Words by Joe Thurgate
After a journey full of traffic jams and a saddening amount of rain we got to the camp site late! Not a great start, but luckily for us Mum and Dad had got there early and made us some soup which we ate rapidly due to the swarms of midges. It looked like we would have just enough light left in the day to climb Snowdon.
The walk up the PYG track was going well and the rain eased into a mist but the wind started to strengthen, this was not a part of the forecast we had seen. By the time we got to the summit we lost the last of the light and it was gusting 35mph. Bugger!
We tried to find a camp spot just down the other side of the summit but to no avail, so we settled on pitching behind the caff. As we were putting up our tent a similarly disheartened paraglider turned up – a good bit of solidarity to reassure us that we weren’t completely foolish, or at least we were fools together. We gave him the prime spot in the doorway, he only had a bivy bag! and settled for a few meters further down the building. We said our goodnights and set to weighing the tent down with stones as fast as we could and then jumped in to add our own wait to provide the much needed structural support.
The wind which had swung round almost immediately after we got in the tent and for the next 3 hours we were buffeted and blown around like a deranged version of the bag in American Beauty. We battled with the idea of packing it in and heading down but finally at 2:00am the wind settled, exhausted we fell quickly asleep but with little hope of doing much climbing the next day.
We left our alarm set for 5:00am just in case but it ended up being redundent, at 4:00am we were rudely awoken by night walkers. They are similar to the white walkers from game of thrones, they come from the north with the sole intent of fucking you up!
Well there was nothing for it, their chirpiness was there to stay as was their efforts to converse with us, so we decided to get up just as the approaching sun rise chased them away! Feeling miserable wet and cold we packed up the tent and decided to head down behind them, angry, deflated, and most of all tired.
But… We thought might as well take the 20 odd steps to the summit again and then as if by magic the clouds parted to show a glorious sunrise over a mist filled valley with the peaks of Snowdonia rising up through it. It only lasted for a few seconds but it was incredibly uplifting. It was so beautiful it almost made the trials of the night worthwhile, almost!
Feeling vitalised we thought we might as well head to Cryb y Dysgyl (the second peak on our route) after all it was practically on the way down, though we were still very unsure that we would continue beyond there. As we reached the top a couple of guys appeared from the mist. “How’s it going? You’re up here early, you doing the Welsh 14?” Ah dam, we had to decide, were we? We weren’t sure. “Ermm yes that’s the plan.” They went on to tell us that Crib Goch (the most technical of all the peaks) was “fine” and not too slippery. Encouraged we decided to go for it.
As we scrambled our way to the third ridge we began to think completing our walk was back on the cards, but the going was slow, though not “too slippery” it was definitely still slippery and we hadn’t seen much of that Sun after its brief showing from the summit of Snowdon. As we traversed the ridge there was an increasing flow of people doing the welsh 3,000’s heading in the opposite direction as they had all opted for sleeping down in the valley which made for a longer route but a better sleep. Though their enthusiasm cemented our own conviction to do continue with our challenge, their freshness incurred a bitter jealousy! Still nothing for it, we plodded on repeating our hellos until we finally got back into the valley.
By the time we got to the camps site to ditch some kit and have a bit of breakfast we were a bit behind schedule but still decided to pitch our tent ready for that night (one of the best decisions of the weekend!). After some tea and a fair share of emotional support we set off up the long accent of Elidir Fawr joined by Mum and Dad. We kept a steady pace but a couple of groups that we had crossed paths with on Crib Goch overtook us, any hard feeling quickly evaporated in what was now glorious sunshine, and despite our tiredness were all really enjoying being in the mountains. The view from the top of Elidir Fawr was stunning with Anglesea lit up below us and a great view of our past and future all around us.
A few paleo bars and semi cooked eggs later (Mum and Dad’s favourite food) we decided to head on to the Next Peak “Y Garn”. In the opposite direction was a steady flow of fell runners, which we later learned was part of a national police challenge! They put our pace to shame though I am still suspicious that they were only running when in sight, a classic fell running trick as soon as your back is turned they slow down and eat cake, it’s a fact!
Our spirts were high and it was really nice to be in the hills together but our pace was slow and by the time we had reached the top of Y Garn we decided we needed to make a contingency plan especially as the clouds were darkening on the horizon threatening more rain. As we headed into the next saddle we decided that we would carry on to do the Glydirs and Tryfan whilst Mum and Dad who weren’t on a crazy mission would head back to camp and drive round to meet us at the bottom of Tryfan, and we could see how it was going from there.
Just as we had feared as we climbed up Glydyr Fawr we also climbed into a cloud, definitely not ideal, especially when the cloud turned increasingly more liquid! Though I love the eeriness and mysticism of the Glydyrs on this occasion my emotions were more akin to those ancient welsh who named them “Cludair” meaning pile of stones, and we both wondered what we were doing on them. Between Glydir Fawr and Glydir Fach we met with another group that we had seen on Crib Goch and they asked if “we were still going for it?” but I think some of the group were really asking “is it ok if we quit? We are knackered?” We told them that we were at least going to head on to Tryfan. One of the more enthusiastic of the group told us we had to, that we had come so far, Rosie told him where to go with a look. As we reached Glydir Fach it started to poor down, and I finally conceded that shorts were a bad choice! The scrambly way between Glydyr Fach and Tryfan wasn’t fun and we were very worried that the massive group of students we had overtaken would at any minute kick a landslide of boulders onto us, but luckily we escaped unscathed.
We nearly walked off the mountains at the pass between Glydyr Fach and Tryfan, that would have been the wise choice, but I convinced Rosie that Tryfan “wasn’t that bad”… I was wrong! It was horrible, wet, and blowing a gale! It was probably only the effect of Adam and Eve that sit at the top of the mountain that are said to bring prosperity to your relationship that prevented Rosie from punching me. And then Rosie’s boot fell apart. At which point we both weren’t sure to laugh or cry, luckily we did more laughing.
We didn’t linger long on Tryfan and due the difficulty of navigating the ridge in the weather we decided to descend to the west down what can be described as a seriously steep stair way that took an age especially for Rosie who with her broken boot and sore legs had to descend sideways like some kind of aquatic mountain crab. There was no doubt about it the decision to stop weighed heavily on our hearts but it was not as heavy as our soaked clothes, we were definitely not going on, we were going to bed!
Slightly sad that we didn’t finish the 14, when we looked back to how we felt huddled in wet and furiously flapping tent the night before we were happy with how far we got!! And that is in no small part because pushing us along the whole way was the fantastic cause we were walking for and the amazing support of family and friends. Thank You!!