Mountain hiking has always been one of my favorite activities so it’s also perhaps a good thing that the weather is also an interest as the one certainty with venturing into the hills is that you will encounter lots of different types of weather; most of which are going to make you either cold or wet or both. Not all mountain conditions are so hostile however and just occasionally one encounters conditions that are not only benign but also beautiful.
This temperature inversion which I walked through in North Wales on the way from Pen y Gwryd to Snowdon fell into the latter category. A temperature inversion occurs when a layer of cool air is trapped beneath warmer air so reversing the normal state of affairs that it gets colder the higher you get. On this day in September – this phenomenon is commonest in autumn and winter – I journeyed from grey and overcast skies at low lying Betws y Coed into cool mist and light drizzle between Pen y Gwryd and Pen y Pass (800 to 1200 feet) and finally into warm sunshine over a sea of cloud above about 2500 feet.
The route I took today was the path from Pen y Gwryd to Pen y Pass and then the Miners track to Llyn Llydaw before which I took the left fork and left that route to scale Y Lliwedd and follow the southern half of the Snowdon Horseshoe route to the summit of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) which at 3560 feet or 1085m is the highest point in Wales. This is the longer but probably easier side of the famous horseshoe; not crossing the knife edge of Crib Goch though there are a few easy scrambles amid rough ground on both sides of Y Lliwedd (898m/2946ft).
The final ascent up to Snowdon was steep but on a much wider path called the Watkin Path which ascends from Nantgwynant. More awesome views over a sea of cloud that spread out to the South greeted me on reaching the South Ridge where there is a stone pillar. The summit, which lies a short way up the ridge from here, was in a higher cloud layer so the views vanished once more.
The route down is a case of following the path beside the railway until you reach the col between Snowdon and the next peak Carnedd Ugain aka Crib y Ddysgl. The top of the Pyg and Miners’ Tracks is marked by another stone pillar and descends steep and rugged slopes initially on stone steps. Following the railway path goes to Llanberis which though a pleasant enough town is almost seven miles from where I’d left the car.
A word about parking – it is now £10 to park at Pen y Pass for over 4 hours (£5 for under) a cynical move as the average person will take closer to 5 hours for the return trip to Snowdon. The new parking areas near Pen y Gwryd are much cheaper and the lay byes further along the road are free.
Pete Buckley October 2013