Posted by: Paul | October 3, 2010

Snowdon – the second attempt

Having taken the Llanberis (railway) path on our first walk up Snowdon five years ago, my Dad and I decided we were experienced enough to tackle one of the more difficult paths – taking the PYG, or Pig track on the way up and coming down via the Miners track, making a nice loop. Before I lost mobile signal with ‘base camp’, I checked on the situation with the trains – the plan was to meet the other party at the top. A text came back from Ali straight away saying all trains were booked until 4 o’clock and they were going on the steam train round Llanberis lake instead. Oh well, perhaps third time lucky?

The Pyg track, the sign at the bottom warned us, was the roughest and most arduous of the paths up the great welsh mountain. Just what we were looking for! The name comes either from the ‘Pass of the Pigs’ on the way up (Bwlch Y Moch), or is a contraction of Pen Y Gwyrd, after the hotel near the start of the path. The track was fairly rocky and climbed steadily pretty much from the off, including a few short sections of proper hands-and-feet climbing. By the time we crossed the ridge which brought us back onto the same side of the mountain as the lower level Miners Track, we were already looking down onto other people from several hundred feet and feeling rather pleased with our choice. Minutes later and we were offered spectacular aerial views of the two lakes on this side of the range – Llyn Lydaw and Glaslyn.

Not long after, with a bit more climbing over wetter rocks we began to ascend into the clouds, towards the summit ridge. Views had been good up to this point but it was clear that, once again, we were destined not to see anything from the very top. We saw the path for the Miners track joining ahead after a very lengthy and steep climb, and were even more convinced we had taken the right route!

After about one hour and forty minutes of walking we were onto the summit ridge, and the icy blast of wind from the other side of the mountain hit us – conditions up here were very different to the comparative shelter of the southern slopes. In the distance we heard a lone steam train and stopped to put colder weather gear on and wait for it to come past.

To our surprise, the train carriage was empty save for one member of staff. What happened to them being booked up all day? We pressed on, and by the time we made it to the new summit cafe, the landscape looked like the surface of the moon.

The summit cafe / mini visitor centre was rather nice inside, all clad in wood with a solid slate floor, plus the obligatory overpriced cafe and shop. I couldn’t resist picking up a little soft toy red dragon for Adam though – the story was to be that Daddy had visited the dragon who lived at the top of the mountain, and the dragon had given me a present for him. We sat down for a well deserved cup of tea and a break, before heading down via the other path.

It became clear after an announcement, what had happened with the train – the weather had been deemed bad enough that no tourist trains were being allowed to the very top, and this train was to ensure that the remaining staff could get down that day. We wondered if there were beds somewhere in case they ever got cut off overnight up there – or were they expected to walk down if things got tough? In any case, the others had avoided another disappointingly curtailed journey, and saved £50 into the bargain (yes – it’s £25 per person to go on the train!!!)

After our tea we visited the summit cairn which lies up a short steep staircase adjacent to the cafe. At the top, the wind was so strong we had to cling onto the trig point for dear life. I turned my head to look around, and for one brief, glorious moment, the clouds parted.

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