We started the day by meeting at our hostel at 11am, and had a briefing session under some very suspicious grey clouds! Our group of 15 then went on a local walk to get used to the terrain and see some local landmarks, like the old hospital building for the slate mine workers, as well as a local castle and the bottom of the Snowdon path. This four-hour ‘warm up’ walk knackered us all out, and the challenge hadn’t even started!
Back at the hostel, we had dinner and nerves were building for the trek ahead. Our guides expertise and knowledge of the mountain meant that they advised us that, due to bad weather forecast, it would be best to do our trek a few hours earlier, climbing to the summit and back through the night rather than coming down after sunrise – although we were disappointed we wouldn’t get a beautiful sunrise, we were all glad they took this decision to keep us safe, especially as the winds started picking up on the way down and we struggled to keep upright!
We left the hostel at 8.30pm, in the pouring rain, and trekked for around 40 minutes across marshes (dodging lots of frogs!) to reach the Snowdon path – by which time the paths resembled streams more than we would have liked! Still, headtorches and waterproofs on, we trudged up the mountain! Sadly, a lot of us found that our ‘waterproofs’ were no match for the rain of North Wales very early on in the night, but soaked through and with soggy feet, we all carried on.
If you’ve undertaken the Llanberis path up Snowdon before, you’ll know that just after the halfway point are the 2 most difficult and steepest ascents on the route. To keep the team together, Hywyn and Keith had a 30 to 1 tactic – a minute break every 30 steps – which made it more manageable for everyone, even if their counting skills were a bit questionable – I definitely did 62 steps in one of our set of 30!
The rain eased up as we got nearer our goal and everyone made it to the summit just before 1am, where we had a quick snack break and many of us were covered in ice! The conditions on the path we took up weren’t safe enough for us to descend, so the guides took us down the mountain along the train track – still not easy going down on wet slate chips but I’m happy to report there were no falls from the group (especially as medic Anna, who works in the local hospital, had informed us there were more than 10 rescues from the mountain that day with four people in critical condition!)
The sight of the hostel at the bottom of the final stretch at around 3.30am was just what we needed for the final push, and the relief that came with peeling off our boots and not-so-waterproof waterproofs was unrivalled! I’d never been happier to see a duvet and pillow as we finally crashed out at around 4am.
Bleary eyed and many of us waddling with sore legs and stiff muscles, we all emerged to the hostel kitchen at 8.30am for a well-earned breakfast roll and cup of tea. At 9am, with our bags packed and bundled into our cars, our groups went their separate ways setting off on the long drive home, arriving back at the Sittingbourne hospice at around 5pm.
It was a truly memorable experience that I am sure we won’t forget for a long time, and were all so happy we managed to complete the challenge, even with our aches and pains since! If you had asked me at breakfast the next morning if I’d do another trekking challenge, I would have sworn to you I’d never don my hiking boots again, but now looking back on the experience and how much fun we had as a group, and the support everyone gave each other, I’m sure I could be persuaded to get my trekking gear out again for another challenge in future!