A couple of local riders had dropped out from the trip in the final week or so leading up to the weekend. In the end four of us made the club trip and the party included club members Steve, Lester and Ian and I joined as well.
Everyone had, at least once, visited Mount Snowdon in some form or another, except myself where all previous walking or biking trips had been cancelled for reasons which my memory doesn’t let me remember!!!
On arrival to Llanberis Steve told us all the first part of the ascent up Snowdon was on a tarmac single track road, but no where near a gentle climb. After scoping out the formidable ascent from seal level we took a drive up this infamous road to get a look at the challenge ahead. Conveniently for us the road ascent finished at the Penceunant Isaf Tea Rooms where we were welcomed by Stefan the landlord. Stefan offered us four pints of a fantastic looking locally brewed dark ale, and who we were to refuse… Stefan offered us free car parking (and reservation of four tea cakes) at his Pub and Tea room for the Saturday which was very kind.
After the welcoming Welsh Ale that Friday afternoon we took a tour by van around the Mountain taking in the fantastic views and landscapes and generally causing chaos along the way. After our tour and after taking loads of photos we scoped out start points for the ride and car parks to leave the van on the Saturday. As kind as Stefan’s car park offer was we decided to start from a car park next Llanberis lake (almost sea level) as to get a warm up going up the initial infamous tarmac track before hitting the off road Welsh Countryside.
After our initial recce we booted up the sat nav once more and headed off into Caernarfon to find Totter’s Independent House, our home for the Friday night. Steve and Lester had used this as their overnight stop last year when doing their charity ride. The Totter’s is a very welcoming place, and at only £16 a head a night including breakfast it hardly breaks the bank. The house itself is three storey's high above street level, with a large comfortable living room, large bedrooms rooms and good showers. The house also features a basement breakfast room which includes some medieval stone fireplaces and archways which add a superb hint of character to the old house. It is rumoured that all houses in the area used to feature arched tunnels directly to Caernarfon Castle which stands only a few thousand yards behind the Totter’s house.
Once the van had been emptied and beds and bunks argued over we freshened up and headed into Caernarfon town to have a look round. The town is a lovely medieval town with bags of character and some lovely quaint shops, pubs and tea rooms. The town is dominated by Caernarfon Castle which rests on the sea front. Unfortunately the Castle was closed off to public access by the time we arrived, so its history and secrets will remain a mystery until our next visit.
After a waltz around the town we headed to the Black Boy Inn, recommend by Stefan earlier in the day, for serving the best food in town. We were welcomed in with open arms and got a great table in this full of character Ye Olde Worlde pub. Not disappointed by the food recommendation everyone enjoyed a fantastic home made meal and a couple of pints of local brewed 6.1% ales, which were of course for medicinal purposes only…
After dinner we wandered up the road for a quick nightcap in the local Weatherspoon’s. After the chaos subsided from myself somehow being hyped us as a Swedish porn star I calmed the local hen do crowds down and we left (before being possibly asked to leave…) and headed back to Totter’s for an early night before the challenge of taming Mount Snowdon the following day. The old adage ‘what happens on tour stays on tour’ springs to mind…
It has to be publicised that Lester can snore beyond belief - we think even the God’s were kept awake. Ian, Steve and I arose Saturday morning with barely any sleep credits in hand after being kept awake from Lester’s night time verbal acoustics. This of course we used as leverage and of course reminded him about frequently throughout the day.
After breakfast we packed up the van and headed off to the lakeside car park in Llanberis to dump the van and kit up for what we expected was to be a very long day. The plan was to ascend the llanberis path right to the peak of the Mountain before legging it back down and turning off to the ride the ‘Rangers Path’ which is much more of an infamous Mountain Bike Mecca trail than just riding back down the Llanberis trail again. On Steve and Lester’s previous visit they had just ridden the Llanberis trail up and down, but this time we came armed with a plan and a recommended new route.
The ascent proved challenging. We managed to ride around half of the track up before the boulders, steps, sheep and herds of walkers (did I get that the right way round?) slowed us down and meant the old ride/push/carry routine started. The views all the way up were absolutely stunning, we stopped regularly to take photos of both us riding and of the local landscapes. We all took some amazing photos but we’ll admit photo stops slowed us down a lot, but then this was not a race - we were there to ride and enjoy the trip.
The weather kept changing throughout the day, from cloudy to glorious sunshine and back again in a click of your fingers. We stopped halfway at the aptly named ‘Halfway House Café’ which unfortunately was closed due to the time of year. However the Snowdon light railway was running up and down all day long which was a great sight, the railway runs on a cogged track system and it was great to see a steam train still running good and strong.
After all the stops and starts and photo opportunities we made it up to the summit in around three hours, which considering how much we stopped was not bad at all. Without the stops we reckon an average rider could get up there in probably half that.
On the way up we met some fantastic friendly people, including a lot of mountain bikers – a lot of the regulars reckoned at least a third of all users on the Mountain that day were Mountain Bikers, which apparently is a lot and is unusual. Ironically we bumped into a group of bikers from ‘West Drayton MTB’ one of the other local Chilterns area MTB Clubs. We also bumped into several people training for Extreme Energy Pen-Y-Fan Fan Dance Ultra Running Event – if you haven’t heard of Extreme Energy they are an extreme running event company and are a very good partner and friend of ours and are based locally to us in the Chilterns. A small world it is.
