Sunday, 16 June 2013


A few months back, I proclaimed that I wanted to climb Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales, for Father's Day.  I continued to scheme and came up with a plan to stay Friday night in Caernarfon, hike on Saturday, have a nice meal and then head home.  [We all do better if we have a full weekend day to get ready for the week ahead.  So, staying one night was our choice.]

Caernarfon is about 3 hours away.  However, the downside of traveling Friday night rather than in the wee hours of Saturday morning is the awful Friday evening traffic.  It doesn't matter where you go, it will be bad.  The M6 is notorious as well but country routes aren't much better.  We left around 5:15 pm and hit traffic as expected, particularly on the M6.  A well-timed fast food break let the majority of the traffic pass and we arrived around 9 pm.

We visited Caernarfon on our first trip to Wales when we stayed in Criccieth.   In fact, it was on the Royal Wedding date and we had the place to ourselves at first.  As a result, we didn't take in any sites -- this was all about Snowdon.

Needless to say, Snowdon is a bit more of a climb than our usual walk.  I suggested/decided that perhaps Kuk and Alex would be better off taking the Snowdon Mountain Railway to the top and we could all walk down together.  Sounds noble, but it was probably a touch selfish as I knew our pace would be slower with them (and the whinging potentially would be higher).

So, I drove to the back side of the mountain (C, above) and Kuk drove herself and Alex to Llanberis (D) to catch the train.  We returned to Conwy for a nice dinner (previous trip here) before heading home.

Snowdon is a worthy challenge and more strenuous than our typical Peak District affair.  That said, some 250,000 climb it annually so it's not like tackling Everest.  The peak is at 1085m (3560 ft) and there are numerous routes up (see above).   We actually had a go at it back in 2011 on the Miner's Track (#2).  However, we got a late start and weren't planning to reach the summit (and we didn't).

I was intrigued by the lesser used Ranger's Track (#6) and given that Kuk could move the car, we opted for that on the way up and the Llanberis path (#1) on the way down.  I thought the Llanberis path would be the easier descent and it was convenient since the car was there!  (There are public transportation options as well).

Don't worry, photos are coming but I have to get my geeky stats out first.  The Ranger's path is the dark blue one and the Llanberis is cyan / light blue.  I had also considered the Miner's and Pyg path and they are shown on the right.
Pretty healthy climb -- just over 3000'.  It wasn't as difficult as I thought though.  Don't get me wrong, it's a workout but Nicole and I both did well.  In fact, we did it in much better time than I thought -- 2:40 (with 2:01 of that moving).  The walk up was 4.1 miles with a gradient was 14% -- again pretty healthy.

For reference, our walk in Scotland two weeks ago had a pretty decent climb (and was hotter).  It was 14% but only over 1.6 miles.

Slightly more consistent and gentle slope on the way down.  Still -12.7% over 4.6 miles though.  It took the same time going down (2:38 with 2:13 moving).   As is often the case, going down was harder than going up, especially on the knees!  There were quite a few folks, myself included, who walked some of the last bit backwards (on pavement) to help the knees and scrunched toes.

Side by side for a comparison.  The slightly level bit on the way up was helpful to "rest".

Note:  the views and crowds were much better on the way up.  I wouldn't recommend the Llanberis path necessarily.

Okay, enough of the pre-amble -- on to the walk!

Happy and dry at the starting point.  We were over-prepared at this point.  The predicted rains never came but the strong winds (and cold) did.

I have managed to accumulate some "kit" since being here.  I had the walking "boots" and Camelbak before hand from our Southwest US trip.  My acquired kit includes a microfiber fleece, waterproof jacket, waterproof over-trousers and a fleece hat and gloves (all black, Berghaus since I'm not one for imagination or creativity).  You can also see that I have a pair of walking poles as well (from Kuk).  This was their maiden voyage and were a big help to distribute the load on the climb.  And as you can tell from the geeky plots above, I've got my trusty handheld GPS as well. (Not needed for navigation at all on this trip).

[Lake] Llyn Cwellyn and Mynydd Mawr along with some sheep just after the start on the Ranger's Trail.  [Remember we are in Wales, where you always want to buy a vowel to help you read the Welsh language.]

a cute sheep at the start -- different varieties than we normally see

slowly climbing -- this is still looking back

more sheep -- longer wool (and different type as mentioned) -- quite a few were half shorn which made them look like lion's manes (not shown here though)

3 peaks in the distance

photo op and quick breather -- not sure if it was the heat or just getting our mojo going but we found the first bit the most grueling

a little higher -- nice view

the wind is picking up a bit -- it was really great to do the hike with Nicole.  Good father/daughter time and we are in similar shape as well.

cloud covered Snowdon in the distance  -- I wish I had taken a screen shot of the weather forecast from the morning.  The BBC forecast for Llanberis was reasonable but the Snowdon Met office forecast was terrifying:  70-90% of heavy showers phasing to only rain later.  Gale force winds.   Basically 75% chance of death more or less.  Given the Llanberis forecast we decided to carry on.  So glad we did.  We stayed dry but the winds did pick up.

