matt Lad and headed home.