Gale-force winds, money trees, V for victory – Snowdon

Two hundred and ten miles in Canada is by no means the same distance in the UK.

Winding roads, varying amounts of traffic, one-car country lanes with five-foot hedges…it took us ages to get to Wales. The trusty camper van arrived to Snowdonia National Park mid-afternoon, which was a bit late to start hiking, but plenty of time to seek out a campsite and food.  Snowdon was pencilled in for the next day.

Camping in Wales

(1,085 m or 3,560 ft)

About Snowdon: How amazing it is that Wales could take one mountain and create Disneyland?  You could go badass and climb Snowdon, or take the tourist tracks that wind up the back side, or literally take a trolley train from the base to summit, which – btw – has a bunker-esque restaurant on top!! It’s rather welcoming that there are so many experiences to be had on Snowdon, but I’m sure it also has the purists rolling in their graves.

Savvy choice: Having a local inn prepare pack lunches for the trip. It was pricy at about 9 GBP each, but after two other hikes it was a delight to open a lunch bag prepared by someone else with things you might not ever buy but were excited to eat.

Weather report: Some of the strongest winds I’ve ever experienced!  That wind ripped, tore, howled…and tried (unsuccessfully, thank goodness) to dislodge me twice from this great Earth.  At the summit, we moved in a wild, windy cloud, and it was so cold.

Closest pub: The YHA Snowdon’s bar is open for drinks, but the atmosphere is G-rated with many youth and school groups racing up and down the halls.  For something more pub-ish, hop back in the car and head down the road.

Our hike: And then there were two… Miz M. and Miz W. planned to take the trolley up Snowdon, while we took the PYG Track.  Fingers crossed that we’d meet at the top!  Little did we know, but the wind was so very fierce that all train services were cancelled that day, and the coffee shop remained closed.

Snowdon PYG track

Snowdon has many trails converging towards the summit, and we chose the PYG Track which begins across the street from the Youth Hostel up on Llanberis Pass, at the Pen Y Pass car park.  The well-trodden path is very clear the entire way as we quickly discovered on a Saturday morning where everyone and his dog were making the trek!

We were told this mountain, of the three, would be the “easiest”, and we could see why….the path was defined and there were many gradual or even flat spots at the beginning.

Snowdon break

After a snack and break – and it was quick because the wind sucked the very heat from our bodies –  we carried on.  Passing Llyn Llydaw and Glaslyn, the trail took a rockier, steeper turn as the trek rose into the cloud which hid Snowdon’s summit.

Snowdon into the clouds

We came across the most curious tree.  A money tree, or perhaps a wishing tree…add a coin, find your heart’s desire.  There were two such trees just prior to the bit before Bwlch Glas and the final 100 m.

Snowdon money tree

That last 100 m I was glad to be a solid lass, because if I was any lighter, I would be airborne!  The ferocious wind tossed and tormented. As Miz J. and I mounted those last steps to touch the summit marker, we hung on for dear life at the centre cairn.  A photo would’ve been appropriate, but there was no way to take out the camera without being blown off the top. Victory! Three peaks complete!!!

Coming down off the stone platform was pretty much more terrifying than climbing up.  I wavered at the top of the stone staircase, and was about to take flight when a steady yank on the back of my pack from a fellow hiker pulled me to safety.  From there, I followed suit from Miz J. and inched my way down the stairs on my bum.

With the summit restaurant closed, we huddled in a doorway out of the wind, with other hikers who’d just completed their Three Peaks Challenge in under 24 hours – well done!

The way back down was an all-singing, all-dancing joyride.  The trail was packed with loads of other hikers and even a peak endurance race (Ras Copaon 1000m Cymru), with runners navigating the tourists as they pushed through to the top.  Such a stellar way to end our three peaks!

We missed seeing Miz W. and Miz M., but their smiling faces swung by in the camper van to collect our tired and sweaty selves to whisk us off to York!

Pencilling in a return….but in the mean time, here are some stats from our Canuck National Three Peaks Challenge:

a zillion sheep
467 miles, peak to peak (not including detours)
76 pints
33 bags of crisps
8 sore calves
3 great pub meals
2 official campsites
1 parking lot doze
1 flat tyre

This is how we do it – #3Peaks

Road map to SnowdonI swear that prepping for the National Three Peaks Challenge was more challenging than the actual hiking. Admittedly, anticipation for me is 90% of the fun!

Bagging the three highest peaks in Scotland, England, and Wales all in 24 hours sounded like an awesome test of body and mind. Miz J.’s discovery of this little gem was ever so brilliant.

We’d start in Scotland, with Ben Nevis (1,344 m or 4,409 ft) for about 6 hours of trekking up & down; followed by a mad six-hour drive down to England’s Lake District to Scafell Pike (978 m or 3,209 ft) for a night hike up the rock peak, est 4 hours; and lastly, we’d haul ourselves along for another five (or more!) hours’ drive to Snowdonia to complete the final peak, Snowdon (1,085 m or 3,560 ft) in about 5 hours. Tah-dah!

However, coordinating the adventure from across the ocean (back home in Ca-nah-da) was a complete test of patience. It was mostly done, of course, from the comfort of the couch, laptop at hand, or at our weekly Wednesday night planning meetings in a bar. But still…lots of negotiation to find the best way for us to rock this goal.

Initially, we decided to go with a company that would provide an “open bus” where we could join in with others to do the challenge on a particular set of dates. Then we realized that if we truly wanted to do this in 24 hours, the group could only move as fast as its slowest hikers (which could ultimately be us) and did we want that wrath and pressure, given we’d be paying 375 GBP per person? Hm. Maybe not. And it just seemed so expensive, even though the price was on par with most of the companies offering the same services.

Then, we chose to switch it up and find our own van and driver, order topographical maps of the peaks, learn to use a compass, and do it all ourselves. We tried friends, or friends of friends, and no one had a spare van about or a driver willing to commit to driving like a bat out of hell through three countries and sleeping in the car parks while we hiked. We considered posting an ad on Kijiji for random lads with cars who’d be willing to take Canadian girls on a bit of a jaunt. But we never got that far.

Finally, we figured the 24-hour time crunch was the main obstacle for us completing the challenge on our own. We decided to rent our own van from Campers Scotland, and hike each mountain at our own pace over the period of a week. This way, we get to see a bit of Scotland, England and Wales (Ale! Beef pies! Tea towels bought for mum!) and the like.  Between the four of us, there’d be a driver, a navigator and a peanut gallery in the back (which would also double as the galley).

Flights and camper van booked, hiking maps reviewed and off to the mountains! Or hills. Or Munros. You get the picture. The Canadians are coming. Onward!