On Saturday 20th March 2010 me and my brother-in-law set off from Pen-y-pass along the PYG track all the way to the summit of Snowdon. After climbing on, over and through rocks, mud, scree, shale, snow and ice we eventually made it to the top.
We started off in the Pen-y-pass car park at 9.30am and ventured up to the start of the PYG track over some steep slopes and boulders. After about 10 minutes we reached the highest equivalent point on our Cheddar gorge training route, only at Cheddar there is quite a bit of flat or gentle slopes once the initial climb is over. Snowdon just goes on and on, steeper and steeper.
It didn't take long to arrive at the junction with Crib Goch, which led us to the stile marked with PYG track. It was then an easy upward walk around the lakes. We made really good time along a rugged and challenging path which peters out until your scrambling over and up rocks and scree.
We started to enter the mist and fog early on but it didn't cause us any problems. Due to the fog we couldn't see the bottom as we climbed up, which was probably a good thing since neither of us are brilliant with heights!
A bit higher up the conditions got a bit worse, with snow patches on the path. At this point some people started turning around and heading back the way they came while other like us ventured on. We also came across people who have gone further and turned around. They reported that things get a lot worse further up and a few more people turned back. Our "local group" was now down to about a dozen people determined to make it to the top. At this point conditions were very poor and I decided that the best thing to do is to put the camera away and concentrate on climbing. Armed with some winter climbing gear (ice axe, crampons etc...) we encountered very thick and icy snow on the approach to the zig-zags and the ice quickly become more and more tricky. In this region of the mountain and with these poor conditions one mistake, one slip would mean game over.
When the going gets tough... the tough get on with it.
The last 100 metres of the PYG saw us climbing up a very steep snow and ice covered mountain side with a huge drop. What remained of the path was about 8" wide with slush and ice on the surface and a vertical drop on one side. Then we lost the path altogether and were climbing up slippery icy snow, with a vertical drop on one side.
We made it to the top along with all the others in our local group (we weren't walking with them, but lots of smaller groups merged together to form a pack - safety in numbers).
After some short celebrations at the top of the PYG we ventured on to the summit. The snow was so thick the path and railway were buried. We could see the way to the top only where everybody else had walked and created a path, and after about 30 minutes we made it to the summit.
All the way up from the PYG we were blown around by 50-60mph winds which got stronger the higher we got. By the time we reached the top we were defiantly windswept! At 14:07 we reached the top and took shelter behind the cairn. After a short rest we posed for a few pictures before heading up the last final few metres. We had to crawl up the steps, and hold onto the cairn as the winds reached gusts of 100mph+ and a -30°C wind chill. Ice formed on my hair and my clothes were freezing over - that's how cold it was! Even the water in my camel back was freezing up.
Despite all the ice and snow we made it to the top without falling off, although at times it was close.
At the very top you had to hold onto the cairn otherwise you will get blown off by the 100mph winds. There was not much chance of standing upright there.
After a short while at the top we were eventually rewarded with a break in the fog which allowed us to look down on the clouds!
The PYG track is 3.25 miles long and took us 5.5 hours to complete. During our training walks we taking around 3 hours to walk 10 miles. This maybe gives an indication of how hard the terrain and conditions were going up Snowdon.
Interesting side note: I got a faster internet connection using my mobile phone (HSDPA) on the summit of Snowdon, than I get from the BT land line (ADSL) at home!
Because of the treacherous conditions there was no way we were going to risk coming back down the zig-zags to the miners track so we headed off along the railway line to Llanberis and would catch the Sherpa bus back to Pen-y-pass and the Land Rover in the car park. The Llanberris path was uneven and steep, but we were coming down and made good progress. Unfortunately good progress wasn't good enough as we missed the last bus back to Pen-y-pass by 10 minutes. Another few miles for us to walk then!
We got back at the hotel around 7.30 pm, tired, sore and achy for a nice cold beer and a lot of food!
You can view more scenic pictures from Snowdon in my Snowdon Gallery.
Total Distance Walked: 13.6 miles (21.8 km)
Time Taken: 9 hours 15 minutes.
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