WALKING | Scaling Snowdon Via The South Ridge – Outdoor Bloggers Weekend 2016

Camping with Style Camping Blog | Activities • Glamping • Travel • Adventure

Mr CWS arrives and we set off on our adventure straight from work on Friday evening, arriving at Llyn Gwynant campsite in Snowdonia around 8:30pm. The moon is almost full and we head to where the Outdoor Bloggers group are camped. I can just make out the imposing shapes of steep hills all around us, and the moon glints off the lake as we approach the group and meet our fellow outdoor bloggers, who up until now, I’ve only ever talked to online.

UK Outdoor Bloggers

The brainchild of Zoe from Splodz Blogz and Jenni from The Thrifty Magpies Nest, Outdoor Bloggers is a group that consists of a variety of different people who write about their love of the great outdoors from various different perspectives.

From award winning mountain bikers, to nature lovers; kayakers to keen campers like myself, we’re a group who already share a love of the great outdoors and I’m in an excitable mood despite the long working week and our late arrival.

llyn-gwynant-snowdon-campsite-review-02Campsite – in daylight!

Last to arrive, we say a quick hello to those around the blazing campfire (at this point I just want to flop beside it and drink Gin), then we start the task of setting up camp. Setup is made more challenging by the dark, our enormous tent and the absurd amount of camping gear we felt compelled to bring with us. With help from Helen from Camping Tails, it’s not long before we’re set up and able to join everyone at the fire. I offer chilled Prosecco around (of which I seem to drink most of) and we all get better acquainted.

tents set up at campsite

Our rainbow bell tent next  to Camping Tails’ Lotus Belle

Finally all assembled, Zoe and Jenni give a welcome speech and surprise us with fantastic goody bags (more about those later). Sat together around the campfire, we’re told about the plan for tomorrow’s walk up Snowdon. It’s a walk I’ve never done before, though it’s one of the things I wanted to achieve this year, and whilst I’m shattered, I’m full of excitement and can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

As usual, with scant regard for the consequences, I drink too much, and get to bed around midnight, the tent spinning slightly. I set my alarm for 7.30 and as I drift of I notice that the night is surprisingly mild for mid October. I sleep soundly.

llyn gwynant campsite

The lake at Llyn Gwynant campsite

I wake up to the ominous sound of rain, and after a hearty breakfast and a large mug of coffee, we pack our backpacks, making sure we include the recommended 2 liters of water. I consider myself to be of moderate fitness, but my long term health problems are often a source of uncertainty, so I’m full of nervous energy and keen to get going.

Walking Up Snowdon Via The South Ridge

The group assembles at 8:45am, and we chat excitedly about the day ahead. We’re met at the campsite by Ross and Craig from Climb Snowdon, who give us advice on kit, supplies and safety and brief us on the route we’re going to take that day.

Start of walk up Snowdon

Learning more about the area and the botanicals used in Forager’s Gin from Ross at the start of our walk

I’m already aware we won’t be taking one of the routes up that are considered ‘easy’ and as I find out we are going to be lead up the Rhyd Ddu path and on towards the South Ridge; a lesser used more difficult path, excitement gives way to trepidation.

Making our way up the mountain

Mr CWS and Allysse chatting to Ross from Climb Snowdon

Some of the other bloggers have been chatting about, what I consider to be, pretty hardcore activities that they’ve done. Everything from cycling hundreds of miles to competitive endurance events. To say I’m a little intimidated at this stage would be an understatement. I’ve learned over the last couple of years however, that having a positive mindset is important when attempting new things outside of your usual comfort zone, so I try not to worry.

Helen and I on Snowdon

Helen from Camping Tails and me on our way up

We share cars and after a short drive, we arrive at the foot of Snowdon. After a further briefing, we’re off and as the clouds part the rain relents, making way for patches of clear blue sky.

As is always the case in a group, there are clear differences in ability and experience. With some zooming off ahead and others lagging a bit further behind. I’m relieved to be told I have pretty much the ideal pace for the group, and whilst the thought of being average is horrifying, I’m relieved not to be holding everyone up as I’d feared.

Walking up Snowdon with the outdoor bloggers 2016

We stop for a breather near the slate mine. Don’t tell anyone, but I had a nature wee here

As we pass the old slate mine heading towards the lesser walked South Ridge a few hours into the walk I’m in high spirits, thinking smugly how easy it is so far. The smugness fades however as we continue making our way up. The terrain changes and I’m ushered ahead for my first ever scramble. I’m fearful, but guide Craig sticks close to me and gives me the confidence to push on, and I find I actually enjoy it.

Then we get to a second scramble, and it’s so rocky and steep I am instantly terrified. At the front, I am encouraged up again, but my fear of heights has me literally shaking. More challenging, this section of the walk takes careful concentration, but I’m battling to keep my fear in check.

walking up Snowdon

Still smiling despite the terrifying scramble!

