HILL, DALES AND MOUNTAIN HIKING

22nd February 2010: Snowdon via Rangers Path

Start/Finish: Snowdon Rangers Station

Highest point: Snowdom summit area

Distance: circa 12kms

Weather: Cold, wind , vis down to zero high up

Vertical altitude gain: 1000m

Time: 8 hrs 20 mins

Photo of a snowy Snowdon Rangers Path
I'd taken a full rest day since ascending Snowdon the 20th. So as to be ready to climb the mountain again, (hidden under cloud above), this time via the Rangers Path, leaving well before dawn. This photo of part of that route being taken much later that day.

Photo of dawn over Snowdon Rangers Path
I was well on the ascent when dawn broke over a very cold and wintry landscape.

Photo of dawn over Snowdon Rangers Path
The Rangers Path is very easy to start with. Today with light snow right from the valley,
but getting deeper as I headed steadily uphill.

Photo of Snowdon Rangers Path covered in snow
In front was the steepest section of the climb, with Snowdon's summit some way above to the right, and
not visible in this view. I was expecting problems with deep wind blown snow having filled the track.

Photo of Lyn Ffynnon-y-gwas and Nantlle Ridge taken from Snowdon Rangers Path
Onto the steep section and immediately onto mixed snow, (sometimes deep), and ice conditions.

Photo of Snowdon Rangers Path covered in snow
Full sunlight was slow arriving, but at least I had clear view past Lyn-Ffynnon-y-gwas
to the Nantlle Ridge, (left), and Mynydd Mawr.

Photo of Lyn Ffynnon-y-gwas, Moel Hebog and Nantlle Ridge taken from Snowdon Rangers Path
Then onto the snow filled track! Knee and even thigh deep in places, forcing me over to the icy edge.
No footprints to follow either: not important here, but very much so later on!

Photo of Snowdon Rangers Path covered in snow
Nantlle Ridge, (right), across to Moel Hebog, with Lyn-Ffynnon-y-gwas in the foreground.

Photo of Snowdon Rangers Path covered in snow
Snow, ice and rocks made up the track.

Photo of Snowdon Rangers Path covered in snow
Onwards and upwards. Just after here snow was piled more than thigh deep for short distance,
on a corner making crampons essential to maximise use of the icy track edge.

Photo of Snowdon Rangers Path covered in snow
I was surprising myself how my energy was lasting in the difficult conditions.
Especially as I'd done two very hard walks already this trip.

Photo of Snowdon Rangers Path covered in snow
Wind blown patterns in the snow.

Photo of Nantlle Ridge and Mynydd Mawr taken from Snowdon Rangers Path
Nantlle Ridge and Mynydd Mawr.

Photo of Nantlle Ridge taken from Snowdon Rangers Path
A closer look down onto the Nantlle Ridge.

Photo of Mynydd Mawr taken from Snowdon Rangers Path
And a closer look down on Mynydd Mawr.

Photo of Moel Eilio taken from Snowdon Rangers Path
The broad ridge that runs from Moel Eilio, (more distant), to Moel Cynghorion.

Photo of snow covered Snowdon Rangers Path
Ahead the top of the steep zig zgs , and an ominously lowering cloud base. Plus a very strong wind
that was harshly blowing the lying snow into my face. And freezing my Isotonic drink to a mushy pulp!

Large ice field at top end of Snowdon Rangers Path
Onto the broad ridge bordered left by the Cliffs of Clogwyn Du'r Arddu and Clogwyn Coch, and right by Cwm Clogwyn. In front, slippery white ice and sometimes deep wind driven snow and no sign of a track after passing these small cairns. Before the cloud base totally closed in I had the outline of Carnedd Ugain, (just visible top), as a compass reference point as I battled wind, blowing snow and harsh underfoot conditions, with 90cm ice axe and crampons in use. Once into the cloud base and dreadful visibility it was more luck than compass work that got me to the railway warning signs where the Rangers Path crosses the snow obscured railway, and then the PYG track marker stone.

