This is something I have wanted to do for a long time now. However, I’ve had a problem, one that is pretty fundamental to the whole experience. I broke my mountain bike this summer. Snapped dead!
I was lucky in some sense, I didn’t get injured! I had been riding all day on some single track, great fun over moorland and in forest. Upon returning to the car, on the path leading to the car park, I turned a corner and I heard a sickening crunch! My rear derailleur snapped, got caught in my wheel, buckled my wheel and broke three spokes, almost completely snapping the rear part of the frame on my bike. It was lucky I wasn’t hurtling along over rock gardens and tree roots.
Even so, I suppose I am guilty of not maintaining my MTB the best and probably was due for a new one, this one being over ten years old. That said I finally got a nice new hard tail, a Specialised pitch – it is beautiful.
So, I finally had the chance now, mountain bike season in on Snowdon, a new machine and a day-off with perfect weather. I jumped at it. I left at 05:30 not knowing how long it was going to take. My intention was to ascend via the Llanberis path and descend on the Ranger’s path. Then ride a small section of road to link the whole thing getting back to Llanberis over some smaller hills on woodland tracks.
By the time I had parked up and faffed around sorting out gear, I left the car around half-past seven and headed up the Llanberis path. Without a warm-up and not knowing really what to expect, the first section really made my legs scream.
“Puffing and panting with my legs on fire, I was resolute that I would not stop.”
An intense incline up to the beginnings of the path, the only good thing about it was it was tarmac and therefore a little easier going. Puffing and panting with my legs on fire, I was resolute that I would not stop until I got to the trail head. Almost missing the stunning beauty of the back of the Glyders range opposite. Small dustings of snow on the summit slopes of Elidir Fawr and Y Garn.
After what seemed like an eternity I reached the trail head and had a well-earned rest at the gate, filled with confidence that the trail was no-where near as steep as what I had just endured; at least for as far as I could see. I headed off down the trail over the rocks, still at an incline, but this time allowing me to enjoy the surroundings, instead of constantly having to ignore my legs shouting at me.
This first part of the trail really was enjoyable, as I began to realise I was actually ‘doing it’ living the dream, doing what I had fallen asleep thinking about for months now. It’s funny, sometimes when you climb Snowdon and see people with bikes up there, the normal response of people I am with is ‘forget that’ or ’they must be nuts’.
“Living the dream, doing what I had fallen asleep thinking about for months now.”
But I have always secretly thought ‘I really want a go of that’. So it was great to be here, finally doing it. Soaking in all the views making steady progress bobbing up and down on the rocks and uneven path stamping down on the pedals, feeling on top of the world.
It was such a fine day as well, with the higher mountains capped in snow and an almost clear sky, as the sun just started to yawn its first rays of the day over the tops of the peaks. Further up I got my first glimpse of Cloggy, even after seeing it many times before, it still looks as spectacular as ever. And even more so in the clear morning light.
Here, I stopped just were the path turns off to the crag and before the Llanberis path begins to look very step ahead. I thought I’d have a quick breather and take in the beautiful surroundings. This is also where I saw my first person, on their way down. He gave me some advice and said I am best carrying my bike on this section until I get up to a nice rolling vista from which I shouldn’t have any problems to the summit. I thanked him for his advice and got my hike-a-bike on!
At the top of this section, I suppose you could call them steps, the ground flattened out to a little tunnel by the halfway house station. Here I hopped back on my bike and peddled through the tunnel. The other side was spectacular. The morning light had now hit the hills on the other side of the valley and lit the Glyders up magnificently. Lovely views of the mountains laid out before me and round all the way up to the snow littered peaks higher above me.
I continued on my bike up the ‘rolling vista’ it was very tough going indeed. I had to think this guy was making it up. My legs were absolutely screaming, pouring with sweat and determined to push on, I stamped down on my pedals but the ground in front of me continued to get steeper. I couldn’t see an end. Not to be beaten I continued. Five more minutes at the most I lasted. I had to stop. Not wanting to stop completely, I heaved the bike up on to my shoulders and continued to plod on into the snow.
It was amazing how easy it was just walking, instantly the pain left my muscles and I soldiered on until I could see the ‘rolling vista’ finally. I set my sights and dumped my bike down were the incline eased. Still sweating, I took five minutes to enjoy the beautiful views around me with my higher position on the mountain, before I set off biking again. It was beautiful, and such a cool experience, biking up high in the mountains with awesome views of the surrounding hills – but in the snow! Nothing beats this!
