Updated: Oct 11, 2021
Many years ago I attempted to climb Snowdon with my husband on the anniversary of my mum's death. I wanted to do something positive instead of just sitting at home missing her. My husband and I were regular hikers travelling around Europe to climb some of our personal favourite sites. Although we knew there was snow on the mountain, we had enough experience to know what to do and had the right kit to cope with it.
Our climb was really good considering the snow but as we got closer to the summit, the weather was changing. After testing the path we took the decision to turn back as there was sheet ice underneath the snow. It was upsetting not to make it to the summit but life is more important than any mountain summit but I vowed I would one day come back and complete the challenge.
It was a good job we didn't push it as when we got back to the hotel to inform them we had returned safely they told us someone had died the day before trying to reach the summit. This information may have been more useful before our ascent.
Due to life, personal circumstances and children, it wasn’t until last year I looked into completing my Snowdon challenge. It was more to get me back into fitness as since having my daughter I haven’t really done anything. I really wanted to get back in shape. I really used to love exercising, and I wanted to feel that adrenaline again.
Earlier this year (February 2021) I was having a chat with Sharon Evans (Children's Air Ambulance Charity Organiser) and she said there was a charity event to climb Snowdon and asked if I would be interested in signing up to the event. I was wary as my fitness level was dreadful, but I knew if I didn’t do this now then when would I?
I read up on the event and thought that getting fit in just over 7 months was possible. I spoke to my husband and he said - just do it - so I signed up there and then. It was just a great feeling to not only feel I could achieve my goal but to also raise money for two deserving charities, The Children’s and Lincolnshire Air Ambulance.
Training started off quite tough. I couldn’t even walk 3 miles without feeling tired. I slowly built it up and over time started walking up to 6, then, 8 then 10 miles.
The distance was getting good but I needed to get some hills in. I went and did a circle walk with a close friend which included Mam Tor in Derbyshire. It was a good walk and I did ok. It gave me some confidence that I could do it until my friend said that Snowdon was twice the height. We planned a walk up Jacob's Ladder the following week.
Sadly at some point during the Mam Tor trip I got infected with Covid. My friend who works in the NHS had got tested and phoned me up to tell me. I felt fine but within 2 hours I was being tested along with my husband and daughter. My result was positive but my husband and daughter were negative. I moved into the spare room and stayed there to protect my family. Even though I have had both of my jabs the virus really took it out of me and dreaded the thought of what it would have been like if I wasn't jabbed.
It took weeks for me to get over it. The lethargy was insane. I was so worried I wouldn't be able to do the climb. Thankfully two weeks before I set off to Wales I managed to do a 12 mile walk which gave me the confidence and belief in myself that I needed.
I met up with our walking guide and 5 other climbers at Llanberis Railway Station at 8am on Saturday 2nd October. It was raining. Not drizzling either, but torrential rain and I knew it was set in for the day. All the walkers had come prepared with layers and waterproofs. Our guide Chris introduced himself and we took a taxi to the foot of the Pyg trail where we had a debrief. It is always comforting when the guide talks you through the protocol if something happens to them.
The walk started in rain but spirits and determination were high. We had only been walking about 30 minutes and the layers had become too much. There was a small break in the rain so we all thinned out our layers, had a team photo and continued our walk just in time for the rain to start again.
There was low cloud but views could still be seen, and they were stunning. The rain was certainly bringing out the vibrant shades and tones of green. It was beautiful. We took regular 2 minute stops to take pictures and make sure the team were all doing well. We were all at different fitness levels and had different strengths and weaknesses but we were always going to help each other through this and it was comforting to know that 6 strangers had bonded so quickly.
We all found that into an hour of the climb that our waterproof gloves were no longer waterproof. Two hours into the walk each of us were ringing out our gloves. No waterproof gloves would have withstood that amount of water. Some of the other members were struggling with other parts of their kit but there was nothing that could be done.
