Snowdon, North Wales
The mountain is to be found in the beautiful surroundings of Snowdonia in north Wales. The first thing that hits you when you arrive in Snowdonia is the dynamic hills and rock faces. Snowdon is the highest peak in the British Isles south of the Scottish Highlands. It has drawn hikers, climbers, and mountaineers for over two centuries. The area is one of the most picturesque and diverse of north Wales, drawing thousands of visitors every year.
There are six main walking routes up Snowdon, each varying in length, terrain difficulty, and starting point. We chose to follow the old Miners' track, which, as its name suggests, was used by mining workers during the 19th century to head up and down the mountain. You'll see along the walk the old ruined barracks which once housed the miners during the week when they would live on Snowdon away from their families.
The first part of the walk sweeps round rolling hills with Snowdon's highest point appearing and disappearing in front of you as the path twists and turns. You can see the cars growing ever smaller behind you as the A4086 heading back into Llanberis is left in your wake. The path is a well-built road for the first part - in fact, we had to move out the way of a truck taking supplies to an outpost further along.
We passed a large group of girl scouts just as we approached the Llyn Teyrn ('Llyn' in Welsh means 'lake'). We were surprised how few flashed us a smile or said hello but of course they'd just accomplished the feat we had only just begun to attempt. On our way back down after all that uphill hiking we weren't in the mood for pleasantries either.
The well-built path winds its way from the Llyn Teyrn over a bridge that crosses the much larger Llyn Llydaw and upwards, following the stream to the surprisingly blue waters of the Glaslyn lake. "Glaslyn" actually means "blue lake" in Welsh, gaining its name because of the distinct, picture-postcard colour of the lake itself. The beautiful blue water gets its colour from dissolved copper salts found in the mountain.
This is where the going gets a little tougher. The summit now towers above you. Many people sit and have lunch around Glaslyn before attempting the energy-sapping ascent up the mountain side.
There are several routes to take, and none are clearly marked. We simply watched people going up or coming down to get an idea which way best suited us. Looking up at this point to the right of the summit you can vaguely make out the famous Zig-Zags which the Pyg track and Miner's track eventually join. Further right you can see people walking along the Pyg route. At this point, the Pyg track is much higher than the Miner's route.
The ascent for the next forty minutes is much more difficult. Loose rock can make it tough under foot so make sure you're wearing walking boots or other, well-supported footwear. This part of the walk is tough on the legs, especially the thighs, so you'll quickly gain an idea of your fitness level as you make your way up. We stopped for a rest every ten or fifteen minutes to take on water and enjoy the view, which gets increasingly grandiose the higher you go.
Prepare yourself for some scrambling at times, as you'll have to use your hands to haul yourself up some sections. I noticed many people with walking sticks which probably help the ascent and descent but we didn't use them.
Don't let the scrambling put you off a trip to Snowdon. We saw families and people of all ages going up the mountain, including grandparents, so the light scrambling you do encounter shouldn't trouble anyone with an average level of fitness. Of course, if you want to avoid using your hands altogether, just head up one of the easier routes such as the Llanberis path.
You'll meet many people along the way - some going up, some coming down. I remember with about half an hour to go to the summit, I allowed a clearly tired gentleman to scramble down a steep section of loose rocks where it would have been impossible for us both to pass at the same time. I asked him, "Is it much further to the top?" He looked at me, his face flushed and gleaming with sweat in the early afternoon sunlight. "Not far," he said, "it gets easy as soon as you get round that corner and on to the Zig-Zags."
'Easy', I thought, he must be kidding. I was by this time cursing my heavy legs for the pain they were putting me through whilst trying not to look behind me and the ever steeper drop back down to the Glaslyn.
The gentleman, who wished us well as we continued our ascent, was of course speaking of the now famous Zig-Zags. Referring to the way the path eventually twists in a 'Z' formation up to meet the Llanberis path on the final ridge to the summit, the Zig-Zags are indeed a little easier. This part of the path, where you'll meet walkers from the Pyg track, is better constructed and doesn't require any scrambling. However, the way it has been constructed, with steps built into the mountain face rather than slopes which would be too steep at this point, does take its toll on your already weary legs.
But it's worth it. At this point, everybody you pass going down who've been through the exact exhausting experience, offer a few words of encouragement. "Not far to go now" or "you're nearly there."
And then, with one final push, you step up the final slope where the finger stone marks the joining of the Pyg, Miner's, and Llanberis paths, and are greeted with one of the most awe-inspiring views in the British Isles. This is what all the hard work for the past three hours was for.
I immediately took a few steps forward towards a sufficiently-sized rock that looked like a perfect place to park my bum. I sat down, dropped my backpack, and allowed the view to envelop me.
To read an extended version of my story and see some more pictures please visit: www.squidoo.com/snowdon_wales
Contributed by Dan Stephens< Back to Wales page for links to other stories