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Midsummer Bivvy on Snowdon Summit

Midsummer Bivvy on Snowdon Summit


Postby mountain coward » Thu Jan 07, 2010 2:10 am

Hewitts included on this walk: Snowdon - Yr Wyddfa

Date walked: 21/06/1990

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Around 15-20 years ago, as I started walking on my own up the mountains again after a long absence of laziness (my brother and I had always been dragged up them by our parents on walking holidays), I put my name down for a Youth Hostel organised trip up Snowdon for Midsummer’s Night. The plan was to go up late (2300 hrs), spend the night on the summit and get up in time to see the sunrise at around 0400. The trip was run from Pen Y Pass Youth Hostel, which meant you could park for free in the (expensive) pass carpark. The top of the pass does get rather busy for parking
Nutter’s Car Park.jpg
Nutter’s Car Park.jpg
– no idea why they don’t just get the very regular buses up – much cheaper and that way you can traverse the mountain, choosing a descent route when you get to the summit (as I usually do) and get the bus back to the start.

As I drove towards Snowdon from Capel Curig, I found it was appearing increasingly daunting – I hadn’t seen it for years and it was a few hundred feet bigger than I’d been doing in the Lake District and a good deal more serious! In order to calm my fears, I decided to do a recce trip up the PYG track to have a look in daylight...
Snowdon Classic Shot.jpg
Snowdon Classic Shot.jpg


I walked nearly to the start of the zig-zags out of the cwm above Llyn Glaslyn. The path (for those who haven’t done it) is excellently graded. There are a few steep but very short ‘ups’ as you leave the summit of the pass and climb to Bwlch Moch (where the paths split for Crib Goch or the PYG track) and then it is a very gentle climb to the start of the zig-zags. It was a nice afternoon with good views so I thoroughly enjoyed the walk.
LLyn Llydaw end.jpg
LLyn Llydaw end.jpg
Llyn Llydaw & Lliwedd.jpg
Llyn Llydaw & Lliwedd.jpg
Snowdon fm PygTrk.JPG
Snowdon fm PYG trk cairn.JPG
Snowdon fm Llyn Glaslyn.jpg
Snowdon fm Llyn Glaslyn.jpg
Llyn Glaslyn & Yr Wyddfa.JPG
Llyn Glaslyn & Y Gribin.JPG
Anyone done the ‘Y Gribin Ridge’? Looks interesting and is supposed to be okay…


That night, we gathered outside the hostel to be broken up into groups. At this point I found the group leaders were picking their groups for whichever route they (the leaders) fancied doing – not my idea at all! I’d recce’d the PYG track and, if there was a group going that way, I was too! There was a short argument before I got my way and I was swapped for someone in that group. I couldn’t believe that one group was planning to go over Crib Goch in the dark!

It was obviously thoroughly dark as we set off at 2300 hours but, with the path being stone-pitched, and it being a starry and clear night, there was no problem seeing where you were going so I personally didn’t bother with my headtorch at all on the ascent. After the first couple of steep bits there was a bit of a commotion within the group. Turned out one of the women (from London) had never been up a mountain before – it seemed a bit strange to me that, for her first mountain, she was going to do Snowdon in the middle of the night!! As we just had 2 guys in charge of our group and we’d gone too far for one to nip back with her, she was persuaded to continue!

The ascent went more or less without incident after that, apart from us getting slightly lost for a short while on the confusing bit just before the zig-zags started (this part has now been clarified and stone-pitched but I personally liked it better before). As we ascended the zig-zags, we started to step over people lying in sleeping bags on the path – obviously a popular place to be on mid-summer’s night – not sure why they decided to sleep on the path though... At the top of the zig-zags the pretty lights of Caernarfon and Anglesey twinkled into view and you could see the Menai Straits glittering.

The ascent took around 2 hours and we had a quick trip to the summit cairn before coming back down to the area of the cafe and jostling for position for the best sleeping places. A few of us roamed round to the front of the cafe... the whole of the paved area along the front was completely covered in bodies in sleeping bags! Me and another chap decided on the station roof as it was flat concrete – might not sound very comfortable but better than boulders!
I crawled into my sleeping bag after putting on my very warm cardigan and attempted to get some sleep. It wasn’t really the lack of comfort on the concrete which kept me awake all night but more the cold - I probably wasn’t very cold bodily but my head and face were frozen. So much for it being mid-summer – I’ve since realised that there is no such thing as a warm mountain summit, no matter what the weather.

