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Monday, August 23, 2010

'How to' and Photography - Conquering Snowdon

At the weekend (21/08/2010) I, along with Emma (@squiggle7) and Robin of The Foxes of Nevis climbed Mount Snowdon. I thought I'd combine a photo post with a bit of a 'how to' for people who consider themselves to be very amateur at mountain climbing (as we are!) There are more photos on my Flickr photostream, and more Snowdon photos (including full-sized versions of these) here.

Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales, reaching 1085 metres at its peak. It is often stated to be the second highest mountain in the UK, after Ben Nevis, but this is not true: the top ten highest mountains in the UK are all located in Scotland. For more information on mountains, you may like to check out this post. And then go somewhere a little less... tongue in cheek.

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This was the view after we'd been walking for half an hour or so. We followed the Pyg Track on the way up, which starts at the car park at Pen-y-Pass. The car park currently costs £10 for the day and fills up really quickly quite early in the morning. Instead, we caught a bus from nearby Llanberis (where we were staying in a B&B) for £1 each.

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This photo shows Emma and Robin in the foreground, and the Pyg Track, dotted with people, stretching back into the distance. In the distance, about a third from the left and a quarter from the top of the photograph, you can see a small cluster of white buildings. This is where the Pyg Track starts. It was about here that the going started to get a bit more 'mountainy'.

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This is the view in the other direction. The Pyg Track curves round and up this elevation, and crosses to the other side of the mountain on a ridge between this peak and the one you can see in the background, Crib Goch. It is at this point that there is the option of breaking off the Pyg Track and following the Crib Goch route, which takes you up and over this summit before carrying on to Snowdon's peak. This is recommended only for experienced climbers and those not used to mountain climbing may find themselves quickly out of their depth. We didn't go that way!

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This is Robin grinning like a loon. We stopped here for a snack after the first challenging 'climbing' bit. Just to clarify, when taking the Pyg Track you don't actually do any real rock climbing in the style of, for example, Sylvester Stallone in Cliffhanger, but there are a few places that require you to get stuck in and use your hands. Again, in this photo you can see the beginning of the Pyg Track in those tell-tale white buildings.

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Over the ridge, and inside the 'horseshoe' of mountains, there is an astounding array of beautiful scenery that changes  minute-by-minute as you walk. The next part of the track is fairly easy going, very uppy-downy, but not so much so that it is arduous.

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Here's Emma having a break. Robin was busy finding a place to rest his bag and coat so that when a big enough gust of wind came it would be in danger of blowing it all over the edge and down into that beautiful lake you saw in the previous photo. Thankfully, when the gust of wind came it was only just not-big-enough and merely caused the birthing of a couple of litters of kittens as we realised what almost happened. This was shortly before Robin was saved by a passing mountaineer from a potentially traumatising Jaffa Cake loss event.

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Here's the continuation of the Pyg Track. Snowdon's summit is round the corner a bit and lost amongst the clouds.

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And looking back on the lakes within the horseshoe.

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Looking back before the most challenging part of the ascent began, just after the Miner's Track joins the Pyg Track: for most of our walk, the Miner's Track was visible down below us, and looked much easier until the climb up to the Pyg Track, and then the following climb almost to the summit - they made up for it then.

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I didn't take many pictures of the next bit, as both hands were needed to help the climb, and I was very fearful of seeing my D60 bouncing all the way back down the mountain and landing with a plop in the lake at the bottom. It went back in my rucksack for a while...

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We stopped for a break and a quick munch after the tough bit and I took this. You can see where the track goes if you follow the people. We were about 20 minutes from the top, here. I'll take this opportunity to say something about footwear and other equipment: If you're going to do this, you need good, sturdy walking boots, a few layers of clothing (it gets pretty cold towards the top, but you'll be sweating like a pervert near the bottom) and a waterproof coat and trousers in your bag just in case. I saw some people doing the climb in jeans, t-shirt and trainers, and thought they were mad. They were lucky with the weather we had, but if it had started to rain they'd have been drenched and freezing by the time they got to the top. I wouldn't have felt safe doing it in trainers, and you need ankle support and a good solid sole as, if you're not used to it, mountain climbing takes it out of your joints and leg muscles, and the paths are far from smooth tarmac!
I heard other climbers talking about someone they'd seen doing the climb in sandals. I dread to think what state their feet were in when they got home.

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Here's Snowdon's summit taken from about the same place as the previous photo. You can just about see a group of people standing there.

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Reach the ridge before the final climb to the summit, and this is the view over the other side.

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And looking back down at the route we'd taken- you can see a hefty portion of the Pyg Track in this photo. The most difficult parts are in the bottom-right of the picture.

DSC_0370Emma and Robin at the summit. It was quite crowded- there were loads of people climbing Snowdon, and apparently this isn't unusual. There's practically no chance of getting lost because the paths are just a constant stream of people going in both directions. It'd almost be possible to send a note from top to bottom without moving, just by passing it from person to person.
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This is an installation at the very top of Snowdon that tells you what, on a clear day, you're looking at. Mostly what we were looking at were clouds- we were in them! But they cleared now and then so that we could take a photo or two from the top:

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You can just about see the zig-zag of the end of the Pyg Track that we came up on the right-hand side of this photo. The Llanberis path that we descended on goes down the far side of this ridge.

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A significant portion of the Pyg Track.

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A significant portion of Wales.

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We walked down the Llanberis path which is one of the easiest routes for climbing Snowdon, but also the longest as it starts in Llanberis itself. It covers roughly the same route as the mountain railway, crossing it a few times as it descends/ ascends (depending on which way you're going).
I found the Llanberis route hardgoing on the way down- it's very rocky and I was already tired from the climb up. Also, whilst the scenery is breathtaking at first, it changes very little as you descend and, still beautiful at the bottom, it gives you little that is new to look at for the 3+ hours you're walking it.

All-in, the climb and descent took us somewhere between 7 and 9 hours, with the downward portion taking the longer time- it was further, we were tired, and blisters had started to form. It was a hell of an experience, though, and one I'd probably repeat given the opportunity. I'd like to try Scafell Pike at some point, and then Ben Nevis too!

There are more photos on my Flickr photostream, in the Snowdon set.