(The story so far)
Our intrepid hero was lying in an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar hotel room listening to the gentle snoring of his friend on the mezzanine level above him and unable to sleep because he was very excited. He was about to climb a mountain.
But not just any mountain – Snowdon!!!
(and now – our feature presentation continues!)
My alarm started beeping at 5.30am – the time both my companion and I agreed to get up and make a start. We’d heard that parking was something of a hassle at Pen Y Pass, which was the start of the ‘Miner’s Track‘, and where we were beginning our assault on Snowdon.
Pretty much all of the packing had been done the night before – and we’d both prepared for every eventuality. In each of our packs we had emergency first aid (including foil blankets and duct tape), food (I had 5 x pressed fruit bars and a 200g bag of fruit and nut totalling around 1600kcal), 2 litres of water, waterproof over clothes, an emergency whistle, plasters… (the list went on).
In addition to this I was also taking a lightweight mac, a jumper, a spare tee-shirt, spare pants, socks, a wooly hat, gloves, walking poles, a camera, my mobile phone, and a battery charger plus cables.
It’s fair to say the packs were heavy – but contained what we felt were sensible items to bring along. The weather was forecast to be changeable later in the day and we didn’t want to be stuck without important stuff.
We opened the door and marvelled at the morning. The sky was a clear blue and the sun was just coming up. A mist was rolling along the valley and everything was cool and fresh. It looked awesome!
We arrived at the car park at 6.50am – a little later than we’d planned and boy were we lucky! We managed to snag the last parking space! It was a really tight one that no-one seemed to want – but my friend still managed to thread the needle and fit it in with a little room to spare.
We headed off.
Given the torrential conditions the day before (link) it was pretty surprising that the weather (there were dire predictions all week leading up to Saturday) was so nice. As we headed out there was almost no-one around either, and the path (apart from the occasional runner) was almost completely deserted.
For those that have never walked the Miner’s Track, the first 2/3rds of it is a well maintained trail that ascends very gradually along 3 small lakes (with some rougher, steeper steps) and then becomes quite challenging.
We were making surprisingly brisk progress to begin with – and I was initially unsure whether bringing the walking poles was a good idea. They seemed like a useless nuisance to begin with – but I persisted – trying to match my stride with my arms.
By 7.20am we’d reached the first lake – which was crystal clear and completely serene.
We were both feeling a bit warmer now, as the sun was getting higher – and carried on up the largely deserted path that wound its way along the hillsides climbing slowly further up.
Before long in the distance we could see the tip of a little building. There are a few of these along the way – and all by the lakes, so they’re a good visual indicator of progress. If you see one in the distance then you’re nearly there.
And then we were! At 7.40 am the second lake sprang into view – and the weather seemed to be continuously improving!
We were making very good time at this point and saw no reason to stop for a break, so we powered on.
After the second lake the path started to rise more sharply, and moved from being a flatter, gravelled surface to one that was made from larger stones (almost like a roman road). I looked at Apple Watch and my pulse had now climbed from the low 90’s to around 122. This was now feeling a bit more like exercise!
By the time we reached the third lake it was 8.30am and I was drenched. Although my lightweight mac was keeping me warm it was also making me a boil in the bag meal – so I tied it to the back of my pack along with my wooly hat, and carried on with just my tee-shirt – which was nice and cool in the breeze.
This was where the hill became a mountain, and the climbing became more technical. Although there was a rough path ahead through assorted rocks and loose stone it was now less than obvious which way to go – and it was possible to head up what looked like easy rocks only to be headed off by a more challenging step – and in a couple of cases I turned around and tried a different route.
This was really hard work.
It took a while to get up this first part – and it’s at this point where the ‘Pyg track‘ and ‘Miners Track‘ intersect. It was also at this point that both my companion and I began to wonder whether or not we’d brought too much stuff.
There were a couple of times that while hopping from rock to rock I felt myself tipping backwards, and it wasn’t a pleasant sensation. We decided to sit down for a while on a nearby boulder and have our first rest stop. It was now 9.25am.
As I sat munching my first two pressed fruit bars of the day and drinking my water I noticed a visitor sitting next to me. Normally his kind are camera shy, but this guy appeared to rather like the attention and was watching me intently – in the hope I had spare food.
He even made absolutely sure he kept in shot for my panorama video and gave me a special take off shot too!
After a short while (and maybe a little reluctantly – the view was great) we decided to move on.
If I’d thought the worst was behind me I was dead wrong. Even though the surface was less uneven, and the rocks less likely to move beneath you the climb was both steep and challenging. The walking poles had by now already come into their own and they were a godsend for balance and a sense of security.
Without them I think I’d have been pretty nervous in some places.
Although I’ve lost a lot of weight I’m still far from nimble – and I felt that now I was slowing down a lot. However, in the distance (at the top, middle of this pic) I could see the crest of the path. The (almost) end was in sight!
After some more slow but persistent climbing I reached the coin marker (a post with a mass of copper coins jammed into it by climbers – I know not why!) near to the crest and stopped to take a photo of the view below. Because of the angle of the first lake only two can be seen together – but it’s still a spectacular sight.
