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A Wale of A Time – Summertime Snowdonia

Peak of Snowdon | © 2014 Bryan J. Kwa

School’s out and summer’s in! It’s time for Hike #4 and I’ve decided to venture further out on my own once again! Must admit I almost gave up halfway; really put myself to the test both physically and mentally during my 3D2N hike across North Wales. I decided to attempt a C-shape route, beginning at Conwy and ending at Betws-Y-Coed while tackling the highest mountain in Wales (Snowdon).  Covered more than 120km in total with approximately 90km on foot this time round!

Met a couple of jovial folks on the train from the “North and Mid Chesire Ramblers group” (http://nmc-ramblers.org.uk/) while en route to Conwy and it made the journey a whole lot less dreary! Even some locals agree Welsh weather is mood-affecting and meh, but nevertheless a result of the greenery! Spent an hour at Conwy Castle, a 13th century medieval fortification built by Edward I and proceeded along the Northern Coast in direction of Aber Falls. Had the strangest/most awkward experience when a horse started to get an erection when I passed by it ._.

Reached Aber falls, snapped a couple of shots and head back North towards the coast and continued my hike towards Penisa’r Waun. Weather was pretty fair with occasional pockets of blue skies, but the winds began to pick up come late evening and the weather was looking very dismal.

Got a tad lost when it got dark but was saved by a really sweet young couple who offered me a short lift to my home-stay about 15-minutes away – thanks Andy and Cath! (Hope I spelt your names correctly)

Luke was a really great Airbnb host! Highly-knowledgeable of the vicinity, well-traveled across and extremely easy to talk to. His place was cosy/homey and he was really accommodating, highly-recommended if you’re looking for a place to stay not too far from Snowdon! (https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/47343)

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w/ Luke Stephenson | © 2014 Bryan J. Kwa

I set off the next morning in direction of Llanberis with relentless rain pouring down; really have to thank my GORE-TEX® Pro Shell for keeping me warm and dry! Was probably the best investment ever made in outdoor gear! Arrived at Llanberis, a village that was home to a former slate quarrying industry and now a hub for outdoor activities near the base of Snowdon. Attempted to climb up Snowdon but was forced to turn back due to very strong winds. Took refuge in a cosy little coffee/tea house (Penceunant Isaf) on the lower slopes of Snowdon and was served the most amazing hot chocolate beside a toasty fireplace! Special thanks to Bob, Steffan & everyone else for being so helpful and welcoming!

Got offered ride down to the nearest bus-stop and caught the bus to Pen-Y-Gwryd where I bumped into a group of teens undergoing their “practice” hike for the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Kudos to you guys for attempting your hike in such foul weather and all the best in getting your award! Parted ways with them at a fork at the river mouth and made my way to the Youth Hostel Association at the other end of Llyn Gwynant where I happily felt like a kid all over again sleeping in a top bunk.

Made friends with fellow hikers who were doing it all-out for various charitable organisations (hats off to you guys) and an elderly German hiker who easily puts all of us to shame! Horst, a 75-year-old retiree and the modern founder of Apparatebau Nordhausen (an engineering and equipment company specialising in breweries), has been hiking solo for the past couple of years, covering distances and scaling mountains many of us would never expect to in our lifetimes. He’s still in progress of completing the Alps starting at Slovenia/Austria and ending at Monaco; that’s more than 1,000km of on-foot goodness! As grim as it may sound, he hopes to finish it before he kicks the bucket :O Good luck to you ol’ chap!

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The Modern Founder of Apparatebau Nordhausen | © 2014 Bryan J. Kwa

Day 3 was GLORIOUS; sapphire skies (with an occasional patch of grey clouds), warm sunshine, lush greenery, cascading waterfalls and gentle winds… Well not until I almost stepped on an unexploded mortar shell. I practically looked around for a couple of seconds to make sure I wasn’t surrounded by choirs of angels. Was literally less than a metre away from potential death and only stuck around long enough to snap a photo before slowly inching my way back and scrambling over a wall via a detour.

Continued my way up to the peak of Snowdon via the Watkin Path, requiring getting on all fours and scrambling near the top. Informed the authorities about the “land mine” and hiked back down the other side of Snowdon via the Llanberis Path and back to Llyn Padarn where I stripped down, basked in the sun beside the lake and enjoyed the simple pleasures of junk food while waiting for my bus to Betws-Y-Coed to catch the train back to London, where an amazing dinner was waiting for me – cooked by the dearly beloved who flew in that very morning! :3

Start: Conwy
End: Betws-Y-Coed
Hiking Distance: Approx. 90km

Hike 4 Route

(Click to enlarge)

Day #1 Overview:
Woke up at 3.45am, running on 2 hours of sleep, thanks to an awesome gig (The Naked & Famous) the night before, grabbed an early bus to catch the 5.30am train just in time from London Euston to Warrington Bank Quay, switched train and finally arrived at Conwy. Explored Conwy Castle, hiked to Abegrwyngregyn and checked out Aber Falls. Spent the night at Luke’s (Airbnb) at Penisa’r Waun.

Day #2 Overview:
Set off at approximately 9.00am with horrible winds and rain. Hiked to Llanberis at the foot of Snowdon where I attempted to scale the mountain. Had to turn back due to 20-30km winds and stopped by Penceunant Isaf coffee/tea house. Changed plans and took a bus to Pen-Y-Gwryd and hiked through the valley down to YHA Bryn Gwynant to spend the night.

Day #3 Overview:
Began my day at 7.00am and started scaling Snowdon via Watkin Path at approximately 10.00am. Came across an unexploded mortar shell, went all ape-shit for a couple of minutes and finally pulled myself together, made up for loss time and reached the summit at noon. Head back down via Llanberis Path into Llanberis, visited the National Slate Museum, had a picnic down by the lake and waited for the bus to Betws-Y-Coed where I caught the train back to London.

Memorable Moments:
– No wi-fi/signal for 90% of the journey
– Going old-school and using my ordnance survey map + compass
– Horse erection
– Aber falls
– Hot chocolate by the fireplace at Pen Ceunant
– Spectacular mountain views
– New friends @ YHA
– Unexploded mortar shell
– Peak of Snowdon
– Asian dinner

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