Yr Wyddfa, or in English; Snowdon, is the highest mountain in Wales, and the third highest in the United Kingdom.
Standing at an impressive 1085 meters, Snowdon has links to King Arthur and is visited by over 350,000 people annually.
Sadly, the mountain claims 8 deaths on average per year, so climbing it shouldn’t be taken light-heartedly.
Late one chilly Friday evening, my friend and I set off on a four-hour journey to North Wales in preparation to hike to the summit of Yr Wyddfa the following day.
The first hour of the journey went well, but many of the roads were flooded as we travelled further into Wales because of severe rain. The four-hour trip took much longer due to traffic delays and road closures caused by collapsing riverbanks and flooded lakes.
I was hoping that the rain would clear up for our upcoming hike!
It was a long evening, but after numerous stops for petrol station coffee to keep us awake, and listening to dance hits on the radio, we eventually made it to our accommodation.
I had found a great deal on a wooden hut rental in the woods for the weekend. It turns out that no one wants to stay in a glorified shed during the British wintertime, so it was very affordable. Lucky for us, the gamble paid off as it turned out to be well insulated with free coffee, so no complaints! However, the walk to the toilet through the trees, wind and rain was unpleasant, so it was a case of ‘holding it in until morning’.
We set off the next day before the sun started to rise. That late November chill gave us concern that we had under packed winter clothes, but we were sure the physical exertion from the hike would keep us warm, so we stayed positive and focused on making sure we had enough waterproofs and snacks.
There are 6 routes to the summit of Snowdon. The most common path, which is also the busiest and easiest is the Llanberis path. The most strenuous is the Watkins path, and feeling energized, and perhaps a little stupid, this was the one we decided to take.
It started well! The path gradually took us up through forests and fields, all beautifully lit up by the rising sun behind us. A cool breeze swept through the trees as we trekked deeper into the dense wilderness before the path opened to small streams and waterfalls.
We then came upon the ruins of Plas Cwm LLan, which was the perfect place to make our first stop. Sitting on a fallen log, we enjoyed our trail mix and took in the breath-taking view before continuing on our hike.
The anxiety started to creep in as the path ahead of us became clear – steps, steps, steep hills and more steps!
I took a deep breath and off we went.
I felt like I was climbing the staircase that Frodo, Sam and Gollum climb in the Lord of the Rings to get into Mordor. The stone path and the incline felt never ending. Our pace slowed significantly, but we made progress and did eventually make it to a false peak.
Even though we were yet to reach the summit, the view of Llyn Llydaw lake over the cliff edge below was truly spectacular. I just sat there gazing stupidly at it with a grin on my face.
In fact, this was my favourite view of the entire hike. We were so lucky that the clouds had vanished for the most part, giving us perfect visibility.
The final leg from the lake to the summit was scrambling up rocks. A group of lads drinking Budweiser for courage and a woman crying on a lone rock several meters ahead of us added to my nerves a little. I am normally calm in these situations as I don’t mind heights or drops, which is strange, because if you put me on a roller coaster, I’m hysterical!
With hands and feet carefully navigating the rough surface, we scrambled up the rocks, feeling a sense of exhilaration as we reached the summit and gazed out at the breathtaking vista. Breathless but triumphant, we reached the summit of Snowdon, taking in the panoramic view of snow-capped peaks and valleys stretching out below us.
We made it!
It was too cold to enjoy the view for too long though, so we started the descent not soon after reaching the top.
Aside from the wrong turn down a banking here and there, we followed the crowds down what we assumed was the Llanberis path, passing more stunning lakes and cool structures as we went.
Finally, we made it to a café and car park at the bottom. We grabbed some snacks and sat down for a well-deserved rest.
I turned on my phone data and entered the post code of our hut…
3 hours away!!
We had come down the other side of the mountain, miles away from our starting point. To make things worse, there were no buses and not a taxi in sight! We were told this was due to the low season and things were much busier in summer. Not helpful.
My friend and I got into an argument about what to do next. He wanted to wait around and hope for a taxi, and I wanted to walk back as soon as possible to get it over and done with.
We compromised and decided to start the walk back along the main road and try to hitchhike our way to our hut.
At this point, the sun had started to set, so time was against us.
As with the weather earlier that day, luck was again on our side. We were only 30 minutes into our walk home when we managed to flag down a minibus driver who offered to drive us back for a small fee.