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Landscapes Visual Diary

Climbing Mount Snowdon – Going up

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Previously on Little Time Machine I prepared for climbing Mount Snowdon.

It’s the day of the climb and my wife and I are taking a restful walk around Abersoch. We walk on the beach and take in the view totally unaware that the mountain range we’re looking at is what we would be climbing in 12 hours time. It’s a lovely relaxed day out. The idea is to get a large early tea, a beer and then get some sleep to rest up for the long walk. I enjoy the chippy tea and the beer but I do not sleep. I am terrified. I want and need to do this walk but I’m really worried. How much water do I need? How much food? 2 is 1 and 1 is none so I double up on everything. But then won’t my backpack be too heavy? What if it is too heavy? I’m doing this walk and I just wish my brain would shut up and accept it. It won’t though. I can’t sleep.

This, for future reference, is my setup.

  • Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20 litre (Waterproof by design)
  • iPhone X
  • Anker charger brick
  • 1.5 litres of water
  • 3 x Nature Valley oaty bars
  • Jelly babies
  • OS Map app with 1 month subscription for offline viewing due to signal issues. I also downloaded the route we would be walking to make sure we’re ok
  • Polyester underwear to prevent chaffing
  • Some walking socks I got from Cotswold Outdoor store
  • Any old polyester T-Shirt to wick sweat away
  • Leggings and running shorts – I was going to wear jeans till I googled that. It’s a bad idea. Too constricting. Leggings and shorts is what I run in at 0c temps so I figured I’d be fine up a mountain.
  • Jack & Jones fleece
  • North Face down jacket
  • North Face waterproof jacket
  • Fjallraven hat
  • Petzl 150 head torch
  • Some thin gloves I bought in Edinburgh so I could stay warm and use a camera
  • Thicker Sealskinz gloves – hard to use a camera with
  • Leica Q + 3 batteries
  • Leica M240 with 1 battery and 50mm f2 lens
  • Tiny Manfrotto tripod

I considered taking the Nikon Z6 with 24mm lens but that was the weight of both Leica cameras. I was really concerned about weight as only a month ago I did LightNight and got sore shoulders from my backpack. I may have had it setup incorrectly though. I don’t often wear a backpack.

Thankfully I didn’t have to buy all that gear for our mountain climb. I had most of it from our 2014 trip to Iceland. We had no idea what to expect so we prepared for the worst. It turned out to be basically like September in the UK. Cold, wet, windy and occasionally beautifully sunny. It did mean that we’re now equipped for good long walks.

12:15am. We leave for the mountain. It’s about a 35 minute drive and I’m really worried. If I can’t handle it what do I do? Sit at the bottom of a mountain for 7 hours till Pete’s Eats opens? I’m not worried about the physical work to get me up there. I’m worried about the absurd thoughts my mind is going to throw at me. It’s stupid but I just can’t bury these thoughts.

12:50am. We arrive in Llanberis and park just next to Pete’s Eats. Our breakfast awaits us. The best breakfast we will ever have. I look forward to that but in order to earn it I’ve got to climb Snowdon. Erp. We’re not the only ones doing this. We see head torches flicking on and off around Llanberis. There seems to be multiple groups going up. We’d been told that there would be an adventure tour group going up and our plan was to set off before them. Not to race them to the top. Simply that it was comforting to know there was backup close by.

1:10am. We pass through the gate at the bottom of the Llanberis Path and start our walk. This bit is steep. Real steep. It’s also a normal road for reasons unknown as it’s dark and I can’t see much. Pretty soon we’re stripping off layers and are down to t-shirts. I’m enjoying the leggings. They offer me such freedom that normal trousers or jeans wouldn’t. It’s almost like I’m wearing nothing at all. Nothing at all. We pass under a bridge and members of our party comment on how they didn’t do that last time. So we check the maps. One on a paper map with compass and me on my phone. We realise and confirm we left the path pretty early on. A 5 minute walk back and we find a large stone saying “Llanberis Path” and an arrow pointing the way we should have gone. Doh. We were easily distracted by sheep.

As we head up the mountain there’s not much of a view. It’s dark. Night time usually is in this part of the world. But being the summer equinox it’s the lightest night of the year. Unfortunately it’s mostly cloudy so we don’t get the benefit of the beautiful blue nights sky and the stars. Looking back we can see the orange glow from Llanberis and some lights wandering down the wrong road that we just walked down.

We stop and I get a couple of long exposure photos. I’m hoping for a great star-scape but it’s too bright out. Too blue. I’m shocked to discover a mountain right next to us. Our head torches only illuminate about 5 feet in front so we have no real idea of where we are. That’s good and bad. Good because I’m able to focus on the light and the floor and take it one step at a time. Bad because OMG WHAT IS OUT THERE!

Step by step we climb. After a while I realise I’m ok. I’m not freaking out. I don’t need to throw up. I’m ok. Head down. Plough on. I’m so busy watching my footing and making small talk about anything I can that I’m able to cope. I start to gain a bit of confidence. It’s not as bad as I thought and as I relax I enjoy it. I’m glad I’m coping because I want to do this.

The path is fairly easy to walk up. I have my Leica Q out and I’m trying to document the trip as we go. I’m being in the moment but I’m also aware that I’ll probably forget most of this trip if I don’t document it so I do.

We reach the half way point or technically the quarter way point as we’re planning to come down as well as go up. There’s an oaty bar and water break. I try for some more long exposures. My mini tripod was a bad idea because it’s so close to the floor and with so many people around the grass is all lit up. Oh well. Next time I take a big tripod. Yay? The adventure tour group has caught up to us and we joke about the wrong turn we all took. We aim to stay ahead of them so we set off.

We’re making good time. Surprisingly good time. So good in fact that we’ll arrive back at Pete’s Eats 2 hours before it opens. I guess we were counting on me slowing us down with lots of picture taking but being overcast it’s just not as visual as I’d hope for. Plus trying to use a camera on a tiny tripod is really awkward so I’m documenting the walk more than the view.

It starts getting tricky by around mile 5. Our speed halves. It takes us an hour to do that 5th mile. The data shows we climbed 1,000 feet which is double that of our 4th mile. I still feel good though despite the conditions. We’re in the clouds now and visibility is really really poor. It’s only now at home I realise we should have placed a light on the point man as his head torch pointed forward. Our group of 5 often seemed like 2 in the cloud. We’d have to call out and lights would appear for us to follow. It was exciting and I focused on making sure my wife was ok instead of worrying about our place in the world. Wherever that might have been at the time.

Nearing the top

Eventually we reach the cafe and make a quick dash for the top. At least we queue for the top. Seriously? It’s 4:30am and there’s a queue. I see someone browsing social media. C’mon! I’m here to be away from that world. I guess some people will like the idea of tweeting from the top and while I’m tracking our run via my Apple Watch, checking on the OS Maps app and photographing the journey with a digital camera I actively chose not to be a part of social media for the trip. This is about just us and our trip.

The top of Snowdon

Our idea of watching the sunrise is impossible due to cloud. I’m sure the view would have been incredible but I’m still happy with what we’ve done. We made it to the top of Mount Snowdon in the dark and in the clouds. There’s time for a proper rest, nibbles and isotonic drinks before the hike back down.

We start back down and I immediately realise something is wrong.

To be concluded in part 3.

By Pete

Photographer and part time Spider-man.