Friday, 26 July 2013

Scaling the highest peak in Wales

Yr Wyddfa (or if you insist on being an English-language imperialist, Snowdon) is the highest peak in Wales, 1,085m above sea level. It's also the highest peak in the UK minus Scotland, so if the Scots vote for independence next year, Ben Nevis (1,344m) will no longer claim that distinction.

Said to be Britain's busiest mountain, it does get crowded as you reach the summit, but that's helped by the fact that a train can take the laziest of people to the very top. Having been up Giewont, I can say it's a long way from that level of crowdedness.

Eddie and I left the car at Rhyd Ddu station car park [pron. 'Ryd Thee'] and walked up the Rhyd Ddu path to the summit, and walked down the less-challenging Snowdon Ranger path. We were hoping to catch the Welsh Highland Railway back to Rhyd Ddu, but the 16:40 service doesn't run on a Friday, so we walked back from Snowdon Ranger.

It took us two and half hours to get to the top from the car park. Much of the walk was straight forward, but here and there we needed the aid of our hands to scramble up some of the steeper parts of the track. From the bottom we could not see the summit, as it was wreathed by clouds. As we ascended, the clouds blew past, yielding a view of the top (below).

Below: along the way, we see some mountain goats. The one on the left is gazing at the shadow of his head on a rock. In the distance, the Llanberis path, longest but easiest way up (I cycled up that way in 1991).

It's quite an unusual experience to behold a large aircraft flying below you while you're standing on terra firma. We spot an RAF Hercules C-130K Hercules weaving between the mountain tops.

Below: looking up at the summit, it appears to be teeming with humans. Just below the summit, the restaurant and mountain railway centre, opened in 2006.

Below: the view from the very top. Very busy. Everyone's taking selfies with their iPhones and uploading to Instagram. Signum temporis!

Below: the Snowdon Mountain Railway, steam hauled for this trip. Loco No. 2, Enid, pushes the single carriage up the rack-and-pinion tracks. It is wonderful that this little railway is still in regular use after 117 years.

Below: looking down the track toward Llanberis and the island of Anglesey beyond. We didn't have perfect meteorological conditions; they were good enough to see much of North Wales, but there was no sign of Ireland, the Isle of Man or indeed Scotland. It is said that on a clear day the line of sight from the top of Yr Wyddfa extends 140 miles (215 km).

The views from the climb captivate. We had the optimal day for climbing; dry, not too hot, with a light wind to wick away the sweat. This is my third ascent of the peak, the first for over twenty years. Eddie was a star, utterly tireless.

This time last year:
Beaches of the north coast of the Llyn Peninsula

This time two years ago:
The Accursed Soldiers - a short story

This time three years ago:
Driving impressions of the Toyota Yaris
[Three years on - still no imperfections to report whatsoever]

This time five years ago:
Poland's dry summer

This time six years ago:
The UK's wettest summer ever


Helena said...

Hmmm Should nt Eddie have had better shoes than tenisowki for Wales highest peak!!!!!Helena R.

Michael Dembinski said...

Naaah! The boy did well. I was wearing more robust footwear, yet I made three slips, Eddie none. He's a natural born climber! :)

I did try to get him to wear something a little more serious; his reply was that he'd done 1,000m peaks in plimsolls before - which indeed he did.