The weather forecast was anything but desirable, with the whole weekend covered in rain, gales and the strong possibility of snow showers on the higher peaks. Judging by the outbursts of wintery showers we had seen in Kent in the days leading up to this weekend, we were not going to see much sunshine.
Nick and I set off at around 20.10 and enjoyed an unusually empty M25. After picking up Simon, we headed on West towards Wales. It’s always good to see these guys and the four-hour drive provides plenty of time to update each other on everything from our latest kit to my recent lack of snoring. The latter was definitely good news for everyone, including myself as it would mean that I could enjoy a night’s sleep without mountaineering equipment thrown at me.
We discussed a few different route options, which seemed to be increasingly limited due to the persistently wet conditions. After meeting Steve at the Moel Siabod cafe, we concluded that a -1 scramble on the North East side of Snowdon would be our best bet.
Setting off at around 10am, we approached the base of the scramble via a short walk from the A4086, which links Pen-Y-Pass with Llanberis. We were already fairly wet even at this point, but we felt good and were ready to have some fun on the rock. The first step was full of loose rock. Simon headed up first and warned us about the condition of the scree covered step. A few rocks flung down, one of them narrowly missing Steve who was bringing up the rear just below. This was a wake up call to all of us, and we proceeded with even more caution. We kept on up the scramble for a few more minutes and then deviated via a slope which drifted off to the left. This was covered in plants and roots, with the odd loose rock. It was far from ideal, especially as it was cold, wet and slippery, but it seemed better than the dangerously loose scramble. After reaching the top of the ridge, we could see the second stage of our route, described in the guide book as ‘a sheep in wolf’s clothing’, we were confident that a scramble graded as -1 was well beyond our capabilities, even in the pouring rain.
By this point we had reached patchy snow, which was slushy and loose. Nick and Simon were frustrated at their decision to leave the ice axes in the car. From below, the mountains looked very wet, too wet for any real challenging snow conditions. After a few minutes up the grass-covered scramble, which in dry conditions would have simply been a walk, things were getting increasingly difficult. Even with walking poles, it wasn’t ideal. One slip and there would be little chance of stopping yourself before reaching the 200ft drop to our right. It was still raining and it had not stopped since we left our barn at 8am. Morale was low and the other were starting to worry about the condition of the slope, especially without ice-axes and crampons. Luckily, I did have my crampons, and even though I too decided to leave my ice axe behind, they gave me plenty of traction to feel completely safe on the slope. I gave Nick my walking pole to help him up the slope, which he was finding quite difficult.
After a few more minutes, the slope eased and we joined up with the main Llanberis path up Snowdon. As often is the case, this ridge was very windy, with the ground covered in a few inches of patchy snow, giving the place a truly wintery feel. We ploughed on and eventually reached the summit; we were absolutely drenched.
Once we stopped moving the cold was very quick to set in. Spending a little over ten minutes on the summit we quickly made our way down towards the top of the Pyg track. Steve, put off by the abundance of snow at the top of the path, was not keen to take the Pyg track down. Without crampons and ice-axe, a snowy ledge is anything but inviting. He headed down the Llanberis track while we set off down the Pyg. By this point I was absolutely soaked from head to toe, and my feet were slushing around in puddles of cold water at the bottom of my boots. We reached the car park at just over 3pm, with morale levels that were approaching zero.
Once back at the car, Steve was not far down the road and probably would have beaten us if it wasn’t for us getting the bus from the car park. I felt good about the whole day, but I wasn’t sliding around uncontrollably on a snowy slope for half of the day. The others agreed that it was a good experience, but I think they’ll be buying a set of crampons and boots before our next ‘winter’ outing. You’ll see on the photos that I was wearing my skiing goggles. These were absolutely amazing, especially up on the ridge when everything was cold and wet. The relief from water and wind on my face was a small but meaningful victory on a day where our kit, including ‘100% waterproof’ Seal Skin gloves had let us down so much. I will definitely be looking into ways of locking my gaiters and gloves down even more tightly.
As usual, Snowdonia provided a much needed getaway, and I felt strong throughout, possibly due to my ultra-run training which seems to be finally paying off as my body gets used to things. The Weald Challenge 50km run will be by far the hardest thing I have ever done. My training so far has consisted mostly of lapping Bewl Water reservoir. At first the running was a chore, but now I long for the next outing and it’s becoming quite addictive. I’ll update more on how that’s going soon, as I am planning to launch a fund raising campaign which will hopefully make all the suffering worth-while!