Thursday, 31 July 2014

A return to Snowdon

It was a soft day yesterday - slight drizzle, cloud - not beach weather. So Eddie and I headed up Snowdon as we did last year, this year taking a slightly more challenging path - the Watkin Path. Named after Sir Edward Watkin, Victorian railway entrepreneur, chairman of the Great Central Railway, the man who attempted to build London an Eiffel Tower where Wembley Stadium now stands, the man who had a crack at building a Channel Tunnel in the early 1880s. This ascent up Snowdon is the highest in terms of climbing (over a kilometre), the start of the track not too far above sea level.

The Watkin Path starts on the A478 by Plas Gwynant, not far from Sir Edward's summer chalet. After ascending through pleasant woodland, we come to a gate, which doubled for the North West Frontier in the British film comedy, Carry On Up The Khyber. Eddie is looking for the plaque marking this film location - sadly, someone must have half-inched it.

Below: After an hour and half's climbing, we're looking down on a helicopter flying over Llyn Glaslyn lake. The first part of the walk was not too bad.

The track started to get steep beyond this point, and we found ourselves scrambling with hands and feet over loose scree - not the best of surfaces for climbing. At the same time, the mist descended on the mountain top - you can see the visibility in the photo (below). The fact that several other people were also journeying up the Watkin Path made it easier for us. Plus, we'd done it before, last year, coming up the Rhyd Ddu Path, which joins the Watkin Path some 400m before the summit. Today I stand atop the highest peak in Wales - yesterday I was swimming in the sea. Góry i morze, panie, w jednym urlopie.

After dining on Cornish Pasty and Welsh cider ('Taffy Apple' brand - very good) at the restaurant on top of Snowdon, we had a good rest, visited the summit, and turned to make our descent. Below: the mist began to clear as we set off down. In the distance, a boulder perched on some rocks. How did it get there? We're over 800m above sea-level at this point...

It was a long walk - some eight miles there and back, at the end of the day my pedometer registered over 23,000 paces, the bulk of which was the ascent and descent of Snowdon.

It was a hard walk - not too hard, but not something to be done without experience or supplies. We started off in one layer, then donned as second as we climbed above 600m, then as we entered the mists, we put on waterproof jackets. The paths up Snowdon can be dangerous in snow and ice, with high winds or in thick fog, which can descend with very little warning. Sir Edward Watkin, devised this path in his retirement, while Prime Minister William Gladstone went halfway up the path to mark its opening in 1893. Gladstone was 83 at the time. The Victorians were a tough breed; much tougher, I fear, than the British are today. On Snowdon today, I felt the dead hand of nanny state lift for a few hours - here you take health and safety as your own responsibility.

This time two years ago:
On the eve of Warsaw's Veturillo revolution

This time three years ago:
Getting ready for the 'W'-hour flypast

This time four years ago:
A century of Polish scouting

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