June 26, 2007

We were woken up at 5 am by the slamming of doors, then went back to sleep. At 6 am there was more door-slamming. Finally we went downstairs for our breakfast, which was at 8:15 am. We had pre-ordered the continental breakfast, which consisted of porridge, toast, croissant, and pain au chocolat. We saved the pain au chocolat for lunch. While we were eating, two of the boys from the school group were made to apologize to the other guests (us and a few others) because they had stayed up all night. None of us had heard them at all but we accepted their apology anyway.

Outside the sky was still grey and the wind was ripping at the trees. At the side of a road was a sign “Llif/Flood” where the stream had been rushing across last night. But the weather forecast was positive in a lukewarm sort of way, so we decided “Snowdon or Bust”. We organized our hiking gear and set off up the A4085 towards Beddgelert and then up to Pen y Pass. Parking was ₤4 for the day at the car park here.

So far the weather was cooperating, although it was raining lightly. We put on some of our rain gear and started off along the Miners’ Track. It climbed gently along the old path that used to service the copper mine. Along the way we passed several ruined buildings, all made out of stone and some brick. Once past the mine we switchbacked steeply up to meet the Pyg path.

Along the way we kept an eye out on the weather and, wonder of all wonders, we saw some blue sky. We kept our fingers crossed that it would stay clear until we reached the summit. But as soon as we reached the summit ridge, we were slammed by an extremely strong north wind. The temperature plummeted and it was all we could do to stay on our feet. The views from here were incredible; luckily for us, the clouds had lifted enough so that we could see Ireland in the distance. The sun was shining in the valleys below and the green fields looked very luxurious.

Within minutes the clouds closed in again, and we followed the railway tracks that followed the ridge up the last stretch to the summit. Coming down from the top was the young Texan who had been at our breakfast table this morning. He had climbed up the Snowdon Ranger track and was just now on his way back down. Near the summit we passed Wales’s highest construction site—unfortunately the old summit building was being demolished and rebuilt this summer, so there was no place to get a cup of tea. So we huddled in the lee of the summit pyramid and ate our lunch, while Wales’s highest sheep looked on.

We soon realized that we were freezing, so we ate some of the Kendal mint cake we had brought from the Lake District to give us a bit of energy, then put on our wool hats and mittens and packed up to hike down. With great difficulty we stumbled down the ridge in the howling gale, but as soon as we turned down onto the Pyg track we were out of the wind and the temperature rose rapidly. On the way down we met a group of uncomfortable-looking school kids on the track, and we had to tell them there were no toilets on the summit. (As the sign at the start of the track said.)

The Pyg track contoured around the hill, rather than dropping steeply to the mine site. The going was much rougher than we had thought, so we had to watch our steps. It took us about two hours to get back to the car park at Pen y Pass. Once back we changed our boots, then went into the tea shop for tea and a piece of raisin square. That was so good that we bought a piece of carrot cake to share as well.

Once back in the car we carried on along the A4086 towards Llanberis. By this time it was 4 pm, but we had just enough time to stop in at the National Slate Museum for a brief visit. We started off reading the signs on the exhibits, then one of the guides asked us if we would like to watch a slate-splitting demonstration. We thought that would be interesting, so we went into the demonstration room, which was already quite full of people. It was a very enjoyable and informative half hour, but by the time it was over the rest of the museum was closed.

After that we decided to go down to Caernarfon to have dinner. We located a car park not far from the castle and from there we walked around the town, which wasn’t very large, looking for a place to eat. The streets were mostly deserted and most of the cafés were closed, so we ended up back where we had started, at Hole in the Wall Street. Here there was a pub that was serving food. Both of us had the roast lamb dinner, which was very good with the exception of the carrots and peas, which were canned carrots and peas. While we ate, we watched the television news showing footage of the flooding that had taken place yesterday in Yorkshire, not so far from where we had been. We hadn’t realized that the heavy rain had had such severe effects; we saw streets with people wading thigh-deep in muddy water.

At least tonight the A4085 was not flooded, so driving back to the hostel was not as treacherous. We sat in the lounge and tried to catch up on our journal-writing, but there was conversation and a jigsaw puzzle as a distraction. Before going to bed we both had showers; the school children were considerably quieter tonight, so falling asleep was very easy.

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