Photo of PYG track marker stone on Snowdon summit ridge
Top of the PYG track and things got tough with still no footprints in the snow to follow, and mostly no sign of the summit ridge track. A long deep rumble from the other side of where I guessed the summit ridge to be indicated an avalanche above Lyn Glaslyn. I forced my way though deep snow until the summit area buildings appeared in the gloom. With spells of zero visibiity I could sometimes only see my boots. On my descent and concerned about stepping off the summit ridge cliffs to the East, I zig zagged in deep snow up and down the slope between where I thought the railway to be, and an approximation of the ridge track. That got me to the PYG track stone and the railway warning signs. No sign of the footprints of my ascent, the wind blown snow had taken those so I decided to go down the Llanberis path. I left the only points of reference I had, (railway warning signs), and stepped out into zero visibility and deep fresh snow on just a compass bearing . Making sure I climbed slightly to the right of my compass bearing to get back up to the Llanberis Path which I knew must be above me. Aiming for the Llanberis Path from here, it was vital to get back up to the Path, and not stay low over the next section. A ukclimbing.com Article explains why.

Photo of Ridge from Moel Elio to Moel Cynghorion  taken from Snowdon Rangers Path
I was forcing my way through the snow when a gap briefly appeared in the dense cloud below and to my left. I immediately recognised the cliff outcrop over Clogwyn Du'r Addu at the top of the Rangers Path zig zags. With Moel Cynghorion behind, (above photo of Moel Cynghorion etc taken later on my descent). I took a bearing just to the left, (safer side), of those Cliffs and was off, taking great care not to veer right towards Clogwyn Coch and ensuring crampons were planted firmly in the white ice with every step. If I had continued much further on my bearing for the Llanberis Path, turning left, (West), would not have been an option, as that would have lead to the deadly ice covered convex shaped slope that ends over the cliffs of Clogwyn Coch.

Photo of Ridge from Moel Elio to Moel Cynghorion  taken from Snowdon Rangers Path
Close to the zig zags, soon to pass the cliff outcrop that I had spied through the ealier cloud break. And I was
finding old footprints now, compressed into ice, with the wind having stripped away the surrounding snow!

Photo of  Moel Hebog in distance taken from Snowdon Rangers Path
Moel Hebog and friends in the distance, with more cloud building from time to time.

Photo of Ridge from Moel Elio taken from Snowdon Rangers Path
A snow encrusted Moel Eilio.

Photo of Nantlle Ridge seen from Snowdon Rangers Path
Nantlle Ridge looking sharper than this morning's view.

Photo of walkers on a snowy Snowdon Rangers Path
More than six hours into my walk and I met someone else! Two experienced lady hill walkers
who assured me they would turn back if conditions were still grim high up.

Photo of Bryan Benn, aka Kent Yeti,  on a snowy Snowdon Rangers Path
They were kind enough to take my photo as I turned to face uphill, before restarting downhill again.

Photo of footprints  on a snowy Snowdon Rangers Path
Just as well they had met me. Or from the size of my footprints they would have thought a real Yeti was loose on Snowdon.

Photo of walkers on a snowy Snowdon Rangers Path
They turned and headed on up, unaware they had enjoyed a close encounter with someone nicknamed "Yeti"!

Photo of wind blown patterns on a snowy Snowdon Rangers Path
Leaving me to enjoy the wind sculptured patterns in the snow.

Photo of a snowy Snowdon Rangers Path
I checked back up behind me from time to time, and saw the cloudbase was still on it's way down.

Photo of Moel Cynghorion seen from the  Snowdon Rangers Path
A turn and a steep descent in front.

Photo of a snow drift on the Snowdon Rangers Path
Snowdrift on a corner of the downhill track.

Photo of a snow drift on the  Snowdon Rangers Path

Photo of a snow drift on the  Snowdon Rangers Path
Snow layers next to the track with Llyn Ffynnon-y-gwas behind.

Photo of a snowy Snowdon Rangers Path
The steep downward route continues.

Photo of a snowy Snowdon Rangers Path
Not long before I'm back on the easier bits through the snow covered swampy section.

Photo of the view east from a snowy Snowdon Rangers Path
Looking to the South I can see the cloud base still slipping lower down towards the valley.

Photo of a snowy Snowdon Rangers Path
Mynydd Mawr ahead of me.

Photo of a view back to a cloud covered Snowdon seen from a snowy Snowdon Rangers Path
And Snowdon behind me. With a cloud base just about to disperse and leave the summit in view
for the first time since I was climbing towards it a good few hours earlier!

Photo of a snowy Snowdon Rangers Path
Not that far to go now as I head back across the swampy section with low snow levels. But still lovely views
towards the end of the most exhausting and demanding day I have yet spent on a mountain in winter.