Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The Snowdon Horseshoe Fundraiser

In the week leading up to the walk the final arrangements had been made, kit sorted out, car sharing arranged and the final team put together.
The final team consisted of-
Walking for Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital-
David Mason
Stephen Mason
Jon Mason
Mark Adams
Andy Jackson
Dave Bates
Steve Read
Rhys Wickham

Walking for The Christie(Manchester)-
Steve Treweeks
Jake Treweeks (13yrs)

Friday 20th August.
Jon, Mark, Stephen and I all travelled up together. Luckily Mark had the use of a people carrier for the weekend that meant there was far more space for the masses of kit that we all took. The weather in Bristol was overcast but warm, the odd shower creeping through but otherwise OK. Traffic was slow and we ended up having to take a detour due to congestion as people made their way to the "V" festival. We stopped at one point to stretch our legs and have a wander around Sainsbury's to get some shopping for the weekend, lunch and of course a beer or two!
After a short break we soon hit the road again and gradually found ourself entering the rolling Snowdonia countryside. As we got closer to Snowdon the weather changed and we hit heavy rain. My heart sank.
The rain continued to pour as we made our way through Betsey Coed and then took the turning for the Llanberis Pass. The mountain stream at the side of the road was in spate and silver slivers of water tumbled down the steep mountainside to emerge at the bottom as rushing waterfalls. The walk was going to be a nightmare if the weather was like this.

Then, as we entered Llanberis the roads suddenly dried up and people were walking around in T-shirts. Apparently it had been dry there all day whilst only a mile up the Pass the rain poured. We found the campsite up a small turning off the main road. The lane rose steeply through fields occupied by other campers and we made our way to reception to book in. It was now around 17:00hrs and we had been on the road for 5hrs! We found the flattest ground we could and set up the tents and got ourselves comfy.

Steve T then rang to say that he and Jake were about half to three quarter's of an hour away so we decided to head down to the village for some dinner. By the time we sorted ourselves out and walked down the lane Steve and Jake were just coming up in the car so we stopped for a quick chat and agreed to meet them after dinner back at the campsite. We headed on down into the village and found Pete's Eat's. A well known walkers and climbers cafe that served up good sized portions of grub at cheap rates. And luckily for us served beer!
Whilst we were sat eating Dave B then rang to say that he and Steve R were only about half an hour away. We arranged to meet them at the campsite and help put up the tents and get a brew on and a fire lit. Andy and Rhys were joining us in the morning.
We finished our meals and took a steady walk back to the campsite to find Steve and Dave already there and tent up! Steve and Jake were also now all set up and after a trip to the Chinese returned with their dinner. So we put on a brew and got the fire going. It was a mild night with clear sky's full of stars and the odd cloud skittering through on the brisk wind.
We sat and chatted, discussing the plans for the following morning opting to catch the 08:40 Sherpa bus up to Pen Y Pass where we would meet Andy and Rhys.The rest of the night was spent with the usual banter and ribbing and everyone straining their necks to look at shooting stars racing across the night sky. It was a perfect start, everyone had arrived without issue and was now ready for the long day ahead. The last of us climbed into our sleeping bags about midnight after the last of the logs on the fire had burned away and conscious of the 06:30 start to get breakfast on in time to meet the Sherpa bus.

Saturday 21st August-The day of the walk!

I awoke at 06:00 after a fitful nights sleep. There was a fairly noisy group that had arrived at around 02:30 and the wind had got up a bit at times. I got dresses and emerged out of my tent to find sheep grazing in the field. The sun was not quite up and over the mountains as yet although it was quite light. I trekked off to the toilets to have a wash and clean my teeth. When I got back Mark was also awake and there was rustling noises coming from the other firmly zipped up tents! I quickly got a brew on and we started organizing breakfast.
The sun broke over the mountain opposite to reveal clear skies and a warm day as the bacon and sausages sizzled on the stoves. We started with cereals and tea and then tucked into bacon and sausage sandwiches ensuring we cooked enough for dinner on the mountain too.

