Arriving late at night for a remote trip is always exciting; stepping out of the car in the dark with no street lights to give away your surroundings, feeling the change from the London atmosphere to clean, crisp air and hearing the sound of a stream or brook nearby - you look forward to the morning when you can open your curtains and see where you are. This time, the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. Adding to the excitement was the prospect of spending 2 nights at the ‘Prancing Pony Inn’ - well, thats what it looked like inside and out! We half expected to see Strider smoking his pipe in the corner…
The plan for day one was to climb to the top of Mount Snowdon. So, after another check on the weather for Snowdon that day we layered up our warm clothing, put on waterproof trousers and made sure we had enough water and energy-boosting food packed in our bags. Carrying our luggage from the car the night before the air felt freezing and we were pelted with large hailstones so we made sure we took our flasks down to breakfast with us and filled them with hot tea in anticipation of the cold - and in the knowledge that the cafe at the top of Snowdon is closed throughout the winter months.
When we reached the car park visibility was poor but we’ve been told that its not uncommon for weather systems to change suddenly on Snowdon and pass over. This one did not. Following the Miner’s Track we walked with the lake to our left which was dark and still, despite the rain and quite eery on a day like this. With hoods up in the constant rain, the sound of raindrops pattering around your ears becomes all you can hear so we stopped regularly to lower our hoods and listen. We reached the point where the map was leading us away from the path so after warming up a bit with some tea and a quick snack, we started to climb. The drop in temperature was noticeable the higher we climbed and in places we were wading through patches of snow about a foot deep. As we ascended higher and the terrain became more and more unstable under our feet, the strength of the wind increased. This is when it started to feel a bit dangerous.
We were conscious of allowing enough time to descend while there was still enough daylight to see by, we did not want to be scrambling down the mountainside in the dark in 40mph winds! Cloud was all around us now. Gripping to the side of a rock with what appeared to be a sheer drop below and the wind doing its best to throw us off, we all agreed it would be sensible to turn back. The summit was completely covered with cloud now and had we reached the top there would have been very little to see. We made our way back down the side of the mountain and it was a relief to be back on the path again! The wind was so strong by the time we reached the car park, it was a real effort to get the car door open - We made the right decision to turn back when we did!
The next day we returned to the same car park, the sun broke through the clouds and revealed a totally different place to where we’d been battered and blown about the day before! The cold wind was still biting but it was moving the cloud along and creating patterns of shadow and sunlight across the hills and mountains. We got a takeaway coffee from the Hostel and stood watching an eagle riding the wind above the hills for as long as we could.