MPS Snowdonia

Written by Haydn Williams

When leaving the office on Friday evening, I didn’t consider that five hours later I would be contemplating a 1.5km walk along a dark and muddy Snowdonia path in a suit and tie. Nevertheless, that’s what happened when the bunkhouse chosen for the weekend’s MPS trip turned out to be a “short walk” from the car park. At least I’d packed light and only had running, walking and cycling gear with me!

I had, admittedly rather ambitiously, planned to use Saturday for a recce at the Welsh 3000ft peaks route. After 5 and a half hours sleep and a late start, I eventually set off up Elidir Fawr. A couple of hail showers blew across during the ascent, and the volume of water flowing down the hillside told of a rainy night. Reaching the summit in a reasonable time, I was pretty cheery.

You can tell no-one else was around when I got to the summit of Elidir Fawr. Copyright Haydn Williams 2010
You can tell no-one else was around when I got to the summit of Elidir Fawr. Copyright Haydn Williams 2010

Wet rock and horizontal precipitation soon took the sheen off my morning. The former meant it was nigh-on impossible to run anywhere, while the latter just made life very uncomfortable. I struggled on the way up Y Garn, with the late night and general tiredness taking their toll. I was pretty pleased to reach the summit, if only because it opened up plenty of options for bailing off! Running down to Llyn y Cwn the warmth started to return to my extremities despite the piles of hail which had formed everywhere. Instead of escaping, I decided to plod over the Glyders in a bid to at least salvage something from the day. Freezing cold and utterly knackered again, I realised at Glyder Fawr that the ascent of the screes had taken me firmly back into “not enjoying myself” territory. Despite cramming food into my mouth almost continually, I plodded past Castell y Gwynt and up to Glyder Fach like a zombie. Revived slightly by the sugar rush, I again attempted to run from the summit over to the top of Bristly Ridge, but again fell over on the greasy rocks. Having made it gingerly down the scree without any major mishaps, for some reason I decided I’d better have a go at Tryfan since I was so close. Halfway from the bwlch to the summit I decided enough was enough, and retreated back to Ogwen cottage. There, my Logistical Support Team (i.e. mum) was waiting with food and a warm car, and I was soon spirited back around to my start point, from where I headed back home.

A quick shower and a power nap passed the time at the hut before everyone else arrived back off the hill, tired and wet. Nevertheless, people had still managed to get around the Bochlwyd Horseshoe and up Ordinary Route on Idwal Slabs. After dinner we spent an interesting evening in a pub in Llanberis, avoiding the karaoke and discussing just how much a mop bucket costs (you’ll understand when you get a bit older).

Sunday dawned dry, if not spectacularly sunny. This was the day I had chosen to fulfil a dream 15 years in the making; riding down Snowdon. Preparing myself for a long and boring push up the Llanberis path, I was pleased to hear that I’d have company in the shape of Ben J’s group walking up the same way. The push was less than comfortable, especially given the weight of the bike and the fact that I was wearing Vans with no tread left on the soles. Two guys on skinny XC bikes rode past us near the top, but I consoled myself with the fact that my DH bike would prove to be much more fun on the way back down. We made it to the (cloud-bound) top in reasonable time, and were delighted to find the new cafe doing buy-one-get-one-free on paninis as it was the last day of the season. My excitement was only slightly tempered by the realisation that I’d lost my iPhone somewhere on the ascent. The true team spirit of MPS shone through, however, and the group left me a hilarious answerphone message on my lost phone, consisting primarily of giggling. Time marched on, Rob spread more soup around the table than he managed to get into his mouth, and we eventually left the comfort of the cafe. I geared up in the cold and set off from the obelisk at Bwlch Glas down the Llanberis path.

Ready to start the descent. Copyright George Hulston 2010
Ready to start the descent. Copyright George Hulston 2010

The first section is very loose, and a rather alarming drift towards the edge ensued after some enthusiastic braking to avoid a dog. I walked the next section, as braking resulted only in massive skids and no loss of momentum towards the innocent walkers. From Clogwyn station everything became a bit more rideable, and I ploughed down to the bottom with reckless abandon. It’s a really good fun route to ride, just letting you put the power down and go all-out in the general direction of Llanberis. A couple of chain slips caused unscheduled stops, but with no crashes and no walker-collisions I was pretty happy. It’s weird that something I’ve wanted to do for so long was actually over in a matter of a few minutes, but it’s proved that it’s well worth doing again another time. Unfortunately I pulled another blinder with helmet-cam, pointing it too far down to see the path ahead, but not far enough to see any of me. Hence there’s several minutes of footage of rocks flying by, with very little else happening. I was met at the hut by news that the iPhone had been found near my car, and so drove home a short while later quite content (and made more so by the traditional organic burger stop at Rhug!).

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