Britain's mountaineer training ground

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Snowdonia was and still is the training ground for many great mountaineers. George Mallory trained there before his fateful attempts on Everest. Then the successful team behind the conquest of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing also trained in there. The mountains they practised on are two of my favourites; Snowdon and Tryfan. This post is really a photo essay of some my photographs taken on various trips up into the Welsh mountains.

Snowdon from the Cob at Porthmadog Snowdon from the Cob at Porthmadog


There are many paths to the Summit of Snowdon. The Llanberis path is probably the tamest, with  Tea Rooms spaced at regular intervals. The one just above Llanberis even has an Art Gallery showcasing works by Kyffin Williams, whose prints are much sought after by Welsh Art lovers.

Llyn Llidaw Llyn Llidaw


Another popular path is the Miners Track.  So named because it was used to access the copper mines from Snowdonia's industrial past. It passes two lakes Llyn Llidaw and Glaslyn. In all there are  eight designated routes to the Summit. The most difficult being via Crib Coch, a narrow knife blade arrete, which has claimed many lives over the years.

Hafod Eryri and the Summit The last part of the ascent towards Hafod Eryri and the Summit


Compared to the Alps, Welsh mountains seem tiny. However, even on a July day, the wind chill factor can take temperatures below zero on the summit of Snowdon. Too many people underestimate both the Welsh mountains and the changeability of the weather and pay for it dearly, sometimes with their lives.

Hafod Eryri Hafod Eryri seen from the summit of Snowdon


The Hafod Eryri Visitor Centre near the summit opened in 2009. Designed to blend in with the mountain and withstand 200 mile per hour winds, it is a welcoming place to take a warm drink, after being chill frozen at the summit Trig Point and Orientation board.

Summit of Snowdon Summit of Snowdon


Snowdon offers access to nearly everyone, as the trains of the century old Snowdon Mountain Railway can take visitors to the Hafod Eryri Visitor Centre.

Snowdon Mountain Railway Snowdon Mountain Railway


The Welsh weather can occasionally prevent trains from operating on sections exposed to high winds. But thankfully not too often.  The train passengers and walkers ensure that Snowdon is the most visited mountain in Britain.

Tryfan Tryfan


Snowdon is the tallest mountain in Wales, but my favourite is Tryfan. A mountain that seems to be built out of large rocks and boulders. Tryfan is not open to everyone. It is not possible to get to the summit by walking. You need rudimentary climbing skills. The easiest route is classified as a Grade One scramble. However, as with most mountains it becomes a potential death trap when shrouded in rain laden clouds. If you enter "Tryfan death" into a search engine you will soon learn that not respecting this mountain is plain stupid.

The Cannon at Tryfan The Cannon at Tryfan


Tryfan's most notable features are the cannon, a protruding rock on the North Face, then at the summit two natural standing stones named Adam and Eve. The two summit stones are often scaled by the purists, who then jump from one to the other. Don't even try if it is wet, windy or if your sense of balance is not perfect, in fact if you don't have experience of scrambling it is best not to attempt Tryfan at all. The 1953 Everest team  tested their oxygen sets while climbing these piles of rocks.

Feral goats on Tryfan Feral goats on Tryfan


The feral goat population seem to have less difficulty leaping from rock to rock, but they were born to it, but even they come down the mountain if the rain clouds roll in. Both mountains can offer visitors a day to remember and if you take all of the right precautions, it will be for the right reasons.  Ensure that you plan your climbs in the Welsh Mountains, that the level of difficulty of your planned route matches your skill level, that you have checked the weather forecast, carry a mobile phone, whistle and bivvy bag. Finally let someone know your itinerary and when you expect to return. See more of the author's photos and stories on the TravelCrunch blog. Addendum: The Tryfan Cannon photo was taken by Joelle Dubois.

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