Hi people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here reporting on my first mountain climb. I had hiked up a few hills before this attempt but, these weren’t tall enough to be classified as mountains. Our attempt to climb Snowdon started on 9th October 2018. I was 18 months old when my dad decided that I was old enough and experienced enough to tackle the Llanberis Path or Tourist Route as some call it. My dad thinks that the word tourist is a deceptive description of the track. Yes, it is the easiest of the main routes leading to the summit of the highest point in Wales and England but, it is a proper mountain. This means that it is unwise to tackle the climb unless you are suitably prepared. The big feller has climbed it many times, by all of its recognised routes (twice in one day when the paths reopened after a Foot and Mouth Disease closure). So, he was adequately experienced and prepared. I said that our climb started on the 9th but, it actually ended on the 15th of October. All will become clear shortly.
We set off at 8:30 am to drive the 80 miles to Llanberis. The morning was overcast and the forecast for Snowdon was for low cloud cover with winds gusting at 35 mph. Pretty much typical conditions on the summit for the time of year. Not the best conditions for us but, by far, not the worst. We were ready and prepared. We were also prepared to be sensible and to not try to push beyond our capabilities. We parked in a side street in the centre of the village at 10 am. This would allow us plenty of daylight hours to reach the summit and to return to the car. So, loaded up with his daypack, suitably packed with goodies, we headed off towards our goal.
After passing the Snowdon Mountain Railway Station with its rack and pinion trains, we turned right along Victoria Terrace. Immediately, after crossing a cattle grid, the narrow road climbs, painfully, passing Pen Y Ceunant café. The farmyard on the right was bursting at the seams with sheep being brought down off the mountain for the bitter winter months. I started to bark and my dad had a job calming me down. It was my first experience of being so close to so many farm animals. My dad was quite pleased with me as I quickly calmed down and we headed to the foot of the Llanberis Path on the left.
Sheep could still be seen on the hillside, unaware that they were about to be herded into the farm that we had just passed. I had to stay on my lead because I would have chased the remaining sheep. My dad said that this was not cool and I still had a lot to learn about hiking in the mountains. The views were starting to open up, mainly behind us, so it was a good excuse for my dad to stop and look around. To our left we could see Cwm Brwynog opening up before us with its sheep pastures and with the fast flowing Afon Arddu running along its length. The railway line could be seen weaving its way towards the summit station. The railway was not in use that day due to inclement weather conditions at the summit apparently. The scenery behind us was dominated by Dinorwig Slate Quarry on the side of Elidir Fawr. It looked like somebody had stolen the mountain. Llanberis, where we had parked, on the shore of Llyn Peris lay in the valley below us.
The path was easy going as we climbed gently towards our goal. As we approached a gate leading to a fairly flat section my dad stubbed his toe and uttered some words that a young pooch like me should never hear. We passed Hebron station on the right and a ruined cottage at the side of the path. The summit was shrouded in cloud and the sky looked increasingly menacing but, we plodded onwards. We soon came to the Halfway Café which was closed at that time of the year. It was time for a short break even though the wind was starting to pick up a pace. My dad scoffed his cheese and pickle butties while I ate my food in the shelter of the café walls.
As we set off the wind really was starting to batter us from our left. Shortly, we reached the bottom of the steepest section of the path known as Allt Moses. To the right we had good views over Llyn Du’r Arddu and the popular climbing slopes of Clogwyn Coch. There is a large boulder on the shore of the lake which is a popular wild camping spot. Legend says that if you stay there overnight you will either wake up a poet or barking mad! I think that my dad must have slept there but he is no poet. Allt Moses was a bit of a slog as the wind blew us from side to side. The clouds above us were scudding rapidly across the sky and obliterating our view of the summit.
