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Snowdon, Snowdonia National Park - travel review

By Charlotte Callear | Travel | Published:

After two blasts of freezing weather, the thought of climbing the treacherous Mount Snowdon for the first time ever was not entirely appealing. But there is no time like the present to put your best foot forward followed with the second until you reach the top of the highest mountain in Wales – all 1,085 metres of it.

There are six routes to the top which vary in difficulty and as a first timer, I chose to hike a fairly easy but steep Ranger’s Track.

I felt uneasy about the climb when I woke up because of how cold it was, which was not helped by a not-so-fun fact from the owners of the hostel where we stayed that three people have died already this year – a lot more than last year apparently.

Considering around 582,000 people visit each year, my fellow hikers took the optimistic ‘but look how many haven’t died’ approach while I took the ‘let’s take the train’ approach.

It is safe to say that did not go down well with them and so we embarked on, admittedly, one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

The night before the hike, we camped out in a hostel called Basecamp Wales.

The owners, two brothers and a mother from Kent who decided to ditch their office jobs to run the hostel, were welcoming and even let guests feed their alpaca. Yes, alpaca. Three of them.

It sits around 20 minutes from the base of Snowdon and has everything you could possible need; communal and private washing facilities, foam mattress double bunk beds, a pop-up wardrobe, a games area with a pool table, and, like I mentioned, three alpaca along with other farm animals.

There was also somewhere to cook your own meals and food to buy for yourself which looked like the basic ingredients of a student’s fridge, but it was more than you would ever need with a selection of pot noodles, chocolate, tea and coffee essentials plus more.

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The chatty and friendly brothers recount amusing tales of their cockerel who chases people, sheep that sleep around and alpaca which spit at unbearable guests.

The hostel was unsurprisingly empty considering the two freezing blasts that sliced through the country with another expected on the way which never arrived. For those who cancelled, they missed out.

From the hostel, there is a stunning view of Snowdon, planted comfortably between other mountains on the horizon but with distinguishable snow at the top which looked particularly chilly on the day we were due to climb.

Judging the right date to climb Snowdon is down to research mixed with a bit of luck.

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Despite waking up to a frosty landscape, the crunchy grass soon softened as the sun peeked out from behind the clouds.

To avoid hikers’ rush hour at around midday, we set off at 8am. Because everyone knows the early birds catch the worm and early hikers avoid the queue to the mountain’s peak.

While I ascended with my group, seemingly Duracell-powered runners made their way up in shorts and carrying nothing more than a water bottle – almost doing laps of us – and giving me a certain degree of motivation mixed with a horrifying feeling I am overdressed in my ski coat and five layers.

It was a hypothesis quickly proven to be true after 20 minutes of panting and sweating.

Three layers lighter and hours later, I was almost at the top – or so I thought. Each peak promised the possibility of the end goal, but another bigger one popped up from seemingly nowhere.

But it was no real chore. We were so high up at one point, I could taste the damp from the clouds that drifted by.

We finally got to the top after roughly three hours and it was suprisingly easy considering we had done no training. But a peek down the other side of the mountain, at a route packed with more people climbing steeper paths, confirmed that not all routes are so easy.

At the top, the views were incredible and any feeling of dread at the start was blown away with the brisk wind at the top.

There were people of all ages, young and old, along with pets on the end of leads or cosily in their owners’ backpacks.

It was extremely icy at the summit and the best way of getting down some of the steep path may well have been to sit and slide where it was safe to do so, rather than attempt to stand.

It seemed logical until hikers in crampons, a spiked device that fits over shoes for traction, casually strolled by and shot a questionable glance down to me on my backside without waterproof trousers on.

The humiliation was complete when confused and cosy dogs in their backpacks looked down on me with the same look.

All in all, it costs the price of petrol to get there, £10 to £25 per person to stay in the hostel, time out of an otherwise uneventful weekend and the effort to get up to the stunning summit which was more than worth it.

Charlotte Callear

By Charlotte Callear
@CCallear_Star

Reporter based at the Express & Star's Wolverhampton head office

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