It was now 10.15am.
I turned around – there wasn’t far to go – and if I managed to get to the top quickly I could send my Slimming World group (which normally starts at 10.30) a pic to prove that I’d done it!
Then, with a second wind of energy we soon hopped over the crest, to a wonderful view of the valley the other side of Snowdon, and the mountain railway passing on it’s way down to Llanberis.
The view was too nice not to stop and take a picture – so we took a moment to drink in the surroundings and record it for posterity!
However there was still more to climb – and in the distance I could see the monument we needed to reach – and it was crawling with people.
We carried on up the increasingly large steps – and I looked continually at my watch. I could still send Angie and others a picture if I was quick.
Then, at 10.52 – after four hours we stood at the summit, 1035m above sea level with a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
I’m not going to lie – I was expecting this to be quite emotional – but by now I was more interested in having a wee, sitting down and having something to eat! It’s amazing how your priorities shift after four solid hours of strenuous exercise!
Thankfully next to the monument is a cafe and after going to the loo (ohmygoshthatwassoooooogreat!) eating (nomnomnomnomnom!) and a quick change of upper clothing (sowarmandcosynowitssnugandlovely!) we sat outside to admire the view, send some more texts and selfies to people and agree upon which route we were going to take back down.
We’d planned well in advance that taking the (supposedly) easier Llanberis Path back down would mean less knee and quadricep pain – but we’d almost changed our mind during the ascent. However things had again changed quite quickly. The miner’s track was a known quanitity, but it was now completely besieged by hordes of people going in both directions, and the narrow, more challenging sections of the route seemed like a scary prospect with heavy packs.
We decided to opt for the safer, but longer way down, in the hope things would work out well. The weather was also clouding over a bit now and rain had been forecast for later in the day.
We headed off at about 12pm.
Well – we now know that safe and steady in terms of heading down a mountain also means ‘utterly endless quadricep torture with some occasionally nice views’.
By 12.30pm I was already beginning to feel the burn and relying even more heavily on the walking poles as the first 1/3 of the descent to Llanberis is pretty darn steep. By 1pm I badly needed to sit down, and we both agreed it was time to chill for a while and admire the view.
It’s also around about here that my friend revealed a startling ability to ‘vogue’ for the camera – and displayed what I thought was initially a high altitude stroke but learned moments later that it was actually a particularly stubborn fart that required some enhanced concentration to shift.
Thank goodness for a mountain breeze!
Following this moment this my photographic documentation of the walk became a lot more spotty – and after an unbelievably arduous and leg shredding hike down to a bus stop that never seemed to arrive (to get back to the car) during some driving rain at 3.30pm we eventually (wearing full waterproofs) reached a small cafe and a Taxi rank at the end of the Llanberis Path.
Honestly at this point I would have signed over a kidney to someone if they would make the pain in my legs stop and I wasn’t alone. Both of us were broken and the prospect of moving another inch was unconscionable.
We’d walked almost 10 miles up and over Snowdon to get to where we were and neither of us wanted to take a single step further.
We gladly stumped up £15 for the taxi to take us back to the start of our walk and at exactly 4pm – a gruelling nine hours after we started we climbed out of the taxi and onto the tarmac of Pen Y Pass.
I could have frankly married the cab driver – and borne his children.
Amazingly – despite grumbling for much of the way about the weight of the packs we’d taken (they were a stone and a half each) we’d used almost every item we brought with us. It was all useful – and in retrospect made me marvel at the lady we passed wandering up the mountain in a thin summer dress and flat bottomed deck shoes.
I bet she got soaked!
Finally, through a superhuman feat of physical prowess that was probably only manageable by a woman (I was reliably informed) my friend drove the 20 minutes back to the hotel, where we each had a really well deserved shower and lie down for an hour.
We were absolutely shattered.
I can’t honestly ever remember being that destroyed in recent memory – but as I lay on the bed I realised how proud I felt of both of us and what we’d achieved.
I’d been worried all day long about what I was eating – insistent that I didn’t want to over indulge in energy rich processed foods and destroy all my good work – and it occurred to me once again how much my life has changed.
I was paranoid about eating any kind of unknown food in a wrapper or large bags of nuts because I’m so unused to it now. They’re no longer in my dietary lexicon.
I’m so different to the man that I used to be in April 2016 and climbing Snowdon was a watershed.
It’s a moment in time that no-one can take away from me.
This is something I planned for, worked towards, that I lost fifteen stone of fat to achieve and I deserve to feel great about.
And I do.
I REALLY do.
I did treat myself a little though.
I had a baked potato with tuna and mayo and coleslaw with mayo later that evening (we went back to the cafe from the night before) which I’d never normally do.
I did leave the butter to one side though – one can’t go crazy after all…
Did I feel guilty?
Hell no internet! I totally deserved that spud! I really really worked for it!!!
P.S. Tune in tomorrow for the final Part 3!!!