DAY 12: SNOWDONIA

I sit in the breakfast room of the Prince Llewelyn Hotel, shovelling in as much fry-up as I can manage.

At the far end of the room people have written various missives on the Day 12 or 13-w1000-h979wall, like last will and testaments, before they set off to climb Mount Snowdon, just a few miles down the road from here in Beddgelert.

It’s only a small mountain, I think to myself, how hard can it be? My Giristroula and I climbed Mount Olympus two years before. What are all these ridiculously histrionic sentiments, as if they’re setting off for the Antarctic?

Nevertheless, I cram in as many carbs as I can here, and the good-natured Polish waitress gives us packed sandwiches in tinfoil as she waves us off with a cheerful sense of finality as we go.

I’m treble socked.

We stop off at the local souvenir shop and buy a water proof map. The powerfully built, deep-voiced owner – smelling terrifically of horse manure while selling his dainty boxes of fudge and little Welsh dolls with his great spade like hands – recommends the best routes for us.

We choose the Pyg Path, a fairly tough one but with the best promised views.

We have an enormous walk to begin with merely to reach the path from where we have been able to leave the rental car, so packed are the roadsides, but soon we’re on the Pyg.

The early path is quiet and fairly easy-going and we get a great view of the Llyn Llydaw lake that will stay with us on our left, deep and blue and spectacular, for most of the climb.

The path remains rocky but steady and the weather good until around halfway when suddenly clouds descended in the pearl-grey air, waterproofs are tugged on and the summit disappears from view.

The path becomes zig-zagged and harder and, while not many people are climbing up, there are a lot coming down (having taken the train up), including a large group of Hassidic Jews, descending very unsteadily in heavy suits with their hats and ringlets.

The last part is quite a tough scramble over loose scree but we finally reach the summit and feel pleased with ourselves, sneering at the passengers arriving on the 120 year old mountain railway.

The railway though is of course a terrific act of Victorian construction. The only rack and pinion rail line in Britain. Steam locomotives, puffing out great gouts of steam, still pushing the wooden carriage up the clenched iron teeth of the rail every half hour.

We stand at the top, take in the view and trace the route we’ve climbed.

The valley behind us is where Carry On Up The Khyber was filmed – Snowdon substituting for the Khyber pass – and I point out the spot far below where Private Widdle had his underpants removed by a huge Indian Burpa.

Total blank face from the Greek.

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There’s not much else to do up here in the clouds but visit the café at the mountain top. It’s teaming with people inside, but we get a seat.

Giristroula rises for a couple of seconds to drop something in the bin, and a family of four squeeze into her seat, with the fat father’s buttocks nudging me out too. The father sweating like his clingfilm-wrapped cheese sandwiches.

We glare at the family for a while but they won’t look up from their food. Eventually Giristroula snaps and a perfect example of Greek distemper versus priggish British petulance plays out.

“Happy with your seat?” Giristroula fumes.

“Yes thank you,” the mother replies still not look up from her nibbled sandwich.

“Well…you know… that was sarcasm.” spits the Greek.

“Yes. Thank you,” the mother again dead-responds, picking a crumb off her skirt, a millisecond snippy smile to herself. The dismissive “thank you” hanging in the air like the tone of a doorbell ding-dong.

We leave, defeated by decorum.

“You should be ashamed of yourself!” Giristroula late volleys back over her shoulder as we go. “In front of your children as well!”

I nudge her, in her grumbling bad temper, out of the doors and we are back out into the grey Snowdon air and start looking for a way down.

Having been annoyed by the numbers travelling down the path as we climbed up, we decide to take a different route to get back to the base of the mountain ourselves.

We start following the Watkin path and as we descend, the sun, which had been there all the time bathing the valley below the clouds in cordial sunshine, re-appears.

The view is majestic. Wales ripples and rolls and spits and curves away for mile after mile around us. Wind-carved rocks and weather-bleached greens and yellows.

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Absent mindedly we soon fall away from the Watkin path and in a short time we find ourselves on sheer rock and having to actually climb, looking for foot holds and staining to pull ourselves up on high ridges in the now blazing bulls-eye heat.

We feel anxious, with no one else around and with only more treacherous rolling apexes ahead, but reassure ourselves by pointing out a yellow spot that we take to be a marker of an official climbing route.

“Look here’s another one,” I say as we dangerously propel ourselves forward over another high Snowdonian crest.

Giristroula spots one in a ludicrous position through some jagged crag and we faithful follow these yellow spots on and on until slowly we realise they are not route markers at all. They are simply crusty lichen etched on the rocks.

We have climbed ourselves into a pickle and have never felt happier than when, after sliding down turfy slopes on our bottoms past momentarily non-chewing quizzical sheep, we are finally able to get down to a plateau and reach a decent path again, and finally make it back over Llyn Llydaw’s bridge and to the car.

Relived, feeling foolish, we head back to the old mossy stone Beddgelert town, and return to the cheerful Polish waitress speculatively waiting our return at the Prince Llewellyn hotel.

We sit a while in the dark Breakfast Room. Pleased to have got back here in one piece.

Snowdon conquered.

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