It seemed like I’d only lain there for a couple of hours feeling miserable before someone came round ‘waking us up’ to watch the sunrise. I’ve never been less enthusiastic about anything in my life but crawled miserably out of my bag and got my camera out. I cheered up slightly when I struck up a conversation with the lass next to me who had exactly the same camera (Zenith Zenit11 manual SLR). We discussed the pros and cons of them as we clicked away at the sunrise (well, actually I only took one shot – I never snap away really). I think I mainly took mine to prove to folks back home (who know how much I hate mornings) that I really was there at sunrise and up and awake. I’m sure it’s the only sunrise shot I’ll ever take, short of getting benighted at some stage.
Snowdon summit sunRISE.jpg
Snowdon summit sunRISE.jpg
Snowdon sunRISE.jpg
Snowdon sunRISE.jpg
Llynnau Glaslyn a Llydaw.jpg
Llynnau Glaslyn a Llydaw.jpg


We then set off back down the PYG track - or at least our group did – the Crib Goch lot must have enjoyed it as they went back down that way! Some people from the other groups joined them. As I was on nightshift that night back in Yorkshire, I became increasingly peeved at the slowness of the group. I stayed with them till around above Llyn Glaslyn when I informed them I was leaving the group as I wanted a quick kip in a layby before driving home and going to work! After that I shot down the mountain at a considerable speed, hence didn’t take any more photos, so here's one of the lovely vale of Gwynant below Snowdon!
Vale of Gwynant.jpg
Vale of Gwynant.jpg
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Re: Midsummer Bivvy on Snowdon Summit

Postby malky_c » Thu Jan 07, 2010 3:53 pm

Never done that, although I have done a midsummer bivvy on Foel Fras before doing the Welsh 3000's. Nice sunrise photos there -funnily enough I used to have the same camera at that time as well (well maybe 12 years ago).

Pen y pass is always busy, even out of season. As I grew up around there, the solution was to go up in the evening. My dad and I would traditionally do the Snowdon Horseshoe on a summer's evening after school, starting at about 5 and getting down in the twilight. I miss it actually, haven't done it for years!

Also the Gribin Ridge is fairly straightforward. Depends on your scrambling abilities, but I would say it is maybe comparable in difficulty to getting onto Helvellyn from the end of Striding edge? A bit rockier maybe, hard to remember. The main thing that comes to mind is that there isn't really any exposure, despite what it looks like.
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Re: Midsummer Bivvy on Snowdon Summit

Postby mountain coward » Thu Jan 07, 2010 9:40 pm

I haven't been to Wales for a couple of years now either despite being in a club with a cottage an Nant Peris :( - the penalty of chasing Munros I suppose. I'm also missing out on my traditional trips to see my friends in the Western Isles of Scotland.

Thanks for the info on Y Gribin, doesn't sound too bad then - just need someone to come up with me now. My walking buddy Richard would probably be keen to give it a go but if anyone else on here is thinking of doing it, give me a shout and I'll see if I can come too... Do you go up the rocky ridge proper or to the right of it where there looks to be a bit of a gully? Or can you do either do you know?
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Re: Midsummer Bivvy on Snowdon Summit

Postby mountain tortoise » Fri Jan 08, 2010 10:29 am

MC interesting walk.I have never done that on Snowdon always thought there would be too many people and from what you say there probably are. I have camped and bivvied very quitely on the Berwyns many times and you rarely see any one. Mind you under the new open access laws in Wales it is now illegal. But I have never been moved on.
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Re: Midsummer Bivvy on Snowdon Summit

Postby mountain coward » Fri Jan 08, 2010 1:29 pm

Bivvying is illegal?? Tell us more! That's terrible - is it illegal anywhere or just in the National Park or mountain tops?
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Re: Midsummer Bivvy on Snowdon Summit

Postby malky_c » Sun Jan 10, 2010 3:08 am

mountain coward wrote:Thanks for the info on Y Gribin, doesn't sound too bad then - just need someone to come up with me now. My walking buddy Richard would probably be keen to give it a go but if anyone else on here is thinking of doing it, give me a shout and I'll see if I can come too... Do you go up the rocky ridge proper or to the right of it where there looks to be a bit of a gully? Or can you do either do you know?


