Our Snowdon adventure
Climbing to the top of Mount Snowdon,the highest mountain in England and Wales, was too much of a challenge for Solange Hando, her daughter and ten-year-old grandson to ignore – so up they went
We’d been waiting for three days but whenever we stepped out of our holiday cottage, Snowdon remained out of sight, teasing us now and then with just the briefest of glimpses. Yet when we least expected it late one afternoon, the mountain suddenly appeared in all its glory, upper slopes bathed in sunshine. This was an auspicious sign and we decided to go for the top the next day.
At more than 3,500ft, Snowdon – Yr Wyddfa in Welsh, named after the fearsome giant said to be buried on the summit – is the highest peak in England and Wales. For my 10-year-old grandson Sidney, my daughter Stella and myself, this was a new challenge and the perfect place for adventure.
After a hearty breakfast, we laced up our boots and set off for a three-generation summit bid. There’s a choice of trails – most popular are the steep Pyg Track from Pen-y-Pass and the longer but gentler route from Llanberis. We opted for Llanberis.
We marched straight past the queues at the Snowdon Mountain Railway station waiting to board the rack and pinion train to the top, and headed for the start of the trail; what lay ahead of us was four miles and a good three hours, so we were told, to climb more than 3,000ft.
Beyond the last conifers and the railway viaduct over the waterfall, we came to a wide, stony path lined with foxgloves, buttercups, fern and rushes. We walked on and then stopped for a breather at the Penceunant tearoom.
The sun was shining now and, as we looked back down the valley, the views were stunning: town, lake and mountains like a picture postcard. We could even see the Irish Sea glistening silver and gold in the distance.
"The sun was shining now and, as we looked back down the valley, the views were stunning: town, lake and mountains like a picture postcard"
We explored a ruined farmhouse along the way, admired a new drystone wall and stopped for a well-deserved snack. The lonely seagull hoping for some spoils soon gave up the chase, and thereafter nothing disturbed the peace except the bleating of sheep and the puffing of the trains belching out black smoke as they ferried their human cargo up and down the mountainside.
The trail was busy, too, but it was nice to know we weren’t alone to brave the uncertain weather. In these vast open spaces, there was room for all, the families coaxing their children up the slope, the friends picnicking on lichen-covered boulders, the couple with a three-month-old baby bobbing on Dad’s back, the snap-happy ramblers, the dogs on leads, the young men with ski sticks overtaking everyone in their race to the top.
The first part of the trek was easy enough. We counted the lakes nestling in the hollows, added stones to the cairns and gathered strands of sheep’s wool for souvenirs. We searched for the tiny Snowdon lily, the purple-blue milkwort and the sundew, an insect-eating plant.
Beyond the Half Way House, at 1,700ft, the cliffs of Clogwyn Du’r Arddu rose ominously, potholed with remnants of copper mines, and when we emerged under the railway bridge, the wind hit us with a vengeance. We should have been prepared, for below was the famous Valley of Hats – Cwm Heiau – where, in the days of open train carriages, the wind used to blow off Victorian travellers’ headgear, and if a local needed a new hat, he only had to look about the valley to find one!
Ahead of us, the trail clambered up a ridge, vanishing into the mist.
“Are we going to walk in the clouds?” asked Sidney. “What will it be like?”
“A bit damp,” I replied, “but it will be fun.”
This was the point of no return. Out came woollies, shortly followed by rain gear in case we suddenly needed it. The views disappeared – the precipice, too – but we knew that as long as we stayed on the track, all would be well.
“I can touch the clouds,” trumpeted Sidney, “I can taste them. It’s just like seawater.”
The summit appeared for a few seconds, high above us as the gradient continued to increase. On we went, edging our way along the ridge, in the wake of other eerie silhouettes shifting in and out of sight, weatherproofs billowing in gale-force winds like Batman’s cape. This truly was a land of giants and ghosts and Arthurian legends which speak of a Welsh King resting on these slopes.
“Can we stand on the top?” asked Sidney. “How far will we see?’
I couldn’t answer but the prize was within reach. We tackled the last stretch, a mighty windswept rock with steps leading up to the observation table. We could hardly stand but the time had come to use our imagination – peaks bristling all around, Anglesey, Cumbria, the Isle of Man, Ireland even – so we waited, just in case, crouching for shelter among boots and legs. For a moment or two, we caught a glimpse of one of the stations, 60ft below, but that was as far as the view extended.
“So, what did you think, Sidney?” I asked tentatively as we warmed up in the summit restaurant.
“It’s brilliant, especially standing on the top,” was his reply. “It’s the best day of the holiday!”
We all agreed and with renewed enthusiasm, tucked into energy-packed chocolate muffins, ready for the next adventure: the journey down on the train.
Want to know more?
• Solange Hando, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org