Jess is a Wanderer climbed Wales’ tallest mountain on the worst day of summer…
I went to university in Swansea and studied teaching in 2008 and graduated in 2011. During that time, I met a lot of people from all over the UK and stayed in contact with some. Fast forward six years and I’ve just finished working at a British school in Cairo, Egypt with three of my uni pals.
Seeing as it is now the summer holidays and two of us are actually unemployed (yes, it gets more real each time I type it), we could have picked any weekend to climb Snowdon. In fact, we could have picked any weekday given our lack of working commitments at the moment. However, we opted for the weekend of August 12-13. Why this weekend? I don’t know, it just seemed fitting during discussions. Did we check the weather? Not until it was too late…
As we headed north towards Shrewsbury (before crossing the border into Wales) all bundled in the car with a teepee for a tent and enough snacks to feed a small army, it became clear that rain was coming our way. The forecast wasn’t looking good either with the downpour set to continue for most of Saturday – the day we were supposed to summit Snowdon!! Oh well, we’re a young, optimistic and adventurous bunch. What’s the worst that could happen?
That evening, we ate in the pub and joked about how treacherous the weather was supposed to be the following day and whether it was worth calling it off and postponing the hike until Sunday. Not wanting to be phased (and secretly hoping the forecast was wrong) we committed to climbing the next morning, whatever the weather.
From the off, there was drizzle and mist. We couldn’t see further than twenty metres in front of us and I (hanging back to take photos) lost the rest of the group several times. There were a few other people braving the elements like us and trying to reach the summit. Only one group had turned back claiming that it was ‘too windy and dangerous to go to the top’. This didn’t deter us, we were here for the long haul and we were going all the way. I mean, it wasn’t worth dying for but we were determined to at least see the summit for ourselves. Or were we just stupid?
I’ll be honest, I do a lot more exercise than I ever used to so I didn’t find the climb that much of a challenge. However, with both of my feet absolutely swamped, every step felt like I was sinking into a muddy abyss, there was freezing rain smashing into my face and the wind was whipping around my head, it was truly awful. And I’m not even exaggerating!! Where the three footpaths converge – Llanberis, the tried and tested typical tourist trek; the Miners path, a more difficult hike; and our Snowdon Ranger route, I took shelter behind a large rock and waited for the rest of the gang to catch up. I’d rushed ahead because I was so cold and wet that I just wanted the whole thing to be over. It was only whilst crouching behind this stone with the hail smashing into me that I realised I couldn’t possibly summit alone and that I’d have to wait for the others to catch me up. It was also at this moment when I seriously considered the possibility of hypothermia kicking in!!!
Within twenty minutes, we were reunited, all as cold and wet as each other and ready to take on the summit. Perhaps I’m alone in thinking the summit wasn’t just around the corner from this converging of footpaths, it was probably another twenty minutes further!!! Hence this photograph being taken when we finally did arrive, we were all past the point of caring, totally not bothered about the ‘perfect we just summited Snowdon’ pic and ready to take shelter in the cafe with some hot drinks.
In the cafe, the refuge we sought was nothing more than an optimistic dream shattered by the soggy crowd of three hundred strong dripping, shivering, coffee-hugging, equally as stupid as us, adventurers who had also decided to summit Snowdon in this treacherous weather. There was nowhere to sit, not really anywhere to stand and despite what they tell you about penguins huddling together for warmth… I’m not sure I believe them as I didn’t feel particularly warm being nestled between a girl with a crumbling, soggy packet of Mr. Kipling’s Viennese Whirls and Wolvo (my pal who had brought a whole change of clothes with her but found everything to be soaked).
Without further ado, we opted to jump ship and get back down the mountain as fast as we possibly could. This is where our team got split into two parts – Ceri and I like little mountain goats trotting off as fast as our squelchy shoes could carry us. Jenkins and Wolvo taking a more sensible approach. It actually worked in the latter’s favour as I was able to make it back to the campsite, pick up the car and park at the bottom of the trail to wait for them (with the heating on full blast) and whisk them away to the (relative) comfort of our campsite. Fortunately, the weather did start to clear so I was able to take 100 photos of the same view! See the gallery below!
With our clothes and shoes and socks and feet and, well everything actually, completely utterly totally soaking wet, it was hot showers all round and then piling in the car – heating on full blast once again – with shoes and socks and jackets and jumpers hanging around the place as we headed for Porthmadog to a lovely pub for some lovely grub.