Snowdonia, North Wales – Tuesday 15th September 2020
At 1,178 feet (359 meters) we sat on a wooden bench, put muesli, banana and milk into our cereal bowls and silently tucked in. It’s not everyday that you find yourself eating breakfast at a mountain pass, next to a bus stop alongside a car park. Well, I thought, this certainly is different and took a photo of Tim for the record. It was 07:30am.
Picnic breakfast at Pen-y-Pass, Snowdonia, North Wales
The Pen-y-Pass Car Park is a great place to set off for Snowdon and the surrounding mountain peaks. We have been here before, making early starts to our day, but this morning we had been shocked to find the entrance closed and a ‘Car Park Full’ sign at 07:10am. Two security guards looked over at our horrified faces as we cruised slowly past and pointed down the long steep road. The overflow car park, with a park and ride facility, was at Nant Peris, 3 miles away.
We think we just missed the last space by only a few minutes so our drive to Nant Peris was one of disappointment and disbelief. Should we change our plan for the day? Should we risk getting on a bus for the journey back up the road? How often did the buses run? Why were so many people parked by 7:10am? How could we have missed out on a parking space?
The overflow car park was almost empty which confirmed our guess that we had only just missed a space at the top of the pass. The ticket machine charged £5 for the day but it took a minute or two to understand how to pay for the ticket as our selection of ‘contactless’ turned into putting card into machine and tapping out PIN number (not very virus free friendly)! Like magic the Sherpa bus arrived! We snatched the ticket from the machine and tossed our map, water bottles, lunch, hats, hand sanitiser, sunscreen, sweets and walking poles into our packs. We also had cereal bowls, a zip locked bag with cereal, bananas and a pint of milk. Our plan had always been to eat breakfast once parked – in the car.
We jogged over to the bus, put on our masks, paid the £3 return ticket and clomped up the stairs to sit on the front seats up on the top deck. Oh no, we had left our spoons behind. I clomped back down the steps, asked the driver to hang on, ran over to the car, grabbed the spoons and sprinted back. Phew. The bus pulled away with us and 5 others on board.
‘Was the ticket on the windscreen?’ Tim asked. ‘Yes, of course’ I said ….keeping fingers crossed!
Selfie on Sherpa Bus top deck mirror
During breakfast we watched a steady stream of cars arrive and leave. We could see them from ‘our’ bench. The car park attendants didn’t always offer advice to latecomers – they were too busy showing off their hi vis jackets! Two ladies were grateful for Tim standing up (mid-breakfast) and kindly offering the alternative parking option.
Tim giving advice to those who also missed a car parking place at Pen-y-Pass
Thankfully the Pen-y-Pass toilets were open and clean! I have to say that almost every public toilet I have visited since the pandemic hit our country has been well looked after. It’s about time these often tired and grubby facilities had a bit more time spent on them.
Our cups, coffee, tea and camp stove had been left them in the car as that would have meant extra weight to carry about all day. Nothing for it – we set off for Crib Goch (Red Ridge) – the most exposed, exciting, thrilling, scramble we have ever experienced. It was 07:40am.
Two weeks previously we had watched a YouTube clip of someone doing the Crib Goch approach to Snowdon and thought wouldn’t that be great to do that again. A last minute b&b with a 4 night vacancy was found and here we were. It was in a dream like state that I took the first photo looking back down towards the valley where our car was parked.
Looking down the A4086 in the direction of Nant Peris and Llanberis.
Up we went following the Pyg Track until it meets a junction with a standing stone and this magnificent view. It was 08:35am.
Way below, crossing the lake is the Miners Track. Our return route.
We turned right towards the ridge leaving the relative safety of the Pyg Track.
It starts off all nice and easy then you come face to face with the rock face and it’s time to use your hands and scramble. A group of four young men joined us just as we were dealing with a tricky situation. We discussed the best approach. These nimble, polite and encouraging young people were probably old enough to be our children or even, as Tim so wonderfully calculated, grandchildren! Actually the young 20 somethings we encountered all day were I found, more respectful than the 30 to 40 somethings. But more about that later…
Pausing, further along, I spotted another bus heading up to the car park (not quite visible) below. The building (just visible) is a youth hostel. Recently refurbished I would say that this must be a perfect spot for anyone interested in exploring the area.
Can you spot the red bus on its way to the car park?
Nearing the top of the approach to the ridge my face was starting to glow and shine at the same time. It was 10:05am.
Hot, sweaty and nearing the start of the Crib Goch ridge
YouTube viewing has encouraged us to film our adventures and at the start of the ridge Tim set up the Go Pro action camera to capture this event! After resting for a minute or two we walked, scrambled chatted to camera and did our very best to stay alive.
Three points of contact at all times is always a good idea.
