This Saturday the wonderful sunshine inspired us to pay a visit to Mt. Snowdon (aka Yr Wyddfa), head of the vast national park of Snowdonia. Its height of 1.085 m makes it the highest mountain in Wales and that's why it must be "climbed" at some point during my stay.
After a chat with the former occupant of my room I decided to take the challenge as long as the mountain is worthy of its name: as long as there is snow on top.
3 brave companions were found quickly and Elzelien, Fiepje, Rebecca and I dressed in our hiking gear (some had newly-purchased boots, others their own - sent by loving parents) and got on a Welsh bus that took 50 minutes (!) to get us to our destination: This is British efficiency! (Llanberis, one of the villages at the base of Snowdonia, is only ~8 miles from Bangor.) Feeling slightly sick from a lot of brake slamming and rapidly taken sharp bends (my dad would have yelled at me if I had hit the kerbstones with a frequency like that!) I was happy to step out of the vehicle and breathe some fresh mountain air.
About 6 paths lead up Snowdon and for people who are unable or, more likely, unwilling to walk there is a railservice that offers to take them up to the café and down again for the ridiculously high sum of £25 - bad luck for these at the moment, though, as the tracks are still covered in snow.
This being our first hike in the area and 2 of us never having hiked before we chose the "tourist-path" (much as I abhor these well-trodden ways): broad and easy but still beautiful, though quite crowded. The tarmac-road that took us up the first few hundred metres was disappointing and we feared that it might stay with us all the way to the top, but after a while we left it for a rocky path that winds its way through sheep-specked green pastures and affords the most amazing views over the lake, the slate quarry (right, that's not really beautiful, but kind of impressive nevertheless) and the velvety ridges and green valleys of the national park. The mist that bathed the mountains in the morning and added a mystic touch to the area lifted around noon and we were able to take in the beauty of more distant mountains, peeping over lower ridges, too.
(No-one would have guessed...)
And the beautiful backsides belong to me, Rebecca and Elzelien.
Two hours we hiked in that manner until the path and the grass gradually became wetter and soon were covered in snow. At the beginning we took snow and ice light-heartedly and marched on towards the top. Eventually, only a narrow (~40cm) path of slip rock was uncovered by snow, steeply sloping to our right. Walking on the snow was not much better, as it was frozen so hard that we could easily have slid down, despite our hiking boots. (Other people had been more foresighted and brought crumpets for their boots). Apparently one or two people die trying to climb Snowdon each year.
We could not progress without carefully pre-testing every step on ice, trying to keep balance and not to get distracted by watching other people struggle. This would not do: approximately 10 minutes from the summit we chose not to get killed in the first three weeks of our stay, turned round (which did not quite work THAT fast) and carefully retraced our steps. We would come again in spring!
A miracle to me is how the two German girls with tight jeans and sneakers (without any profile AT ALL) managed to get up there. But some people seem not to think or care much.
Miraculous also sheep's tendency to appear from nowhere. Zero sheep anywhere in sight at one point of time and a whole flock an hour later! As if they can just beam themselves from one pasture to another... weird woolly specimen...
~ ~ ~ ~
The following day, Sunday, lived up to its name and was equally fine and I enjoyed being woken up by the sun shining into my room.
After attending a Baptist church service in the morning (with a good deal of singing, dancing and jumping around - quite different to what I am used to) Elzelien, Fiepje and I decided over a cup of coffee/hot choc that the weather was too precious to dully sit around inside and therefore spontaneously made up our minds to walk up Bangor mountain. (This "mountain" is probably not even as high as Cobenzl and therefore hardly deserves the name "mountain". Likewise, walking up can hardly be called a hike.)
We phoned Andrew, an American student who studies German in Bangor and is going to spend next summer term in Vienna, and he joined us readily. So up we went and strolled around the perfectly mown lawn of the golf course, always watching out for balls flying low and careful not to trip over the rim of the little "craters" that marked the holes.
Bangor mountain, low as it might be, offers brilliant views over all of Bangor, Menai Strait and Anglesey on one side and Penrhyn castle, the shores of Llandudno and the first front of the Snowdonian mountains on the other.
Having bathed in sunshine for two hours and taken in as much of the scenery as we could we went back down to Bangor town, soon to fill my kitchen with the thick scent of chocolatey Sachertorte: this was an attempt to atone for the excruciating samples of Austrian folk music I had made my flatmates suffer a couple of weeks ago.
Despite the lack of a scale, a second large bowl and an electric mixer we managed to produce an edible result, welcomed by my flatmates and their friends. No-one died, no-one complained. Quite the contrary. Everyone was happy and I have plans for follow-ups to this event.
(Pics for this entry were kindly supplied by Fiepje)