“Let’s go hiking.” Sounded simple enough when my husband suggested a day trip to the beautiful Snowdonia National Park in Gwynedd, Wales. We began packing earlier in the week for our Saturday trek and I was asked to pack for both the tropical and snow-like weather conditions. I may have raised an eyebrow at this. Andrew mentioned a few routes we could navigate at the park to complete the Snowdon Horseshoe, one of which included what he described as “light scrambling.” It sounded like I was being issued a challenge, so of course I agreed to the more technical route. A hike, that is what I signed up for.
Our weather for the hike could not have been more picturesque. Low 60s at the base of the mountain without a cloud in the sky. These are the conditions you hope for as anything with wind or rain will limit your climbing. When we embarked, I quickly realised what was in store for my day.
After a few miles at a gradual incline on the hike we approached Crib Goch; this was the first technical part of the climb — the “light scrambling.” Lesson 1: Google where you are going. Do your research before trusting what someone else says. If I had, I would have seen this:
Crib Goch is described as a “knife-edged” arête in the Snowdonia National Park. The name means red comb in the Welsh language. The highest point on the arête is 923 metres (3,028 ft) above sea level. All routes which tackle Crib Goch are considered mountaineering routes in winter or scrambles in summer—meaning that they must cross “graded territory”…
Mountaineering? Say again?! I have some experience in rock climbing, and thank jeebus because that is what saved me. The scramble was unlike anything I could ever describe. The climb was unreal. The views were breathtaking. There were many moments in the climb where I was pushed out of my comfort zone. To be honest, there may have been a few tears.
Not only do you climb up the side of the mountain, but once at the top the real scramble begins. To the right of you is a 1,000 ft+ drop and to the left of you is a fall that won’t kill you but will leave you battered and seriously bruised. I was straddling a mountain top. Scooting in some places. I questioned my sanity, especially when grown men around me were panicking and some turning around.
But what’s a trip without drama. We were cresting when in the distance we started to hear a low rumble. The next vision was of a massive Royal Air Force helicopter. This wasn’t a test mission, they were on a proper rescue attempt, and it wasn’t just anyone in the helicopter. Snowdonia National Park is a few miles from Anglesey, home to the Prince and Princess of Wales. The lines, “One day my prince will come,” have never rang so true. The rescue attempt happened right in front of us and the helicopter hovered feet above our heads. The RAF men motioned us to get down. Pulsating wind ensued and I was pressed on my back against the mountain holding on tight. Andrew was even closer:
My adrenaline and blood pressure were through the roof. The scramble lasted a few hours and I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by climbers with more expertise that helped me stay calm, pass words of encouragement and most importantly tell me to stand up – relax – and take in the views. There was a respect for everyone who was attempting the climb.
We ended up cutting the horseshoe in half due to the time it had taken us to get over Crib Goch. On the hike back to the start of the trail I discovered a renewed respect for nature. Six hours will do that to a person. I accomplished something I had never done before and something that I didn’t think I was capable of doing. Andrew is an adventure junkie and my small taste on the mountain helped me understand why we constantly test our boundaries.
Would I go back? Yes. It might be certifiable but I feel I now have the skills to do better, but I will not be going back anytime soon.
What’s one thing you’ve done that tested your limits?