Attempt number one was planned in for some time we already had time booked off work and we hadn’t planned on it being ‘attempt number one’. Well, I hadn’t anyway, although out of the five days I have spent in Wales in my lifetime only one of them was not challenged by the weather, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.
The weather watching began about a week before and the only consistent thing about every forecast was the wind. There were showers, spells of sunshine, heavy downpours, sunny afternoons, even clear nights forecast, so we knew it was going to be a little mixed.
When Saturday morning came we had mist added to the mix for the first time. By Saturday afternoon we were eating all the carbs in Llanberis and the SUN came out. It was still breezy but nothing worth worrying about. We set off up Snowdon at around 7pm that evening, sun out, plodding along and struggling to digest too much lasagne.
We took the Llanberis path for a change of scenery and the fact it was the most gradual ascent, a nice evening stroll up to the top of Wales’ highest mountain before attempting 27 miles and 14 more 3000ft peaks the next morning.
It was just breezy.
Then as we passed through the tunnel at Clogwyn Station the weather just changed from a little bit overcast and breezy to gale force winds and poor visibility. Walking became a bit of a challenge from this point on. By the time we got to Bwlch Glas where the various paths meet the path to the summit it was like a completely different world. This was an exaggerated version of the weather forecast!
The path up to the summit winds it’s way up along side a ‘bit’ of a drop to the left and the railway to the right, so rather than battle not to be blown of the side of Snowdon we followed the tracks to the summit station. Visibility was so poor by this point that you couldn’t see the end of the platform from the other.
So, plans were, first night in a bivvy bag, sleep, and leg it across the Welsh mountains the next day. It kind of wasn’t as idealistic as a bivvy in the Alps. I did not get that nice evening view from the new Rab sleeping bag while swigging from a hip flask. We did however, prep the bivvy in a doorway of the summit cafe on the station platform. THIS HAS GOT TO BE THE LEAST WILD CAMP EVER. But not in terms of the weather…
There was no shelter from that wind. Walking through the fog had made my legs damp and that in turn made me quite cold! It took forever to warm up inside the sleeping bag while I dried off. There was no coming out of the bivvy bag for a swig from the hip flask. It was more just asking each other if we were warm enough/asleep yet/being concerned about the weather the next day.
Don’t ask me how, but I think I actually managed to get a couple of hours sleep in. The wind was that strong that it lifted me off the ground a couple of times. You could hear it blowing up the side of the mountain, getting louder as it got closer and then bracing yourself for it howling around you. There was no respite. And it only got stronger as the night went on. All I could think about was Crib Goch in those winds…
4am was supposed to be wake up time. I was already awake and did not want to get out of the bivvy bag. BG was awake and had been all night. A quick check of the weather forecast and we made the decision to abort this attempt. Crib Goch especially, in 50-60mph winds would have not only slowed down any progress but it would have been dangerous and stupid.
BG just wanted to get off Snowdon and back down, so I had to man-up and get out of the bivvy bag. Everything was wet. The beautiful Exped mat was just SHOVED in the backpack as it was to wet and windy to put away properly. The bivvy bag was soaking, everything was just difficult.
We set off at around 4:45am and waved to some fellow idiots on their way up the summit in the stunningly horrendous conditions, I can only assume they were doing the National Three Peaks Challenge. The mist/fog never cleared and the wind never calmed down until we reached the Clogwyn Station tunnel. All I could think about all the way down was how I wanted to brush my teeth. I was tired, disappointed that the attempt was over before it had started and hungry, but all I wanted to do was brush my teeth.
We were back in Llanberis by 6:30am where we sat on a bench feeling pretty out of it, eating flapjacks and Snickers, waiting for Pete’s Eats to open. Yet very glad to be off Snowdon.
I’m not sure when we will get the chance to try it again. It might even be next year since we work full time and it’s so weather dependent. I don’t think we have time to squeeze it in before the Alps next month. So maybe we will just have to settle for the Alps… At least the weather is more consistent…