Looking back across the flatter section with the peaks in the distance (looking away from Snowdon)

our next ascent and Snowdon still in clouds

still nice views looking back though

 closer to the next ascent and the clouds--the wind really started picking up here.  Hats/gloves are now out.

 the peak still clipped by the clouds

 looking back again

 we could look over the ridge to our left (north) and see Llanberis

this guy follows us on all our walks!

looking back from a higher vantage point -- love the contrast of the clouds and sky, light/dark, peaks/valleys, etc.

similar photo -- you can just make out the sea in the background (Caernarfon, etc.)

nearly touching the clouds now

another look back from higher up (and lower cloud cover)

 a gust of fog/cloud crossing our path

close to joining up with the Llanberis path -- here's the steam train chugging up.  I knew Kuk and Alex weren't on this one since they opted to take the cheaper (but still expensive) diesel train.  Would they be waiting for us?

Llanberis from the clouds

back to the direction where we started (sorry if these seem repetitive but I find it interesting how the views and the clouds kept changing).

I really liked the relative solitude of the Ranger's Path.  We probably saw a half dozen groups behind us (none overtook us!) and another half dozen that passed us going the opposite direction.  Compared to the masses on the Llanberis and Miner's path, it was great.

Given that there are so many trails in the UK, many of the locals get used to that solitude.  I don't mind seeing folks out and about but even I thought the trail down was a little crowded.

Not much to see here!

crossing over the train tracks -- rack/pinion or cog driven to help the train up/down the steep slope.   "Taking visitors to the top since 1896"

This is looking down the other side of the ridqe along the Pyg and Miner's tracks.  It's tough to see but the final ascent is pretty steep on this one.  We made it to the beginning of that ascent (past the lakes, etc.) in 2011 and called it a day.

Slight haze and generally lower cloud cover.  It was considerably worse later in the day during our descent.

you would occasionally get a gust that would clear a viewing port to snap a photo

Nicole's at the (crowded) top.  It was cold and windy.  In fact, taking the few steps up and down to the marker was a little scary with the gusts.

cloudy view from the top (Miner's track side)

my turn -- hard to find a little space

the "cozy cafe" was absolutely packed -- not exactly a remote mountain top.  This was at its worst when we left.  Nicole and I got there about 12.  No Kuk or Alex.  We checked our phones and found texts that they didn't get the earlier train but got the 12:30 (arriving at 1:30).  Hmm.  We lucked into a couple of seats and had some snacks plus purchased sausage rolls and hot drink and waited for them.

Ideally we could have communicated to them to eat before coming up because of this.  We didn't and so Kuk was bummed that we didn't have a nice relaxing lunch like we do on most of our outings.  In fact, the queue was so long we didn't even bother so they just had snacks.  Oh well.  This part of the plan didn't go as well I guess.  

[I would have pre-purchased the earlier train for them but the weather forecast was so miserable I wanted to wait until the day of.]

back out in the cold with the mob for a photo of both of us (though not at the tippy top).  My expression is less than ecstatic because the wind is howling and the photographer is not working as fast as I wanted her to! 

on the way down -- more fog and more people

 down in the valley

different formations, to a degree, on this side -- it looks similar to the [White] Peak District (only bigger)

almost halfway down -- proof that we were reunited


(different) hills in the distance

Kuk was fascinated with this guy.  (He was on the move so I had to take a quick photo).  Shaggy coat, black underbelly and big horns.

So in summary -- a great day!  Though thousands make this walk I still felt it was a significant accomplishment.  (I'd bet many in my office at work haven't done this.)  So glad we made the effort (overnight, etc.) and that the weather cooperated for the most part.  In hindsight, I'm sure Alex could have made it as well though we would have needed to work on the mental preparation a bit.

The walk down was a little crowded for my taste.  My recommendation would be to take the Rhydd Ddu Track (#5 way up top) up and the Ranger's Path down for the most solitude.

For dinner, we had to go back to Watson's Bistro in Conwy.  We love this place (we ate there twice on our last visit).  It's not cheap, but it's a great meal.

Fittingly, I had the 1085 (meters elevation, if you recall).  After a long, exerting day it was definitely going to be a lager over a British Ale.  (In fact, I'm to the point that every day is a lager over a warm, flat, bitter British Ale).  I was presently surprised the 1085 had some unique characteristics/tastes to it.  So many of the lagers here are too similar.

Food collage, clockwise from top left:  Kuk's breaded scallop "cocktail" starter, my goat cheese tart starter, my lamb trio main (shank, loin, mint burger -- all good.  I'm not usually a shank fan but this was the best I've had), and the kids' shared sirloin steak.

Alex asked if that was moss on top and the waitress had a chuckle (pesto breadcrumbs, actually).

Great day all around.

Miss you, Dad.  This day always brings a touch of sadness for me.  You all may think you have/had the best Dad out there -- but you're wrong.  I did.  :-)


  1. Looked like some really good views, especially as you approached the clouds on top of the mountain. Glad you made it up altho kind of a bummer on the crowds.

  2. Your comment about the need for vowels in the Welsh language made me chuckle. I heard a joke on Irish radio that stated that in Irish, they just throw in a whole bunch of vowels and then ignore them!

    Also, I thought of you this past week as I found a slug in the homegrown lettuce I was eating for lunch. I almost ate the slug because it was as small as a hangnail. SOOO different than the slugs out your way!

  3. Nice hike! It's funny that I only go for British real ale at pubs. Knowing my days I can get it are numbered, I guess, but I like it!