I think you go up the rocky ridge. Hard to remember. If you follow the path that you can see in your photo (from the outflow of Glaslyn), I'm pretty sure the rest is fairly logical from there. I don't remember the easiest line being obscure - it just seemed to flow quite naturally. It took a few years before I attempted it as it had always looked quite difficult, but in reality it wasn't.

I would suggest you try getting hold of 'Scrambles in Snowdonia' by Steve Ashton. This is what prompted me to do it finally, and it made me realise that there is so much more to scrambling in N Wales than just usual N ridge of Tryfan and Crib Goch (not that there is anything wrong with either of these)!

On the subject of bivvying, I wasn't aware of this, but I remember when the new access bill for Scotland was being drafted a few years back, it narrowly avoided having something similar included. It was some misguided move towards health and safety, the idea being that being out on the hills overnight is unsafe. Seems daft to be, so I'm surprised it slipped through the net in England and Wales, but it isn't really something that can be enforced practically, so I would probably take it with a pinch of salt.
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Re: Midsummer Bivvy on Snowdon Summit

Postby malky_c » Sun Jan 10, 2010 3:12 am

In fact this site is worth a look for more info:

http://www.ukscrambles.co.uk/routes/scr ... ridge.html
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Re: Midsummer Bivvy on Snowdon Summit

Postby susanmyatt » Sun Jan 10, 2010 9:27 am

Nice post MC, wouldn't liked to have bivvied up there this week :lol: love the parking pic, amazing where some people leave them, Snowdon's one of my faves despite the crowds. :D
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Re: Midsummer Bivvy on Snowdon Summit

Postby mountain coward » Sun Jan 10, 2010 10:05 am

My friend who is in my climbing club at Nant Peris has the Scrambles in Snowdonia book so I'll probably just borrow his... it's probably not worth me buying the book as I don't do anything about an easy grade 1 scramble and don't have my eye on many others in Snowdonia... but thanks for the info...
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Re: Midsummer Bivvy on Snowdon Summit

Postby mountain tortoise » Sun Jan 10, 2010 11:56 am

The law in Wales has changed recently. Under the new open access law you have a right to roam anywhere on land marked sandy colour on the maps. But the new law expressly states it is now illegal to wild camp on this land. However there is land not marked sandy coloured on the maps as the land owner did not agree the new terms, they have a right to move you on but it is not illegal I so camp there (it is a civil case). In the national parks like Snowdonia wild camping is generally considered ok but you do not have a right not like in Scotland. www.ccw.gov.uk has all the info.
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Re: Midsummer Bivvy on Snowdon Summit

Postby mountain coward » Sun Jan 10, 2010 12:12 pm

That sounds absolutely ridiculous. So, on my old maps with no colouring of access areas, I'm supposed to know this new law? And I'm supposed to buy new maps? I gather this is partly a map-selling exercise! I'd never heard of all that before! :(
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Re: Midsummer Bivvy on Snowdon Summit

Postby mountain tortoise » Sun Jan 10, 2010 5:51 pm

You are probably right just an exersice in selling maps. Open access is good if you just want to be there in the day but not so good if you want to stay the night. This is partly why I prefer Scotland.
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Re: Midsummer Bivvy on Snowdon Summit

Postby mountain coward » Tue Jan 12, 2010 2:59 am

What chances do you think there are of enforcement? Who would be the one taking you to court? The national park wardens and suchlike? I'm wondering whether people can't just ignore it en-masse - a bit like the original mass-trespasses of the Peak District...
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Re: Midsummer Bivvy on Snowdon Summit

Postby mountain tortoise » Tue Jan 12, 2010 10:05 am

With out giving to much away I regularly camp in the Berwyns if you pick your spot high enough up who is going to find you.
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Re: Midsummer Bivvy on Snowdon Summit

Postby mountain coward » Wed Jan 13, 2010 1:38 am

Thanks - that's what I thought! :D
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