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Snowdonia Peaks

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Not Quite A Snowdon Sunrise 7-9-2014

This was to be one walk experience that I had looked forward to for some time after seeing lots of great photo's and trip reports about the sunrise from the summit of SNOWDON. I had asked a few people if they wanted to join me and two good walking friends, Richard & Catherine, along with her dogs, Lexi, Sylvia & Stacy, took up the offer. The day before we had walked a classic route around the Glyderau summit's of Glyder Fach & Glyder Fawr, a great mountain day and a bit tiring, especially as we knew we had to be up early the next day, very early in fact.
After watching the sun go down over Snowdon and the moon rising over Moel Siabod from our campsite on the Saturday night, all was looking good as the alarm was set for 2am on Sunday. As we woke and had a bite to eat and made last minute checks of head & hand torches we were quite excited about our first venture into the darkness and really looking froward to what lay ahead especially as the moon and stars were still visible, making it a promising start to the day. Despite a dew on the ground, it was very still and not too cold, making it ideal conditions for what lay ahead. We made the short drive to the Pen y Pass car park where we duly started our early morning adventure by following the MINERS TRACK as this was the flattest and easiest way to go at this time of day. We followed this path around to GLASLYN where we duly made our way up and on to the PYG TRACK that takes you to the finger post that marks the spot where a combination of paths join, leading all the way to the summit of Snowdon. On our way we did pass quite a few other walkers who were on the last leg of the NATIONAL THREE PEAKS CHALLENGE, a walk the involves doing the three highest UK peaks of, BEN NEVIS in Scotland, SCAFELL PIKE in England and SNOWDON in Wales, all in 24 hours or under. Something that I haven't done, although I have walked all the summits but not in 24 hours, I'll leave that one to all the mountain goats out there :-)
Our route for the morning
despite the clouds, it was quite a clear nite as we sat having breakfast at 2.30am
Setting off along the Miners Track
First rest of the day on the Miners Track
We set off from Pen y Pass at 3.30am hoping to be at the summit for 6.30am as the sunrise was due about 6.35am and we were making good progress. Going along the Miners Track certainly helped us to get off to a good start as this has to be the most straight forward path at on any mountain with the start of it being tarmac before being a well laid out stone path about six foot wide. That said, it is a mountain path and all necessary precautions and clothing should be taken into account as the weather can change in an instant.
We were in good spirits, sharing jokes and tales as we approached Glaslyn in good time but noticing that there was a mist rolling in above Snowdon summit but also the stars were still noticeable. We were still hopeful that this would be quite something special as we picked our way through the path rising up to join the Pyg Track while noticing other head torches of the three peakers in front of us and other walkers behind us. Quite sureal really and certainly made this a very atmospheric place to be. We also noticed that the stars were dissapearing and more cloud cover was rolling in!! By the time we had got to the "zig zags" it did look like that we may not see the sunrise but we remaind upbeat as it was just a great first time experience for us all to be here at this hour and in pretty decent weather. At least it was dry with little in the way of wind, which was a total relief.
After another rest on the zig zags, we made our way to the finger post where the cloud kept coming and going offering a view down to LLANBERIS and also to a cloud free summit. It was also light enough now to see without torches and so the final stretch to the summit was to see us arrive at 6.20am, giving us at least 15 minutes before the sun was due to rise, perfect timing :-)
Finger Post at the top of the Pyg Track
Lights of Llanberis and the clouds of Snowdon
A cloud free Snowdon summit
I wasn't expecting many people at the summit, maybe one or two three peakers or some others for the sunrise but as we just got to the summit a party of about 20 came out of the mist from the South Ridge and duly took over the summit trig point where they belted out happy birthday, singing at the top of there voices and letting off champagne corks. A great way to celebrate but you usually get all this during the daylight hours where all manner of folk assemble up here. They only stayed for fifteen minutes or so leaving us the pleasure of having the summit to ourselves for a good half hour before anyone else arrived. Now that is worth all the pain of not seeing the sunrise as anyone will tell you that an empty Snowdon summit is worth a pot of gold in mountain walking terms so we took advantage and had a few photo's. Now this is where the weather suddenly turned from being quite windless and cool to a stiff breeze and bloody cold in an instant!! Hat, gloves and an extra layer were duly put on and we were all soon back behind some rocks out of the biting wind. The wind did it's best to shift the clouds but to no avail but it didn't seem to matter as we had had a great experience and we had the summit to ourselves :-)
