I was beginning to get a bit sick of coming down to Llanberis for work and never having been up Snowdon. With every visit, I was gaze up the summit and wonder what it was like up there to look back down over the land named after the mountain – Snowdonia.
Arriving at my hotel, finally actually in Llanberis and not out in Bangor or Caernarfon, I saw that it was only 6pm as I was checking out my room. Could I run up and back down Snowdon?
I decided to give running up Snowdon, or Yr Wyddfa in Welsh, a go.
Quickly packing a small running backpack with extra clothes, food and water I headed off up the hill.
To start with it’s on a road and I quickly came to a painfully slow walk as it is bloody steep! I also noticed that I was definitely going against the flow of people and hoards of walkers were coming down off the mountain.
I was heading for the Llanberis Path, a well-trod route that winds it’s way up the mountain with the Snowdon Mountain Railway line never far from the sight. While the longest of the six main paths to the summit of Snowdon it is also the most gradual. Before the railway opened in 1896, guides would lead visitors up the mountain on mule-back.
Snowdonia National Park labels the Llanberis path as “hard/strenuous” and I would tend to agree.
What struck me about my fellow “outdoor enthusiasts” was the varying degrees of preparedness. Many were in full walking gear whereas many were also not. Some people were wearing the flimsiest of trainers and looked about as prepared as I was for swimming the channel! No wonder so many people get caught out.
I was wearing my Salomon trail shoes, 2-in-1 shorts and a long-sleeved top. In my backpack, I had another t-shirt, a thicker running sweater, leggings and a windproof rain jacket. I also had two bottles of water, a banana, a peanut bar and a packet of peanuts. I was prepared for various scenarios. In my waist pack, I also had a phone battery backup (though I realise not I didn’t have a cable thus rendering it useless) and a space blanket – but I was hoping I wouldn’t need that.
People really should also learn some etiquette on these paths such as keeping to one side so as to make it easier for people to pass in opposite directions. The number of groups spanning the path and not giving any space was ridiculous.
I soon realised that this would be a run/walk.
There is the excuse that I’d already done a 7-mile Fartlek session earlier in the day or that I had spent nearly 4 hours in the car. But, in all honestly, it was just bloody hard to run up that incline constantly. I am no fell runner, nor mountain goat.
The summit wasn’t visible due to the low lying cloud base. As I made my way further up the number of people coming down was thinning out and I was faced with ever more strange looks from them as they met a loan running going up the mountain late in the day.
As I passed Clogwyn Station, the name taken from the Clogwyn Du’r Arddu (above) on the Snowdonia Railway I was reaching the cloud base and suddenly the magnificent views were gone. One minute I was running up and feeling weird with the drop down to Cwn Hetiau to my left. Then the view was gone.
I was still about 2km or so from the summit but with the visibility reduced, the cloud surrounding me and the wind whipping up I had a decision to make.
Having never been up Snowdon I had no knowledge of the path that lay ahead of me. In daylight and clear conditions, it was, of course, not a problem. But at 8 pm, on my own and with the thoughts of all the reports I’ve read of people getting caught out on Snowdon and needing rescue I thought better of it. It’s not as though Snowdon is going anywhere so there’ll be another day.
I turned around and started my descent.
Running down the mountain
Running down was in many ways harder than running up. Tough on the ankles and knees in equal measure and I was very wary of slipping and injuring myself. I did catch my foot at one point and somehow managed not to fall. After making the sensible choice not to summit (yes, I’m using it as a verb) it would have been ironic to require the services of Llanberis Mountain Rescue whilst coming down.
As I passed many of the small groups and solo hikers that I had seen on my way up I saw their surprise to see me bouncing past them. Did they assume I’d made it to the top and was not coming down? I didn’t correct them if they did.
My watch had paused itself on the way down too, much to my annoyance. I know I’d seen me go past 3 miles on the way up so to only clock 5 miles in total is mildly irritating. But, I made it down safely and at least now I know what it takes to run up Snowdon.
Back in my hotel room I ate my packup and didn’t move for some time. I Facetimed my family and then didn’t move for some time. Eventually, I forced myself into the shower, and then back out again. I again didn’t move for some time.
As I finish this post it’s the day after and I’m not feeling too bad really. I ache a bit but that’s hardly unexpected. It’s raining hard here in Llanberis but I will head out for a steady run later as it’s best just to keep going.
If you are planning on running, or walking, up Snowdon (or any other mountain) please do be sensible. Check out this advice from Llanberis Mountain Resuce.