Walking with; Nobody
In my recent desire to get to know the Lake District better I have somewhat neglected Snowdonia but after a cracking two days in North Wales I am anxious to rectify this once more. The hostels in Snowdon were busy but I eventually found a bed at the Pen-Y-Pass YHA http://www.yha.org.uk/hostel/pen-y-pass and so planned a couple of days around my base.
I arrived in Beddgelert in blazing sunshine (a sentence not often written I suspect) and after a brief refreshment stop headed out along the pretty banks of the River Glaslyn to Gelert’s grave. Gelert, a hunting hound, was the pet of Prince Llewelyn, one day the Prince went hunting without Gelert and on his return found his son’s crib overturned and the room in disarray, there was blood on Gelert’s muzzle and the Prince, jumping to conclusions slew him. As he did this a baby cried and the Prince found his son alive under the crib and a huge Wolf, killed by the faithful hound, lay dead next to him. The Prince was heartbroken and supposedly never smiled again! Leaving the grave I followed “The Fisherman’s Path” which became ever rockier as the river became wilder, before emerging on the Aberglaslyn bridge. The path then zigzagged up through woodland before emerging onto boggy moorland near the ruins of the farm at Oerddwr-uchaf. Even in the sunshine the ruins had a slightly “The Hills have eyes” feel to them and I was glad to be past them and tramping through the Cotton grass towards my first target for the day Moel Ddu. I watched a Red Kite playing on the thermals, soaring gracefully up and up before dropping down again, and then repeating the process, and as I started up the painfully steep lower slopes of Moel Ddu my grunts of exertion were accompanied by the familiar “cronk” of a number of the local Ravens.It was a short, very steep slog, but the summit views were possibly some of the finest in Wales. As I sat sandwich in hand, whichever direction I looked it was magnificent. The Moel range loomed large, Snowdon herself sat proud and cloudless in the distance, the Llyn Peninsula stretched out into the sea and Porthmadog sat perched on the estuary offering the promise of fish and chips and ice cream….I’d have killed for an ice cream at this stage. Apart from the occasional “cronk” and the whistle of the steam train from down in the valley, it was blissfully peaceful and still.
Ahead of me I could see Moel Hebog and Banog, two more sharp climbs still lay ahead so, refuelled, I moved on. The climb up Banog was another where frequent “view” stops broke up the gradient and from there it was a last slog up the scree onto the summit of Moel Hebog where I met a squirrel hanging around the cairn on the scrounge and saw the only other walkers I met all day, seven hours close to one of Snowdonia’s tourist honeypots and barely a soul to be seen. The path zig zagged back down to the valley where I saw a couple of Wheatears before coming to rest in the Tanronnen Inn for a restorative pint and a perusal of the photos of local history adorning the walls.
Snowdon is not just a mountain, it is a tourist attraction, a destination in it’s own right, and my second ascent of it was a very different experience from the day before. I’d been up it once before, in a hurry, in the cloud at the end of a Three Peaks challenge, so this time I wanted to take my time and enjoy it. I left the friendly staff at the hostel behind and they agreed I could save myself a tenner by leaving my car in their layby rather than in the exorbitantly priced car park across the road. I’d previously followed the Miner’s Track so this time I set off up the Pyg, a far more scenic path that climbs up to the foot of Crib Goch. It was still sunny at this stage but the forecast was poor so I’d decided to skip the ridge and concentrate on getting to the top in one piece. The paths were all busy but by varying my pace I managed to not get caught up in any traffic jams and the views remained pretty impressive until about ten minutes from the top when the cloud dropped a little further and things became a bit hazy. None-the-less I did have views from the summit, even if they had to be shared with a train load of 50 odd European tourists who timed their arrival to perfectly coincide with mine! Snowdon is not a mountain for peace and solitude! I dropped back down the Miner’s enjoying the relatively flat return and almost making it back to Pen-Y-Pass before the rain started!
On the return leg I came across a number of groups of people who were very clearly (to my mind) under prepared and/or inappropriately equipped. I am the first to accept that I sometimes overdo it, but a full pack gives me a feeling of security and a better workout, and if the worst comes to the worst I am confident in my ability to deal with most things a mountain can throw at me. I am sure all regular walkers have come across this on occasions, once on the Half Dome Trail in Yosemite I came across a (for want of a better description) “stoner dude” in cut off denims and no shirt who had attempted the 15 odd mile round trek with a 350ml bottle of water and by the time we found him was suffering from heat stroke……an extreme example but it raises the question, what responsibility do we, as experienced and able hill walkers, have to people we see heading out into potentially perilous situations? My natural reserve makes me inclined to say little, but last month after I’d descended in full waterproof kit from Wetherlam due to the ferocity of the conditions on the top I felt compelled to say to three teenage Americans who were about to try and ascend the Old Man of Coniston in shorts and t-shirt that I didn’t think it would be sensible for them to continue…..they ignored me, but at least I felt I done the right thing…..What do other people think?
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