First steps across the ridge – only two points of contact!
Scrambling 3/4 points of contact!
The rock was warm though jagged in places. We sat a few times along the way just to take in the views. No words can express the feeling.
Then just near the end are ‘The Pinnacles’. Here there is a bit more than scrambling in my opinion. It’s a climb without ropes.
Obviously I was ready to catch Tim if he fell as he scrambled up. Well, I was ready to catch it on film! It’s good to offer encouraging words to your partner as they take their life in their hands though I found it hard to concentrate with this amazing view over to my left.
Feeling a bit distracted by the view!
Once over the final Pinnacle it’s down to a nice flat section where we gave each other a congratulatory kiss and considered our lunch spot. Somewhere just up there?
Walking towards our lunch spot
The above photo shows Snowdon on the left. It looks like an impossible climb doesn’t it but there are six classic approaches. All are far far easier than our route. Ahead of us is Crib y Ddsgl (Dish Ridge) and that was our next challenge.
Lunch. I took a photo looking back at Crib Goch. It was 12:29.
Looking back at Crib Goch
A group of young people passed us chatting and ready for anything. I was feeling very old, tired, haggard and worn out but I thought ‘Come on Selina, you can do this’. I can’t seem to cope when it’s hot on long walks and it was very warm. We quickly followed the group to make a start on the ridge line that continued…their voices drifted away as they left us for dust.
Guide books say that this section isn’t as difficult as Crib Goch, and it really isn’t, but with the workout we’d just had its hard enough in my opinion. I was on my last legs more than once, muttering to myself and the mountain – trying not to think of a mountain rescue situation! Here I am grinning through my teeth, pleased for a bit of a sit down. It was 1:05pm
Me almost at the top
It’s surprising when you think a mountain top will never be reached and then it is. Passing the trig point and a large cairn there was a wonderful uninterrupted view west at distant lakes, mountains and the sea beyond.
We could also see the ‘easy’ path coming up from Llanberis. In the photo it’s the cream coloured horizontal path running right to left. It looked busy all the way up to Snowdon.
Passing a large cairn our path meets the Llanberis path
And looking slightly left – here is Snowdon. A path that joins the Llanberis route, the vertical path in the photo, was the start of our route down. Before that we sat in peace and ate a nectarine…it was a delicious treat.
Snowdon and a glimpse of our route down
A collection of walkers were at this meeting of the paths – sitting about talking about their experience. All social distancing advice seemed to be forgotten for these 30/40 year olds and they were just getting in the way. There’s plenty of room in these remote spots and absolutely no need to gather. Sometimes people are just stupid. We pulled out our walking poles from our packs and headed downwards – quickly.
Snowdon itself, as the highest point in England/Wales, is one of the busiest places and we gave it a miss because we wanted to avoid all those people standing about taking photos and probably complaining that the cafe wasn’t open. Thankfully we’d been to the top several times – five times from memory and only once didn’t have a view. If planning a trip the summit Cafe is, at the time of writing, closed and the train isn’t running – all perfectly understandable. Take you own drink and food and be prepared to sweat of bit. Just saying…..
So, this blog wasn’t really supposed to be about our route back to the car park but felt I should share a few photos to help anyone out who hasn’t done this before and is considering it.
The track is known as the zig zags. Photo taken at 2:00pm
Down we go
Further down the path splits as it meets a route taking you to the small mountain lake Glaslyn. This is the Miners Path.
On track to Glaslyn
As you can see the path is stepped with large rocks. It’s like this most of the way but there are a few places where a bit more care and time is needed because the the route is less path, more rocky mountain.
More than once I felt as if we were in a race with people hot on our heals. What is wrong with some people! I hate that. And I hated that I slid on some small stones and went down onto my behind. ‘Oh are you ok’ said the people behind. ‘Umm’ I said. I was fine it was a softish landing!
After a long descent you reach the water. My knees were so grateful.
Often people and dogs take a dip on sunny warm days and today was one of them.
Glaslyn with bathers
From here the path curves down and round, down and round…a rocky path at first then a gravel path. It crosses he final lake on a causeway. Finally we could see the car park.
We crossed it and waited for the bus – masked up & ready. We didn’t have long to wait and as we were first in a short queue four people we clomped upstairs and took the front seats again. It was 04:46pm.
Back on the bus, heading back to the car
Tim, by the way, is sitting on the bus wondering. He has been along this ridge 3 times – in his 40s, 50s and now 60s. Will he try again in his 70s? Who knows…….who knows.
An epic day.
An older blog post includes detail and photos about previous visits to Crib Goch and Snowdon – for anyone who has made it to the end of this blog (thank you and we’ll done!) and would like to take a look click on this link.WordPress Challenge : Scale