There is so much great riding to be had in North Wales that I tend to avoid the tourist honeypots, Snowdon in particular. Putting my prejudices aside, I decided to join Tom from Carbon Monkey for a guided ride up Wales’ highest peak. Driving to the start at Llanberis, I followed a bloke driving at 15mph down the pass videoing the spectacle on his phone as he went. Prejudices restored.
What happened next, however, made me realise how silly I had been to shun this popular destination. It’s a big mountain and there is plenty of room for everyone. If it’s solitude you want then this isn’t the place for you (at least not at 1pm on a Saturday in April), but if you like a mix of grindy and techy climbing (with a little pushing) followed by some very flowy and then nadgery (with a hint of gnar) descending with brilliant views (if the cloud clears) and a great sense of achievement thrown in then it might be for you.
We took the Llanberis path up to the summit, with a plan to come back down the Ranger’s path. When it started to snow halfway up the plan changed and it became an out and back trip on the Llanberis path. In truth I was a bit disappointed as I’m not normally a fan of retracing my tracks, but it was a good call from Tom given the weather and I shouldn’t have worried – the descent was brilliant.
The mountain was busy with lots of people walking and running. I had feared that the non-cycling mountaineers might resent our presence but I needn’t have worried – there was a lot of good humour and encouragement all round, although quite often the cheery rambler was stood exactly on ‘my line’. Nevermind, it all added to spice. Hats off to my other riding companion, Graham, who opted to trial his way down the mountain, hopping from rock to rock.
As we climbed towards the summit, the snow stopped falling and the skies cleared to reveal views in every direction. I’ve walked and run up Snowdon quite a few times, but this was the first time I can remember actually having a view from the top – I just thought it was always cloudy up there. It wasn’t a disappointment.
How wrong I was to have avoided this ride for so long. It has a bit of everything for the mountain biker, with many more options of routes than the one we did. It’s got an epic quality because it is a proper pointy mountain, but if the weather does turn truly nasty then you can be back eating an all-day breakfast in Llanberis within 20 minutes (perhaps even with a cheeky San Miguel), looking at photos of yourself on the summit. Nice.
Thanks to Tom from Carbon Monkey for his quietly reassuring guiding and for busting another of my prejudices (bred of bad experiences in earlier life) against shouty, ego-driven outdoor types.