Defaced by the tourism industry.
This was the first time I had allowed myself to climb Snowdon, the tallest mountain in Wales. So many times I had put off climbing it, because it is the mountain that has been trashed by the tourism industry. Its vast number of visitors alone is enough to make the popular routes and the summit unpleasant. Then add the mountain railway to the top, so granny and her Zimmer frame can get there, where there is an eyesore cafe that blights the landscape, and it takes away all sense of achievement and appreciation of nature.
We had originally planned to follow the Snowdon Horseshoe route via Crib Goch's North Ridge - a serious and exposed scrambling route for experienced walkers. The already strongly gusting winds and heavy drizzle ruled out the Crib Goch part of that though, so we did the second half of the horseshoe in reverse, and returned in safety down one of the more popular tourist routes. The total ascent for this route was about 990 metres. There was no parking space left at the start point (even though it was ridiculously early), so we had to park further down and use the bus service.
The weather was impressively bad, with winds as high as 25 m/s (55 MPH) at the top, thick fog, and constant, heavy rain. The mountain railway was closed before reaching the top due to the weather. Still, vast numbers decided to brave the weather and make it to the top. Those who knew what they were doing wore warm clothing, full-covering water/wind-proofs, and had proper footwear. Even so, it did not stop the idiots. Many were climbing in trainers, plimsolls, jeans, shorts, T-shirts, tank tops, tracksuits (ones designed to keep you cool while exercising), barely rain-resistant coats and polythene bag ponchos that they bought that day (because they went to the mountains without a coat). Huge numbers had no waterproof trousers, some had nothing to cover their heads, and many simply had no coats at all. One person we saw was using a black dustbin liner as a coat. These people are a liability to themselves, and their would-be rescuers. Dare I ask how many carried a map or compass, or a way to signal for help?
On the day we were there, there were rescues of unconscious hypothermic walkers, and we helped a hypothermic child whose coat was useless, and whose jeans rapidly (predictably) turned into a skin-removing, soggy mess. Many other children had been dragged in tears to the top by their idiotic parents, without anything like enough windproof or waterproof clothing. The day afterwards, when the winds were 27 m/s (60 MPH), a hypothermic 2 year old child was rescued after being carried to the top - how is a child supposed to keep warm in these conditions when they are doing no exercise?
It is quite clear why there are so many reports in the news about accidents on this mountain; it seems to draw so many unprepared visitors, hoping to get a taste of the tallest mountain in Wales, and its potentially breathtaking sights. They seem to forget - or not even be aware - that it is a real mountain, and a serious undertaking. Even for those who are properly prepared, it offers serious challenges. You almost want to have someone at the popular gateways onto it, forcing people to turn back if they do not have the right equipment. But they can't search everyone's bags to see if they have the right kit, and it would bring in the whole nanny-state problem. Perhaps just hand them a card saying "you are a liability, and will probably kill yourself or someone else on this mountain today", but then, nobody would pay attention. Perhaps just a piece of paper, with the text "your chances of survival today are the same as the chances of you getting this piece of paper to the summit, intact".
- Clogwyn Pen Llechen, near the start of the Miners' Track at Pen-y-Pass. Though normally offering impressive views, this is an unpleasant route, remaining flat for a long time, then suddenly ramping up a steep climb to the top.
- Llyn Teryn, with The Horns to the left. This is the smallest of the three corrie lakes in this huge hanging valley.
- The best view of the day, at the edge of Llyn Llydaw, the largest lake, which also serves as a reservoir. On the left is the slope of Y Lliwedd. On the right is the edge of Crib Goch (923 metres), and the ridge on the right running down to The Horns (609 metres max). Ahead, at the end of the lake, is the slope up to the two main peaks, with Yr Wyddfa on the left and Garnedd Ugain on the right. The lake is at about 435 metres, and the cloud base is a little below 600 metres at most.
