Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales at 1,085 metres and the highest point in the British Isles outside of the Scottish Highlands. I find this fact somewhat surprising really given the abundance of craggy peaks and often snow-capped hills that range right across Britain. I would have thought Snowdon was higher, given its imposing glacial sculptured peak, straight out of a Toblerone wrapper, that can be seen for miles around. For instance, Blackheath in the Blue Mountains just outside of Sydney is just 20 metres shy of Snowdon’s peak – an easy drive from the coast.
Snowdon has been described as the ‘busiest mountain in Britain’ with over 550,000 people walking up the mountain each year…and let me tell you, you know it! It’s busy with a constant flow of determined hikers. We even encountered a young guy riding a skateboard with a smug stupid grin on his face, but the majority of hikers seemed to be groups of men (some in T-Shirts!), the occasional sprawling family with their free running dogs, and some bewildered foreign tourists, assuming an easy hike up to the summit. Of course they could have just taken the train over on the other side, if it weren’t closed for the winter. Yep, that’s right, there’s a regular train service that runs to the summit that’s been in operation since 1896! The SMR, as it’s called, is the only rack and pinion railway in Britain.
We took the Pyg Track, beginning at Pen-y-Pass and first skirting one of three mirror-like lakes, some with plates of frozen ice lying on the still surface, before climbing to Glaslyn and then ascending steeply towards Bwlch Glas…and I mean steep! I don’t know what the gradient is but the track is made up of large loose stones that require the skills of a mountain goat to navigate. It’s head down all the way, barely daring to look at the stunning views surrounding the track, but finally huffing and puffing our way to the last of the lakes at the very base of Snowdon. If you look very hard at the summit you can just make out tiny standing figures – the adventurous souls that made the climb all the way up. A staggering view can be had from up here, some say one of the most expansive views in the British Isles. On exceptionally clear days, like today, it’s said you can take in Ireland, Scotland (the longest line of sight in the British Isles at 144 miles), England and the Isle of Man, as well as 24 counties, 29 lakes and 27 islands. Impressive for just over 1000 metres above sea level!