Time was ticking and I soon found myself "faffing" around trying to sort my kit out for the day and pack up the breakfast stuff in a most disorganised fashion! Rhys rang to say that they were about half an hour away after a very early start to get to us and should be on time to meet us at 09:00 as arranged. Another sigh of relief! We headed down the lane to the village all kitted up about 08:20. Andy then rang to advise that they had parked further down the pass as Pen Y pass was full.This worked out perfectly as they actually got on the same bus as us as it made its way slowly up the steep and winding pass to the drop off point. The team was complete. On the way up I handed out a couple of small posters I had done advertising our charity walk that could easily be tucked underneath the elastic on the back of the ruck sacks, they looked great and even prompted some people to hand over some cash on the way around the walk so well worth the effort.
We arrived at Pen Y Pass and even here the difference in temperature was noticeable even with the sun shining. We stopped to use the loo's and take some group photo's. A stop to look at the weather forecast and a quick chat with the mountain rangers office soon revealed that Crib Gogh was getting battered with 50mph winds. We were advised not to do it especially as it was our first time up there and the ridge is pretty exposed in places. I was a little disappointed but that was soon dispelled when we got going on the Pyg Track.
The path starts by winding its way through the mountains directly behind the car park and is immediately quite rocky with some large steps.The start of the impressive Crib Goch(923m) looms to the right. The track then bears slightly to the left and you soon find yourself in the bowl of the Snowdon Horseshoe with the waters of Llyn Llydaw beneath you, Y-Lliwedd (898m)dominates the skyline opposite who's steep cliffs plunge down to the lakeside and Snowdon (1085m) itself sits menacingly round to your right its summit draped in cloud.

The track is lined with rocks and climbs steadily towards Snowdon. It was pretty busy already with people making their way both up and back down the track. We immediately reached for our camera's and snapped away at the view's. The sun was shining with the occasional cloud moving through and not too hot. Perfect walking weather.
We walked for an hour and a half or so and then found a quiet grassy ledge to stop for a brew and a bite to eat. It was off the main path and commanded magnificent views of Y Lliwedd on the opposite side of the Horseshoe. Its steep craggy sides silhouetted against the sky line.

We soon found ourselves on the path again, as we climbed higher over streams cascading down from the Crib Gogh summit the temperature dropped and we were soon entering the cloud base. Visibility reduced and the air took on a cold,damp feel. Further up the track we stopped to look at a post on the edge of the track that had coins pushed into it from its base to its top. Penny's, five and ten pence piece's, Euro's and all other manner of currency wedged into the wood.

The track wound higher and higher towards Snowdons summit and we soon found ourselves at the start of the "zig,zags" a winding steep section of the path that leads to the col between Crib Gogh and Snowdon itself. The top was in sight now but the path was very steep. Suddenly there was the whoosh of steam as the steam train made its way to the Snowdon summit cafe straining to push the passenger laden carriages,puffing its way up the mountain just out of sight. We stopped again for a brief rest and munched on Jelly Babies.
We made the final push to the top of the track and immediately felt the effects of the cold wind blowing across the ridge line. The track beared around to the left and climbed further. Finally and with great relief we soon found ourselves at the foot of the busy summit cairn,perched on the top of a 20ft high outcrop of rock. We made our way to the top and jostled for space around the cairn. Perched precariously on the top we posed for photo's proudly holding the posters I had made.

We didn't hang around long and soon made our way into the warmth of the crowded summit cafe. Here we stopped for 3/4hr or so for a break and a hot drink. We decided not to do lunch here and instead find a quiet spot further along the loop out of the cloud base where we could all sit in comfort. A quick look at the O/S map and compass pointed us in the direction of the next path.No one in the group had walked this section and it was completely new.
We took a right out of the door of the cafe and followed a steep path down for 100m or so before swinging left down a steep scree slope.Here the path became very steep and less defined. We picked our way down the steep slope through the mist and cloud,placing each foot carefully. Suddenly about half way down the cloud parted and we were treated to cracking views of the way ahead and the jagged ridge of Y Lliwedd. Everyone stopped and reached for their camera's. Next there was a yelp as Dave spotted his rucksack tumbling down the steep scree slope beneath us! "My bag!". The bag kept rolling getting closer and closer to the cliffs that dropped away below. Luckily the bag was undone and was dumping its contents as it rolled. This had the effect of slowing the bag down until it finally stopped just short of the drop off. Some very careful traversing on Dave and Steve's part soon retrieved the bag and its contents and they returned safely to the path much to my relief. From this point Dave was nick named "mountain man!".
We continued to pick our way carefully down the path, Dave hanging onto his bag tightly. Finally we reached the col between Snowdon and Y Lliwedd.Here we found a quiet corner and tucked into the sausage and bacon sandwiches and cups of tea from the flasks.

A nearby rock perched on others provided the perfect spot for yet more photo's. We looked on at Y Lliwedd ahead of us. The path peeled off the main route and disappeared between the rocks as it rose steeply up towards the pointed summit, steep cliffs falling hundreds of feet away to the left. This would test the nerve of those of us that suffer with vertigo!
We took the left hand fork in the path and started the steep climb up to the summit of Y Lliwedd. An easier path wound its way around to the less steep right hand side of the peak disappearing and then reappearing between the huge slabs of rock. The path snaked its way around the mountain and we soon found ourselves facing two options, an easier climb around to the right or a short exposed climb up a rock face on the left with the cliffs plunging away beneath us to the grey, cold waters far below us. It wasn't technically difficult but tested your nerves a bit as there was little room for error. It was exciting and challenging, this was what it was all about!