When we reached the top of Allt Moses we met a few small groups of hikers that had abandoned their attempt of summiting the mountain. It seemed that Yr Wyddfa was not in a good mood that day. We passed under the railway bridge to be met with increasingly stronger gusts of wind. We stood there looking along the path as it disappeared into the cloud. The view from this point into Cwm Glas Bach is usually expansive but, on that day, it was almost non-existent. I say almost because we were given one short peek down to the road in the valley as the clouds parted for a few seconds. We attempted to continue along the footpath but, the wind was so strong that neither of us could walk in a straight line. My dad sat down on a couple of occasions while he pondered our next move. Just then two people came towards us from the direction of the summit. They had turned back well before the summit as they thought that the conditions were too dangerous for them to proceed. It was a ‘no brainer’ for my dad. We turned back. We later discovered that the wind was gusting over 80 mph.
We retraced our steps to the village and returned home. My dad was very disappointed but we were both safe and in one piece. I personally had a great day. I wasn’t concerned about reaching a mountain top. After all, I am a Cocker Spaniel and not a mountaineer. I will leave the mountain conquests to my human dad. I just love being out in the wilds, especially when I can have a good run around and an explore. My dad said that we would return soon to have another bash at the mountain. I simply went to sleep on the back seat of the car while he drove me home.
It was only six days later that we returned to Llanberis for our second attempt. The weather forecast was excellent for an October day in Snowdonia. The sky was almost devoid of clouds. It was chilly but a dry day with light winds was ahead of us. I won’t bore you with a repeat of our steps to the railway bridge at the top of Allt Moses but, I may bore you with my recollection of the rest of our hike. One notable omission from the mountain slopes this time was the sheep. They had all been herded to the lower pastures. My dad still kept me on the lead for most of the trip except for the odd occasion when he thought that I would behave. He says that my recall is good unless I am distracted. That’s me!
The train was running on that day but that wasn’t for the likes of us intrepid explorers. As we walked under the railway at the top of Allt Moses we were gifted with the view into the cwm. We stopped for a while, this time to admire the view in the sunshine and light breeze. We followed the path uphill on the slopes of Carnedd Ugain. My dad placed me on a shortened lead from this point as the potential for me to fall down the steep slopes was too much for his nerves to take. After all I am a novice in the hills. We passed the monolith at the top of the Pyg track that appeared on our left. It was only a few hundred yards to the summit and only minutes before we would arrive there. The path ran alongside the railway track until we veered away left to the summit trig point. The café was closed, I think, because my dad didn’t even check. We climbed the stone steps and we were there, Snowdon summit.
Fortunately, the summit was nowhere near as busy as in the manic summer months. Only a handful of people were there on that occasion so he took our obligatory photos. Just as we arrived the clouds started to drop onto the summit obliterating our views. They were kind enough to dissipate just as we finished our summit photo session. My first mountain had been bagged on our second attempt. Ok, we took the relatively easy path but we had completed our task. My dad made a real fuss of me for some reason but, he seemed to be really pleased with me. I will take that. I love a fuss!
As we turned back to hike down the mountain the train was just leaving. The passengers were waving at me. Obviously, I can’t wave back but I did watch them as they smiled. We had some fantastic views ahead of us. We could see the Irish Sea clearly in the distance. Snowdonia was virtually cloud free. My dad said that it was a rarity to be granted views from the summit.
The hike back to Llanberis seemed to take no time at all. We stopped to look back to the summit as we descended. It was still a beautiful day with only the odd cloud on the tops. We found the coin post on the way back. We had walked right past it without seeing it on our ascent. My dad didn’t press a coin into the decaying post as he is too mean. Don’t tell him that I said that please! The climb had taken about five hours including a few short stops for snacks and drinks. When we arrived back at the car my dad checked my paws, gave me a drink and a chewstick and I settled down in my bed on the rear seat. I think that I slept all the way home. We had a great day and my dad was proud of me. I had behaved all day. No pulling, well not much. I had returned to him when he called me. We had summitted on this attempt so, all is good. Till next time!