The way up to an empty summit
On top of the world, well Snowdon anyway
A very empty Snowdon summit, one to savour
Taking refuge out of the wind
Stacy the mountain dog
As we made our way down I couldn't help feeling a little disappointed, especially as the forecast was good and we set off with the moon and stars showing, but as I said earlier, this is the mountains and things change in a blink of an eye and that is what happened  this morning. I was more than happy with the experience and would certainly do it again and I know that the mountains and sunrise aren't going anywhere as there will be plenty of other opportunities along the way. Now that I have got a bit of experience of walking in the dark I'll take that onboard for the next time. What made up for the lack of a sunrise was what we saw on the descent. Some great examples of sun-rays coming through the clouds as the sun started to burn them away. In fact as we got further down the Pyg Track the more the sun shone through and blue sky started to show, it was also getting warmer so the hats, gloves and coats were now making there way back into the backpacks.
Back into the mist
Sunlight starting to light up the valley below
Snowdon starting to be clear of cloud
Sun-rays on Llyn Llydaw with the birthday party resting on the zig zags
Blue sky above Garnedd Ugain
Let there be light
Enjoying the view
Another thing we noticed as we made our descent was the amount of other walkers we were now passing. It was turning out to be another busy day on what is the UK's busiest mountain and with the weather forecast set to be another clear blue sky day, it was going to be a bit busier on the summit in a few hours time and I for one was glad to of been there in the peace and quiet. I do love Snowdon and all the different ways up it, it is a magical place at any time and it is a major tourist spot with the train and cafe and it does attract a lot of people who have never walked a mountain before. It does come under fire from some quarters and some of the paths have been made a lot easier to follow, like the Miners Track, but it is a mountain, the highest UK mountain outside of Scotland @ 1,085 metres (3,560 ft) above sea level and the weather can and does change in an instant that catches a lot of people out and puts the MOUNTAIN RESCUE under quite a lot of pressure. I hope that if anyone makes it to the summit for the first time that they realize this and that they go on to enjoy many more days out on the mountains. I know I have after first getting to the summit by train to the Clogwyn station and walking the rest of the way in cloud and wind, and then walking back down again. I got the bug and the appropriate clothing and love it. There is no better feeling getting to the summit of a mountain and having the bonus of views in all directions and that sense of achievement. I also find it a great way to relax and to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life for a few hours. Sermon over :-)
Glaslyn
Looking back to Snowdon
A quiet Crib Goch Ridge
The cloud slowly clearing as we made our way along the Pyg Track
One last look back at Snowdon
Mountain dog Stacy
Lexi
Sylvia & Stacy
Looking down towards Llanberis
The Pyg Track with Crib Goch looming large
We got back to the car park which was now full to bursting as was all the other parking at the bottom of the pass and on the grass verges, a tell tale sign of a very busy day on and around Snowdon. We, on the otherhand, made our way back to the the Pinnacle cafe where a very welcome breakfast was consumed before we made our way back to campsite where we just relaxed in the now very warm conditions for a couple of hours before slowly packing up and going on our way back to reality.
A most welcome breakfast :-)
Relaxing in the now summer like conditions
One final look back to the Snowdon Massif from Plas y Brenin
Another brilliant day in the company of Richard, Catherine and her delightful dogs.

1 comment:

  1. Well that was a fantastic description of a great experience Andy, and one I would love to try again.

    I totally agree with this btw:
    "Now that is worth all the pain of not seeing the sunrise as anyone will tell you that an empty Snowdon summit is worth a pot of gold in mountain walking terms"

    Thanks for a great weekend :)

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