Edmund Hilary used the cliff faces of Snowdon to train for his 1953 ascent of Mount Everest. To mark the sixty first anniversary of that successful mission we set off, armed with the obligatory block of Kendal Mint cake, to walk up Snowdon.
Sat at home in Surrey I had blithely assumed that there would be one route up the mountain. Wrong, there are six official routes with starting points scattered around the base of the massif. They all vary in length, ascent and ease. Mindful that this was the first major ascent by the Junior CWs, we chose the Llanberis path, the longest but also gentlest of the routes (also the one that hugs the railway line offering the chance of a lift back down). When we arrived at the start point a mêlée of television cameras awaited us, well not us but the Commonwealth Torch which was at the top and making its way down on the train.
The skies were overcast when we set off, but it was early and we had hopes that the day might clear. After just over an hour we got to the halfway point and celebrated with a square of mint cake and took in the view. Down the mountain things were clear but ahead of us the summit was shrouded in cloud. We entered the mists just as the going got steeper and rocky but the Junior CW’s continued to press on like mountain goats. After two more stops for mint cake and nearly three hours (but gratifyingly in under the prescribed time for the route) lots of voices suddenly started booming out of the gloom. We were very near the top and the crowds had come up on the train.
Slowly we picked our way through the crowd to the cairn that marks the top of the 1085 metre mountain. It is adorned with a brass plate indicating what you would be able to see on a clear day, but we couldn’t even see as far as the train station. Faced with limited visibility and a steep descent we headed for the train and asked to buy a ticket. We would have to wait; most passengers buy a return ticket and take priority. Eventually we were allowed to pay the £70 (it would have only been £90 for a return ticket) necessary to get the four of us down and for an hour we trundled through the gloom. Given what I know now, I would have walked down as it would have only taken about half hour longer.
If you are planning a hike up Snowdon consider using the Snowdon Sherpa shuttle service that roves around the base of the mountain connecting the six main start points. We left our accommodation at 8.30am and the Pen-y-pas car park was already full when we passed. Taking the bus would enable you not only to leave your car behind but also to go up one route and down another.
We stayed at Bryn Gwynant, one of the four YHA hostels that ring Snowdon. If you haven’t stayed in a Youth Hostel since your own youth then take another look; chores are thing of the past, en suite and family rooms are available and whilst all have self-catering kitchens, some have restaurants and licenced bars! Bunk beds, however, still reign supreme much to the delight of the Junior CWs.