He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginaryFriedrich Nietzsche
Being outdoorsy kind of people, with mountains right outside the window It wasn’t going to be long until me and the guys working at the hostel ended up out on them together. I’ve wanted to tackle Crib Goch for years but never managed to get the right kind of weather to go for it. Admittedly I’ve done more sketchy scrambles already at this point but with Crib it’s more exposed than a uk government weekend.
I’ve been aware for quite a while that the go pro videos out there also make this route look worse because of the wide angle they offer, it makes ridges look a lot narrower. That doesn’t mean it’s much less dangerous though you only need to have one of those ‘tripping over your own feet’ moments and you’ll soon be making sweet love with oblivion. It just so happens that while we are having a drink one night and a chat it comes up in conversation which routes up and around Snowdon we have and haven’t all done. Being as my new housemate Egle has done it a few times but hasn’t traversed it during a sunrise or sunset, and I say I’m up for going. And at that moment the choice is made that we are going to get up there on a nice day just in time for the sun setting so we can get some cool pictures. It’s mid week and the usual tourists have headed home.
Finally later in the week we get a really decent day for weather, the suns shining, bumblebees are floating through the air like the insect versions of fat alcoholics, and I get my stuff ready to go, Egle gets back from work and we get out for 4:30 which is going to leave us about 3.5 hours to get up there. Plenty of time considering even with us both taking loads of pictures. And of course we do as being here is probably the best part of the job. We start making our way up the trail to the point where the Pyg track splits and on your right hand side is Crib Goch, and after seeing some great views down Pen Y Pass towards Llyn Padarn we arrive at the foot of Crib Goch.Whats the Pyg track? Well the welsh say it’s called that for one of two reasons, either because it’s the track that miners carried ‘pyg’ or black tar to the Britannia copper mine or because it may be named after Bwlch Y Moch ‘the pigs pass’ which is the pass it leads through.
The marker sits in front of a steepish rocky slope and just points straight up which is pretty much what is going to happen. I’m not that apprehensive as we approach considering I’ve cut my teeth now on a few grade 3 scrambles in the lakes, the only thing I’m concerned about is my dodgy knees from reactive arthritis. I haven’t got the same going power as I did before I got ill. But I feel like all of this mountain walking and stuff is definitely helping build me back up, and being as reactive arthritis is a temporary condition I’m hoping its mostly cleared up by the time I do my mountain leader training in May. The last few hikes I’ve been on though I’ve really suffered the days after. Then again looking it from a different perspective though I’ve always been a active person in the mountains I have done at least 4 days in the mountains in around two weeks whereas before it would be a mountain every months or so! So I can’t be doing too badly.
We start clambering up the first section and as I see the rusty red deposits in the rocks it comes to mind that ‘Crib Goch’ apparently means the ‘Red Ridge’. what I think are iron deposits in the rock look like dried blood in the fading light which isn’t the most encouraging thing to see right now. Though there are many routes up to the summit of Snowdon this one this the most notorious, it often see’s inexperienced mountain walkers and would be scramblers rescued when it gets too much for them. This just adds to the calls to assistance that the Llanberis Mountain Rescue team receive for the Snowdon area (last year over 250!) It really isn’t a place for those without experience or a head for heights, you should show it the respect it deserves, and accept that if you don’t know what you are doing think again. And even if you do know what you are doing you’ve already accepted that accidents can happen to even the most experienced of us. Plenty of fatalities have happened here and of course there’s always the possibility of getting cragfasted (stuck in a position you can neither climb up or down from)
Maybe I should be thinking about something more serious right now but my minds just decided that it can concentrate intensely and still at the same time make me wonder if i’d left the dryer on and I’m going to come back to a pile of melted running T-shirts. There are many things I’m sure pass through peoples minds in a dangerous situation but I’m pretty sure laundry isn’t one of them. Don’t get me wrong here because I’d really like to say I was thinking something deeply profound like ‘I feel like a death defying flea traversing the back of a dragon’ but nope I’m thinking about laundry and of course, not falling. You do get desensitised to this kind of thing after you have been doing it a while, I used to be terrified of heights to the point of freezing. In comparison to how I used to be though, after years of doing this kind of thing I decided to cut my own hair the other day and I think that made me about as nervous as this is making me right now. But that’s all because I’ve been in this situation a lot, everyones different and make no mistake this IS a dangerous place to be.
We begin by working our way up rough cracked rock and slabs of rock towards where things become more verticle at which point we start some more serious ascent and straight away because I haven’t scrambled for so long now since being ill I’m finding it a definite struggle to get up some of the climbs. Not mentally a little bit physically but for sure more because of my loss of flexibility after being ill months ago. I currently have the movement of a arthritic sloth. I’m having to actually grab my one leg in places to raise it up another inch to get it on top of the footholds. This doesn’t really keep with the three points of contact rule but if I don’t do it I won’t be moving anywhere soon, and as the old 90’s song goes ‘the only way is up, baby…’ I’d also rather not get crag fast (that’s a term for not being able to go up or down) because it wouldn’t be a good look for a trainee mountain leader, though I’m sure I’ll bump into mountain rescue at some point just for the sheer weight of numbers.
Egle doesn’t seem to give a shit about heights she’s pretty much right up the side of the steep sections like a rat up a drainpipe. Either that or she’s doe this route so many times she doesn’t think too hard about it anymore. Though in my mind that’s just as dangerous as overthinking it, I’d say the perfect state of mind should be cautious but confident. Be mindful there is danger all around but keep your cool, because it’s far more dangerous if you don’t!
I try the tiny trail about three metres below the top of the ridge and I try it for a while just to see how it is. I can’t say I feel any different to standing on the very top really in fact I’m closer to the right hand sheer drop, the side of the mountain which just falls right off into nothing but air mere centimetres from my feet. This all is ok though because Crob Goch has loads of decent hand and foot holds and providing it’s dry. It was formed by very violent volcanic eruptions and glacial movement and its the reddish deposits that give it its name, at 3,023ft its tasty and according to the met office it gets the most rain in the whole uk at 4635mm on the rain gauge (get a comparison) so it’s wetter than a otters pocket most of the year. Which is a shame because this one’s best to climb when the weather and the rock is drier. The Snowdonia rock when it gets wet is like walking on soapy glass. And of course one slip and it can easily be a goodbye from you.
We manage to work our way along the ridge well in the fading light and you have to stop for a second to appreciate the brutal beauty of this ridgeline (especially when you haven’t got to share it with lots of other people) it’s a really impressive and exciting scramble. Eventually we find our way back down, descend to the pig track and then the miners because of course we’ve both been on Snowdon’s summit enough times for anybody. I pull out some beers and we drink a toast to our little after work adventure.