Quest to Snowdon Mountain - part I

Trip Start May 31, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Another long weekend came along and even though money was a little tight, we decided to pull one of our short UK road trips.  I personally couldn't wait for the weekend to arrive as the lack of activity at work has made my days increasingly tedious and monotonous.  Ed's job on the other hand has become increasingly demanding which has taken his mind off how much he hates his job.....make sense?
We left London Saturday morning at 5am heading north east, to the nation of Wales.  Ed and I had always been intrigued by Wales since we knew absolutely nothing about it, except that Catherine Zeta Jones was Welsh.  (Blush)
Since on our last trip we had visited so many castles and historic sites we were absolutely saturated of them, so we decided to go au naturale; and it just so happens that Wales is the perfect place for that.
We drove up to Snowdonia National Park.  The name alone evoked elf princes and fairy queens riding on turtle chariots escorted by singing bees and fireflies. Too carried away?  Well, when we entered the evergreen forests of Snowdonia I couldn't keep my imagination from drifting above the majestic pine trees and though little rivulets that spiralled across the underbrush.  A soft light shone upon the rich canopy creating a greenish glow inside the forest, like a huge green lampshade.  The roads ran straight through these forests and meadows where adorable little farmhouses sat surrounded by sheep, sheep and more sheep.  
We were headed to a little village on the foot of Snowdonia's biggest attraction, Snowdon Mountain. Apparently this is the Welsh pride and joy, their baby, and we wanted nothing more than to court her.
We reached our destination at noon.  The village of Llamberis seemed to be a meeting point for all kinds of mountaineers: trekkers, hikers, climbers, alpinists, campers; old and young all prepping for the wild outdoors.  Some people were already coming back from their hikes while some others were setting up their pro gear, which made us feel a little unprepared for the endeavour.  All we had was good trekking shoes, warm clothes, our cameras, and a lot of enthusiasm.   
I had researched a bit on the available tracks up the mountain, and had decided on Miner's Track because of the beautiful lake scenery.  But there was a catch: it was also one of the hardest.  Ed and I weren't in the best of shapes but we decided we wanted to go all the way anyway.  
It wasn't the sunniest of days, nor the warmest, but there was rain and sleet forecasted for the next day, so it was either today or never.  We started on Miner's Trail pretty late in the day, at around 2pm.  Considering the trail takes about 6 to 7 hours to complete, we were in danger of not finishing before it got dark.  The first part was pretty easy as we walked through a broad track with views to the Gwynant Valley on our left.  I was extremely impressed when Ed, studying his map, talked to me about how this valley was probably carved by a glacier in the last ice age, and left behind the lakes we were headed to.  Ed grew up in southern Argentina, amid mountains and lakes, so this little mountain goat really knows his stuff!
There were sheep grazing everywhere on these infertile grasslands.  Apparently nothing really grows here as the soil and rock are very acidic, but them sheep sure like it out here.  Some just plopped on the grass and watched us as we walked by while other younger ones pranced around close to mommy. 
Soon we came upon Llyn Teyrn, which according to our guide means Tyrant's Lake in Welsh.  A local chieftain had proclaimed this lake for his fishing use only, and he guarded his brown trout jealously. 

We continued on the track observing the white mineral striations on the rhyolite rocks.  Ed spotted some black slugs creeping around on the jagged rocks adorned with black and green fuzzy moss.  Everything around here was pretty much colourless and sombre, which contrasted highly with the lush forests in the valleys below. 
The footpath started getting steep, but the sun also started coming out just as we reached the great Llyn Llydaw (lllyn being lake in Welsh).  There was a path that crossed the crystal water mirroring the contours of grass of the surrounding slopes. Local legend has it that King Arthur disappeared here, carried away by fair maids of the mountain.  
We walked alongside the lake with its beautiful reflections and soft ripples.  The sun was shining bright now so we sat down on the damp grass to enjoy the views.  People walked by on the paths as did the copper mine workers years ago, when this place was exploited for copper ore.  The abandoned ruins of the miner's barracks stood near the lakes' shoreside.
The hardest part of the track was up head.  This was the part that would take us directly to the peak of Snowdon, 999 meters up into the sky.  We began to clambering the rocks and boulders as if they were stairs, but for giants.  Some of the rocks were so big you had to pull yourself up with arms and feet.  It was a steep and daunting way up and we were out of breath just 5 minutes after starting (well, I was).  In some places there was undergroun spring water running down in the form of tiny streamlets which made the rocks and their moss as slippery as walking on detergent.  From time to time we would take a short break and look back.  It was amazing at how fast you go upwards without noticing it: we were already high enough to give anyone vertigo.  But one thing's for sure, there was nothing better than looking back at that incredibly peaceful blue lake.  
The footpath zigzagged in what became the hardest part of the climb.  Ed found a shortcut straight up on a steep climb through loose rocks which I was reluctant to take, but since it was already 3 hours into the hike, I was eager to get to the top.  I followed Ed who held my hand to make sure I didn't slip.  It was about an 85 degrees climb and the rocks slid and moved under our feet.  I tried not to look down but it was hard not to.  As my adrenaline and fear levels rose, I regretted going off the path intended for stupid tourists like us.  As I was thinking this, a rock moved under my foot and I started to slide, the only thing holding me up from a 200 meter slide down unto jagged rocks was Ed's grip. Thank god for my mountain goat!
We got back on the path where I punched Ed for taking me through treacherous ground but then kissed him for taking good care of me. We continued upwards struggling up the large rocks and narrow trails.  The sun was long gone and we could tell we were getting closer to the top because of the strong winds which were growing colder and colder.  
We could now see the monolith marker on the highest peak of Snowdon called Bwlch Glas.  We could hear people who had just made the top cheering and laughing and as sweat poured down my back and I felt like my lungs and heart were about to collapse, I desperately longed to joined then.  Whatever energy I had left, I found, and with it I sprinted (walked faster actually) up to the top.  Ed had gotten here long before me and was busy taking pictures.  We collapsed next to a rock and rested looking beyond Snowdon and the lakes and could see the coast of Wales and other lakes and rivers in Snowdonia.  There was a silence so dense and thick that one could get lost in it, spellbound by its hollow hum.  
Four hours had passed since we first started the ascent.  It was cold and it was drizzling, and although reaching the peak was incredible, I personally wanted to get off this mountain.  But unfortunately everything that goes up, must come down, and little did we know that the worst was yet to come. 

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