A short section of further climbing and we were soon on the summit ridge with fantastic views all around us. For the first time the cloud had parted from Snowdon's summit and we could see the tiny, ant like silhouettes of people on its summit. It was breathtaking. We picked our way along the ridge. Taking things carefully and avoiding the huge holes that appeared on our left from time to time. The path slowly began to descend from the final peak in the Horseshoe and made its way down towards the lake and that busy Miners path far below.
By this time some of the guys had gotten further ahead threatening a stop for a swim in Llyn Llydaw's icy waters! Dave, Steve, Jake and I had stopped for a breather at Jake's request as his bag was rubbing his back. I could see the guys were now at the lake side quite some way below us and there was definitely the glint of sunlight on flesh!"Are you guys really going for it?" I called over the radio.
"Sure are" Andy replied.
"Steve,Rhys and Jon and Stephen"
"Are they going swimming?" suddenly piped up Jake from the rock he was perched on.
"Yep" I replied.
And quicker than you'd believe Jake shouldered his pack and shot off down the path!
"Well I guess his back isn't that sore!" I joked to Steve.
We watched as he streaked his way down the mountain to meet with the others at the lake side.Suddenly the radio crackled again.
"Hello it's Jake"
"Hello Jake" I replied.
"Can you ask Dad if I can go swimming" he asked?
" I was waiting for this" replied Steve. "Yeah,OK!"
"Your Dad says yes" I relayed the message and he was soon stripping off to join the others in the water.
We arrived not long after to find Steve,Stephen,Jon and Rhys swimming in the water with other walkers spectating from the path with chins on their chests!

Jake however was paralysed with the cold at only knee deep.
"I'm getting out" he shivered.
"Oh no your not" called Jon " No man points for only going in knee deep" he laughed.
Jake gave in to the pier pressure and launched himself into the water!
We hung around for a bit whilst the guys got themselves out and dried before picking up the now well worn and busy miners path. The track was easy,the end in sight and we all chatted about the events of the day. Finally the Pen Y Pass car park came into view and there was the Sherpa bus sat waiting for us.Perfect timing!

We all crammed into the top deck of the bus and chatted and looked at some of the photo's on the camera's as we made our way back down the pass. Andy, Rhys and Mark got off at the stop for Andy's car and Mark showed them the way to the camp site. The rest of us got off the bus and made our way up the steep lane to our tents. Legs aching and weary but content in an excellent day out.
When we arrived at the camp Andy's tent was up and the stoves were soon fired up and kettles boiling. The beer was cracked open and we sat back and rested in the sun supping on a well earned beer. Gradually we headed off to the showers and got changed ready for the night ahead.
Steve T's family also arrived that afternoon and we met them back at the campsite. It was great to finally meet Tracey and the rest of the family.
Once all were ready we headed back down to Pete's Eats for dinner and a pint or two. We all crammed around a couple of tables and tucked in.
When finished we made our way back to the command grabbed a couple of bags of wood for the fire. It was soon burning well and we all sat around having a beer. Dave announced that he had a bottle of champagne for us to celebrate with and it was passed to me to do the honours. We had no glasses and had to pass the bottle around but it was great!

The night was more overcast and cooler, we were glad of the extra fire wood to keep us warm. Gradually the team dwindled as people made their way to their sleeping bags, Rhys curled up in front of the fire weary but warm! Around midnight we all decided to go to bed.

Sunday 22nd Aug

We arose to yet another nice day. Steadily we all got up and put the kettle on. We washed and had some breakfast and got dressed. The next task was to pack up camp. All the bags were packed and the tents folded and stashed away. The gear was crammed into the cars and finally everything was packed away and ready for the journey home.
First we headed to Pete's Eats for the final time to treat ourselves to a full English breakfast. The walk to the village was a painful affair for most of us as the aching muscles we called upon to work once again. On the way back Jon flatly refused to climb the steep hill back to the campsite instead asking Mark and I to pick him up at the bottom of the lane!
We said our goodbye's to Steve and his family and climbed back into the cars ready for the long journey home.
A couple of hours later I had a text from Steve commenting on what a great weekend it was and with a picture attached of Jake fast asleep in the car! I smiled to myself and wondered if he was dreaming of climbing mountains and swimming in the clear waters of a mountain lake. Part of me hoped that we had ignited a spark somewhere inside of him and given him a taste of the outdoors that he would carry with him in the future and not get stuck in the rut that other kids do with their Playstation's, X boxes and Nintendo DS's. We'd achieved a great weekends walk,had fun and raised a substantial amount of money for both Basingstoke and Manchester hospitals PMP fund. But hopefully also given Jake a great adventure with the boys!

You can do a Google Earth Flyby of the route we took by clicking here-

Snowdon Horseshoe