As I scramble I’m aware that I can’t breathe, not because I’m out of breath from exertion, but because I am in the middle of having a full blown panic attack. As I realise this and fight for breath, through sheer stubborn will, I quickly talk myself down and force myself to regulate my breathing. I finally reach the end of the steep scramble, and can do nothing but stand there silent and wide eyed as the shaking subsides. I’m assured that the scariest bit is over, and after a few minutes I recover my ability to talk and then push on towards the summit.

Outdoor Bloggers walking up Mount Snowdon

One of the easy bits of the climb up Snowdon

Scenery high up on mount Snowdon

Super visibility as we gain height

Mr CWS and I have only been hill walking for the past 18 months, and still consider ourselves very much novices. Neither of us has tackled Snowdon before, and we’ve never done a ridge walk, scramble or anything remotely technical. As we walk across a precarious section of the South Ridge I focus on my boots, taking deep breathes to ward off the terror that my vertigo fills me with when faced with large drops either side of me. I cope with it better than the scramble and just get on with it. With that section over, I’m back to feeling strong and am now thinking about reaching the summit.

snowdon-walk-oct-2016-01

Nearing the summit

Scenery on Snowdon

The route wasn’t an ‘easy’ tourist route, but was perfect for our group

Dramatic ridge on Snowdon

Check out that for a stunning view!

Climbing Snowdon in Wales

Snowdon Summit

We made it to the summit!

snowdon-summit

The view from the summit

The final push to the summit see’s us engulfed in clouds, but I can still just about make out the distant peaks that make up the Snowdonia range. The route suddenly gets busy as we reach the top. So busy in fact that we end up in an orderley queue, and it takes some 10 minutes before we get our chance to capture the obligatory Trig point shot. I feel truly elated, and thinking back to just 18 months ago, I’d never have believed I could do it (check out rebuilding an active life in the face of chronic pain and depression).

Back at the foot of Snowdon

Scenery on the way back down the Rhyd Ddu path

The sense of elation stays with me all the way down, which takes just 2 hours following the popular Rhyd Ddu path back to the car park. I have a huge grin plastered on my face and as I dawdle, stopping to take photographs, I get caught behind the front group and a few minutes ahead of the rear group. Without a soul in sight, I loudly congratulate myself and find myself having conversations with the sheep I pass as I happily make my way down to the others and wait for the rest of the group.

sheep-snowdon

Some of the sheep I chat to on the way back down

On the way back down Snowdon

Making my way back down as the sun starts to set

It’s smiles all round and after over 8 hours walking, it’s a relief to sit back in the car. As we make our way back to the campsite we find ourselves chattering about the highs and lows of the walk and how much we can’t wait to get a shower, eating dinner and trying a sample of locally sourced Gin.

dsc_1548

Walking back down the Rhyd Ddu path

Snowdon walk mapped

The GPS map of our walk

 

Learning About Forager’s Gin

Back at the campsite, we are joined by Chris from Forager’s Gin, who tells us the fascinating story behind his artisan gin. The enormous size of my tent, and the lure of the wood burner, makes it the ideal spot for the group to assemble in.

bell-tent

19 people inside our tent, as well as the wood burner and all of our usual camping gear!

We learn that all of the ingredients are foraged from within Snowdonia, giving Forager’s Gin its truly unique taste. We sample both the clean yet punchy Black Label, and the summery, more fruity Yellow Label. I make a mental note to get my order in for a large bottle of Yellow Label as soon as I get home.

On Sunday morning some of the bloggers take to the water. Despite my love of kayaking my back is already suffering and I’m unable to take part knowing that take-down will take a good couple of hours, so we busy ourselves packing down whilst the others go for a paddle.

zoe-alyssia-water

Allysse and Zoe on the water

Happiness and Calm is Achieved

We say our final goodbyes and as I drive home I’m feeling happy and am in a reflective mood. Thinking about the other outdoor bloggers, I realise that feeling intimidated was daft; we’re really all just regular people. Most of us are holding down full time day jobs, but we choose to prioritise our health and wellbeing in order to fit active micro-adventures into our busy lives, sharing our passion with others by writing about the things we enjoy.

We all have our own strengths, areas of expertise and interests but rarely have I met a group where those things have gelled so well, and I feel calm and centred as I always do after spending time outdoors.

Outdoor Bloggers weekend goodie bag

Me with my fab Outdoor Bloggers 2016 goody bag

Special Thanks

It goes without saying that we both had a fantastic weekend, and all that remains is to say a big thank you to Jenni and Zoe for all of their hard work in making the weekend happen.

Zoe and Jenni who made the weekend possible

Zoe and Jenni who made the weekend possible

Huge thanks too to all of the sponsors who helped make it so memorable, including Mud & Routes, Climb Snowdon and Forager’s Gin. I absolutely loved my Goody bag and was delighted with the treats inside including a fab Buff from Kitshack, Hi-Tec walking socks, tasty snacks from Real Handful and a fab waterproof mobile phone case.

We loved the Llyn Gwynant campsite so much we’ve decided to write a separate review about it, which I’ll link to very soon.

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