Pushing on in the icy snow, I eventually emerged where the Pyg track meets the final summit ridge. Here I rolled to the edge and took in the amazing day, the views down below to Capel Curig and across to Crib Goch and Lliwedd. There was no cloud on Snowdon and you could even see below Clogwyn Y Garnedd snowed up and the whole place looking spectacular in early winter.
I rolled on past three local guys and a guy from Houston, Texas would you believe! But amazingly, and to my delight, still the only people I came across. I left my bike at the bottom of the steps to the summit and nipped up to claim it for myself. The cloud had rolled in at this point and visibility wasn’t great, but I wanted a minute on my own before a fell runner joined me up there. I set my camera up to allow the runner to be alone on the summit, and then carried my bike up to the summit cairn to complete my ascent.
By this time, the three local chaps had caught us up and were now on the summit too. Joking that I was nuts for being on the bike they said they came up on the Ranger’s path and didn’t see anyone either, Great! I sheltered by the cafe and had something to eat and a good 15 minute stop. I packed away my down jacket and got moving. I went carefully down from the icy summit to the Ranger’s path and then the speed really began.
I was flying! Down the track, bobbling over the rock obstacles and whizzing through patches of snow, picking my lines carefully, it was amazing fun! I almost forgot to film any footage for my video it was so intense. I think I flew past maybe two sets of couples climbing upwards, but it was really hard to tell having to concentrate so much and moving at such speed. I pulled over to one side when I saw an opportunity and stopped. I thought I was maybe just out of the snow, I looked back and saw I was way down. 400 m of descent had just literally taken me five minutes – wow that was fast!
The next section was crazy fast as well, but the terrain was starting to change, larger jumps and drop offs with bigger rocks. I started to go a bit more cautiously here, still conscious of my damaged wrist and the limitations of my technical abilities. I still rode hard but my fingers were a lot more in tune with the brakes and the new bike coped wonderfully.
The landscape was also amazing, I had barely the time to look up and take it all in flying down the side of a mountain on wheels is something you have to really pay attention to. But I made another stop on a big grassy bank to give my forearms a rest and take in the scenery. Amazing!
Further down there were a few rocky steps I didn’t feel comfortable in riding down so I hopped off and carried my bike round them, there was a few times I just about managed to save myself from going over my handle bars. From here though, you could see the rest of the track, no real obstacles through grassy single track. My eyes lit up. I don’t think I filmed any of this, a real shame because the scenery was amazing and on a lovely day with track that wasn’t too technical at all. But – oh my god – do you fly down there! It was absolutely amazing speeding through the stunning landscape.
“A few times I just about managed to save myself from going over my handle bars.”
At the bottom of the Ranger’s path there is some zig-zags just above the idyllic Llyn Cwellyn. This was such good fun I very nearly decided to climb the zig-zags again and fly down for a repeat. Four switchbacks in all and fast trails in between, eventually leading you down to the road. What a fantastic journey!
The lake was perfectly still and everything looked perfect, little neat forest on the hillside and beautiful blue bird sky. I headed off along the road to Waunfawr and turned right to Groeslon heading onto a track that took me up a serious incline in the direction of Hafod Oleu. This was again a leg screamer! I was dripping in sweat and my legs were on fire.
“This was again a leg screamer! I was dripping in sweat and my legs were on fire.”
I carried on again past some stunning views and beautiful forest that may as well of gone unnoticed in too much agony to care. The crest of the hill was some welcome rest bite and I laughed and smiled as I was able to free wheel a section passing the quarry of Chwarel Fawr. From here, open moorland took me down the track by Bwlch-y-groes – another white-knuckle ride down grassy slopes and a lot of mud!
“I carried on again past some stunning views and beautiful forest that may as well of gone unnoticed in too much agony to care.”
Flying down these inclines was great fun, even if I did get a great splattering of dirt! But that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? I passed a lone walker, as I overtook, I ended up riding in a sunken track on the muddy grass. With a rock fast approaching that had fallen out of a wall. I steered out of the rut in good time, but as I did,
going at speed, it happened…
I lost the back end of my bike losing control I fell off. I don’t know if I went over the handle bars or the bike just slipped underneath me, it all happened too fast. I ended up with a bleeding nose and a rather sore left knee. That type of funny bone feeling. Nothing too bad, but my bikes handle bars were the wrong way around! I fixed my handle bars, dusted myself off and continued down the hill until the track arrived at a very small car park and turned to tarmac.
Still belting along at speed down the inclines I was now in the back streets of Llanberis, I made up way back towards the station, were my car was parked not far away.
Now dirty, dripping with sweat and a few war wounds to tell the tale, I pulled up next to my car absolutely beaming. What a great day out – I don’t think I have ever got down from Snowdon so fast! This is something I will definitely have to repeat!
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