Sod’s law dictated that by the time we made the summit of Mount Snowdon the weather had come in and we were sat at 3650 odd feet above sea level in cloud. A bit of a shame considering the weather had been beautiful all day Friday and all Saturday morning. About an hour later when we were down on the Ranger Trail looking back up at the Summit once again sods law meant the cloud and weather had gone leaving the summit perfectly clear to the World.
After more photos and lunch at the top of Snowdon we heard two walkers wander past:
Walker A – “What are these bikers going to do now they are at the top?!”
Walker B – “Ride down of course!” (Walker A stares in disbelief)
After a brief laugh to the naivety of Walker A we headed back down towards the Ranger Trail. Initial we launched off down the loose stone covered railway line sidings, watched by a hundred or so walkers and we even had people taking our picture! We probably did look an odd site heading at warp six down the side of a railway line, but it was all for a good cause…
The Ranger Trail is awesome. It holds its own as an infamous mountain bike trail making up part of the Mecca society of biking areas and trails in Wales. Initial the Ranger Trail starts off as what I would describe as being a trail with rock, but the further you get down it becomes a trail of rock, a trail of loose rock, and then a trail of loose rock on bedrock and boulders. The further you descend the larger the rocks and boulders become, the bigger the drops and jumps get and the looser the surface lying stone gets. Epic amounts of fun. Large proportions of the Ranger Trail are up there with the trail technicalities, characteristics and dangers of a full on World Cup Downhill course, but there we were picking our way down on our humble four to five inch XC bikes (oh and Lester’s hardtail…).
Most of the Ranger Trail is ride-able, a few sections we admit we did stop on, as one half inch error on your line would leave you in hospital for sure. Work was calling us to all be back in once piece for Sunday or Monday, so sensibility we gave in and pushed on a few sections. Ian did come a cropper, inflicting a huge a cut on his left leg from “a keen introduction” into bad line choice and Welsh rock. After the hardcore mid section of the Ranger Trail decent you once again end up on a trail with featured rock, instead of a trail channeling through rock! The views on the descent down are amazing, and once down in the valley near the XXX lake the views once again through the valleys and the views of Snowdon are magical. I thought the day was going too well, and then “BANG” my tube exploded landing off a huge rock slab jump – joy. I received a lot of grief for this, but revenge was sweet as more punctures took place very shortly after…
From the lake our route, featured from WhatMountainBike, took us up an almost un-rideable steep ascent up the side of a grass covered hill. Ouch. We had done enough climbing today already. Just before this ascent Lester had suffered a puncture (revenge!) so at least we got a good ten minute sit down and rest before finding our climbing legs once more. Once this climb had been conquered we were faced with quite possibly the best delight of the day – a three or so mile long singletrack run running straight back towards the centre of Llanberis and the car park where we started. This track was immensely run, running half way up the side of one of the valleys, featuring rocks and jumps and fast flowing sections. My tyre had suffered from earlier on in the day, and the slit in my tyre was now getting bigger and bigger and was literally eating inner tubes faster than I could get them fitted. We managed to bodge the tyre together with some cut spare inner tube and patch glue, but it wasn’t healthy, four tubes down and I eventually made it back down into LLanberis town riding the last mile or so on a partial flat. New tyres have already been replaced! It wasn’t just me suffering from flats - Steve also had a blow out on the same final singletrack descent.
The four of us rocked back into Llanberis and found the van, we all admitted exhaustion wasn’t far away. We all looked shattered and Ian was still pouring blood from his “introduction to Welsh rock” earlier on in the day. Ian bled most of the way home before bravely letting a trainee nurse (who was ironically Welsh) stitch him back together again. Ian had to get five stitches to that means he owes five pints to each of us who went on the trip…
The trip was hugely enjoyable, and we all regretted not staying for an extra day or two, however I think everyone’s other halves might have had something to say about it. If you haven’t been to Snowdon before I highly recommend you go, do the Llanberis Trail up and the Ranger Path back down, and if you are there for a few days there are loads of fantastic looking routes nearby in, on, up and down the various hills and valleys in Snowdonia.
A big thank you to everyone who came along, and a massive shout of thanks to Steve for all his organising efforts and for driving us there and back, all his hard work was very much appreciated by all who went.
If you missed this trip and liked the look of it then have no fear, we are aiming to go back to Snowdon and we will also be organising more Club trips to various locations in England and Wales over the Summer for Club members, so there is even more reason for you to become a member. For reference for you all the next Snowdon trip will be at the end of Summer/early Autumn once the voluntary biking restrictions are lifted again. Between March and September voluntary no riding curfews exist for bikers between 10:00 and 17:00..
So that was Mount Snowdon accomplished. Where to next!? Club trip plans for the Summer now include trips to various Welsh MTB areas and also a three or four day trip to ride the Yorkshire Dales. More details to follow soon…
Scott | BucksMTB Club Chairman