- We leave the Miners' Track at the lake, and climb uncomfortably up the scree into the cloud, strong wind, and pelting rain at the ridge of Y Lliwedd, at about 700 metres.
- As we climb, the weather gets worse; the wind rapidly increases, trying to blow us towards the edge, and the thick clouds whistle across our path. It is not long before the rain manages to penetrate every piece of waterproof clothing we had. Nothing survived. Boots, coats, trousers, hats - all of which had been waterproofed. Even the camera bag, kept under 2 layers of waterproof material, was wet before we reached the main summits.
- Lliwedd Bach (818 metres), with its cliffs dropping 150 metres into the fog.
- Starting up Y Lliwedd's East Peak (893 metres), with the path running at the edge of an increasingly high cliff.
- Descending Y Lliwedd's West Peak (898 metres). The cliff has now reached its full height of over 300 metres, with over 100 metres of scarp below that. The wind made this part particularly hard (but so much fun), as the route slides down in big steps, where balance is important.
- Now joining the Watkin Path, it climbs steeply up the scree of the main summits, zig-zagging and splitting into multiple poorly defined paths. In the fog, it's quite difficult to work out which one to take.
- After joining the Rhyd-Ddu Path, it becomes easier as it nears the top.
- Finally, the blight on the landscape looms out of the fog like a submarine conning tower out of water. It is not sympathetic to the landscape, no matter what they try to claim. It is a big ugly pile of manure, sitting at the top of a mountain, where it does not belong. The highest eyesore in Wales. This is not how a mountain is supposed to be.
- The rock outcrop of Yr Wyddfa (1085 metres), the summit of the Snowdon massif, and highest point in Wales. With a staircase for up, and a staircase for down. Really. Why would it be mobbed by such a large number of people in this weather? Why are they not going back down? Because - wait for it - they are sending text messages. "Am lsr, shd nt b on mntn. 4got jkt n hv phn frzn 2 hnd". Eventually, I got bored of waiting in a queue, scrambled over the rocks and pushed through to take my few seconds of summit time. Been there, stood with the idiots above 480 metres of cliffs and scarp. Time to move on to somewhere that actually feels worthy of the effort.
- Inside the café. Remember that this is a day with bad weather, when the train is not running. A quiet day. Some of the worst dressed visitors were busy hogging the hand driers in the toilets, trying to dry off their kit - like that's going to help. Some were reading a very soggy route guidebook trying to work out their way down. Many were clearly suffering from the cold, and really, I have little sympathy given their choice of clothing and lack of common sense. The boy in polyethene, however, was at the more dangerous end of stage 2 hypothermia, and cannot be blamed for that. The screens at the back were busy showing the weather forecast warnings; dudes, it's, like, serious out there, did you notice?
- It's hard to stress enough how much I despise this tourist trash mountain railway. This is the sort of thing that destroys the natural beauty and wilderness of a mountain, and is something that should never be allowed to deface a national icon.
- 25 m/s (55 MPH) winds on Garnedd Ugain (1065 metres), the summit of the Crib y Ddysgl ridge (the way to Crib Goch). At just 1 metre taller than Carnedd Llewelyn, it is the second tallest mountain in Wales. This now gives me a complete set of the 7 tallest mountains in Wales (perhaps I should do the Welsh 3000s next). Incidentally, it's name should be Carnedd Ugain, but it seems the mutated form has become the normal name in both English and Welsh.
- We return to Bwlch Glas, and take the Pyg Track down, staying with it as the Miners' Track branches off to continue its descent. This is all horribly stepped surface, with occasional traffic jams and queues created by the number of visitors (dunno where they all disappeared to when I took the picture).
- The upper hanging valley corrie lake of Glaslyn.
- Approaching Bwlch y Moch and The Horns.
- Crib Goch's North Ridge, disappearing into the cloud.
- Approaching Pen-y-Pass.
- Looking down Llanberis Pass, through a rain-soaked lens.