Snowdon. An easy weekend getaway from London, with a tantalising ridge climb if you're up for the challenge...
One of the famous '3 peaks' Snowdon is considered the 'busiest mountain in Britain' with almost 400,000 visitors a year. Some reach the peak in trainers or flip-flops, taking the well maintained gravel path all the way to the top, some even take the train.
Others, who feel ambitious, fit, or perhaps over-confident... attempt Crib Goch - the hardest, most dangerous route to the top. Being a grade 1 scramble, it's great for those with some experience of climbing - and a good practice route for the experts. But it isn't for those who have never climbed before.
Just a 4 hour train journey from London Euston, it’s not hard to get to Snowdonia so there is really no excuse for not visiting. It’s even cheaper than a hire car and fuel. The last leg of the journey is beautiful - on a local train with request stops, passing through bucolic countryside and along rugged coastline.
Location: Snowdonia National Park
Journey time from London by car: approx. 4.5h depending on traffic
Journey time from London by train: 3.5h - 4.5h from Euston to Betws-y-Coed
OS Map: OS Explorer 17
We based ourselves in Betws-y-coed, a pretty town known as the 'Gateway to Snowdonia'. Arriving mid afternoon on a Friday, we did a quick tour of the various outdoor stores to admire the gear (including a beautifully designed Macpac rucksack - now on the 'gift-to-self when I become rich' list) and to pick up essentials. It might be Wales but a Kendal mint cake is a necessity wherever you might be walking. As is an OS map IMHO.
I picked up a little book by EG Rowland, called The Ascent of Snowdon. Written back in the 1950s, it's a pocket guide to the 6 classic routes up the mountain, and, being written 60 odd years ago, has deliciously old fashioned wording that I insisted on reading aloud during snack stops en route. We spent the evening debating which route to take - and after a little encouragement from our hosts Emma and Hugh at Grove House B&B, we decided that we should go hard, or go home, and thus we embarked on the Horseshoe route - the longest, hardest route. It’s the one that people die on every year.
The following morning I put this from my mind as I scrambled up the first steep edge of Crib Goch, and up onto the spindly ridge with sheer drops either side. There were perhaps 20 of us doing the route at one time. A welcome crowd to share fears, encourage one another and literally follow in one another’s footsteps/learn from each other’s mistakes. But traversing the ridge in a very slow moving queue was not so fun - more reminiscent of a hungover visit to an understaffed Tesco Metro with the very real possibility of not making it to the end of the queue before dying. I was scared - and I was angry at myself for being scared. At one point I froze - I couldn’t go up or down. I panicked. I wanted to get off. But I also wanted to complete it. And with a bit of encouragement from fellow climbers, I did.
I admit to a little under-breath muttering (disguised admiration of course) at the impossibly athletic family who - 50 year olds and 10 year olds alike - were running over the ridge like it was a flat playing field with absolutely no fear of falling to their deaths. But I did feel pretty pleased with myself at the other end.
At the end of the day we rewarded ourselves with a refreshing ale at the Pen-Y-Gwryd, the pub/hotel where Hillary stayed during his training for his 1953 Everest expedition.
Grove House B&B - Where we stayed in Betws-y-Coed. Great breakfast and expert advice from Hugh who knows Snowdon like the back of his hand.
Pen-Y-Gwryd Hotel - Lovely traditional pub with great ale and mountaineering paraphernalia hanging about the place. Rooms look nice too.
Snowdon Sherpa Bus - If you don't have a car you'll need the Sherpa bus to get you to the start of your hike and back again at the end of the day. It's very regular, and easy to use.