The first two thirds of the climb were great for me. It suited my climbing ability and I was really enjoying it despite the wind and rain. The last third was dreadful and I struggled in parts. It was rocky and there were sections and ridges we walked along that in dry weather would have been tricky. In torrential rain and now strong winds (est. 40 knots) blowing straight at you, literally trying to knock you off your feet, at moments it honestly terrified me. There was one moment where the wind got under me, pushed me back and made me lose my footing, and I fell backwards. I thought that was it, but one of the other members of the group grabbed me and stayed with me for the couple of minutes for me to catch my breath before continuing on our way.
The climb was brutal. We worked together and as we came up to the point where the Pyg trail meets the Llanberis path the hail stones and rain hit at another level. There is a huge stone which stands proudly at this point as a sign post. We all cowered behind this to take cover from the insane weather until it calmed a little.
Once the hail had halted, but the rain and wind continued, we decided to continue on the final push up to the summit. It was hard work. I do not think Snowdon was in the mood for visitors today. We managed to get sight of the summit when we were only a few feet away. The cloud was low and there was no scenery. It was just cloud and rock. We helped each other to the summit and had our picture taken by the guide, Chris. It took us 3 hours.
We didn’t stay long. It was cold. I mean really cold. I had taken off my soaking wet glove to take a picture and my hand started to freeze. This was not the summit experience I had imagined. I wanted a few moments to think and reflect, but to be honest it wasn’t possible or realistic.
Once we had taken our pictures, we came down and hid behind the Summit Cafe and quickly scoffed some food. Chris (our guide) told us we stopped too long we would get cold and that wouldn't be a good thing. A maximum of 5 minutes later we started our decent down the Llanberis Path. One of the ladies was shaking with cold so it was important we moved quickly.
The top part of the walk down was hard for me. I am not a strong descender but by no means did I want to stay at the summit. We all walked down at our own speedy pace which ended up being in two separate groups as some were a lot faster descenders but we regularly met at set points down the route.
It was when we met at the first meeting point, the tunnel that I had seen on my previous climb. It was at this moment I realised I had only been about 15-20 minutes from the top.
The rest of the walk down the Llanberis Path became more pleasant. The weather improved and we got warmer as we descended. We had time to take some photos. We watched people ascending in trainers, sliders and shorts. There were even 4 blokes cycling up.
I got to talk to some of the other group members and also the group leader, Chris who I had a wonderful chat about walks around the world. Hearing of his plans to walk in Nepal, Cambodia as well as working as a guide around the hills of Wales, Yorkshire and Scotland. Hearing his stories made me want to get back into hiking around Europe again.
Chris had told me that he hadn't seen weather like that on the hill for a couple of years and that he was so happy we sucked it up and did it without a single moan or groan and that although communication was tough at times due to the conditions, we all took the time out to chat and help each other.
We all met about a mile from the end so we could finish the last bit together. It was wonderful to do that. We started together and finished at the point we had met. It taken us about 2 hours 30 minutes to get down.
The rain was still heavy but we had got to the point we were the rain could do no more harm. We were all literally drenched through to our pants! You could have got the best kit in the world but nothing was going to withstand the weather we had gone through on this walk.
So what's next?
What I had achieved physically and mentally today was quite something. Has it put me off climbing Snowdon? No, but I don’t feel I need to do it again. Am I planning a new challenge? Yes. After talking to Chris and getting through today, I know I can do anything I put my mind to. The next one I think would be good to do is Ben Nevis, but there is a few things I would learn from this event.
Take a spare pair of gloves
Walk with some like-minded, fun and inspiring people
Do it when it's less windy!
Throughout the walk I got to chat to all of the other members of the group. They are all truly interesting, inspiring and lovely people and if I was doing another climb I would be honoured to do it with them again.
I would like to thank each of them (Hayley, Mark, Stuart, Kay, John and Chris our guide) for all their friendship, knowledge and kindness throughout our climb and I hope we get to keep in touch in the future.
To date I have managed to raise £594 for the Children’s and Lincolnshire Air Ambulance but there is still time to add to help. If you would like to to donate please click the button below.
Pictures: The 6 members of the Snowdon walk
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