Climbing Mount Snowdon

So I’m currently on this massive hypomanic spree that’s seen me start the week by driving to Snowdonia National Park on Monday (10th) and climbing mount Snowdon, and will end the current week with me being in Aberdeen or possibly Skye, I haven’t quite decided yet.  Suffice to say people are getting worn out from being around me.

We started Snowdon after I’d been up all night the night before, so I was able to start getting ready pretty early, and we set off on the three hour drive around 9am in the morning.  The internet said to allow 6 hours up and down to climb Snowdon, so we knew we had plenty of time.

We arrived around 1:30pm due to traffic and parked in a pretty decent car park that was a fair bit cheaper than the one 100m down the road.  I would recommend parking in a municipal car park – we paid £4 (normally £5, drops to £4 after 1pm) and the other one was charging £7 but so many people were parked there for some reason!  There was the option of a train to the top but I wanted to walk up.

We followed the signs for the mountain and followed an easy tarmac track as it started to ascend, until we got to a point where the tarmac became a track made of aggregate.  There were plenty of sheep but no goats.

Plenty of sheep but no goats.
Plenty of sheep but no goats.

Up was up, and there was so very much of it.  We didn’t have enough water, since SOMEBODY (naming no names but it wasn’t me) drank nearly the whole bottle in one gulp, but there was a little cafe/shop about half way up the mountain, so we bought more water, and it wasn’t a complete rip off.  I also had a rocket lolly for the sugar as I needed a bit of energy.  We had taken some Linda McCartney meatfree sausage rolls with us that I’d cooked, and these ended up being our lunch.  They were tasty as usual.  The path passed under the train track for the first time.

We got to a point where the path passed the train track a second time, and then the whole experience took a turn for the worse.  Literally it was like someone had put a hood up over the whole area and all we could see in every direction was pure white fog.   It stayed this way for the rest of the journey.

We reached the top and it reminded me of that level in Tomb Raider II where Lara is jumping around on pieces of rock – I think it was called Floating Islands, it was one of the last levels in the game anyway, and the greenery and lack of any sort of view beyond the edges of rocky outcrops at the top of Snowdon reminded me of this.  We avoided the cafe/train station and anyway they were closed, and we just got back down again, we didn’t rush as much as on Ben Lomond because it wasn’t as cold, but I was certainly glad of my snowboarding gloves.  We reached the top at 5:10pm.

Snowdon in Snowdonia
Floating islands!!

The descent was a killer, and my bones under my knees were protesting painfully at every step, which was a nuisance because there was so much down to descend and I heartily wished for a scooter or some rollerskates (but my skates were at home and anyway they’re aggressive inlines so no good for cross country) so I could save my leg bones the trouble.  When I got back to the tarmac I did the rest backwards and pretty much everyone who passed me started to do the same, it was a LOT easier and I think it saved my toenails.

We stopped to catch our breath enjoy the view for a minute just at the exact moment when a shepherd was gathering his sheep with his sheepdog and a whistle.  I’d seen it all before on One Man And His Dog (the reality TV show about shepherding from years ago) but in the area I’m from we have fields and gates, so as a child it was rare to see the sheep being gathered up by a dog like that.  It was very special to be able to watch this and I tried to get some good photos but I only had my phone with me (my camera weighs 1lb I’m not taking that up a mountain!!)  so I don’t think they came out so good.  Judge for yourself:

There are sheep in the distance being rounded up by a sheepdog.
There are sheep in the distance being rounded up by a sheepdog.  They’re those dots around halfway up on the far right of the picture.

At the bottom, a cup of tea would have been nice but everywhere in Llanberis seems to close at 5 which is odd for a tourist hub.  I think a lot of people avoid the Llanberis path because it’s seen as the “easy” tourist path, but as a seasoned hillwalker I found it to be both a challenge but not unachievable.  The length of the walk makes it the longest with the most ascent of any of the Snowdon paths and I am not sure you should legitimately be able to say “I’ve climbed Snowdon” if you’ve never done Llanberis because all the other routes start about half way up so the ascent is far less!  I thoroughly enjoyed the tourist path because there was hardly anyone on it and I hope that this was just a quiet day because I’d hate for the halfway cafe and the places in Llanberis to go out of business just because people are walking route snobs.

The other thing about Llanberis is that’s where the train goes from, so a lot of people get the train up and walk back down again.  I balked at the price because it’s £15 for a single or £20 for a return ticket on the train!!  I thought about how many shanks’s ponies I could buy for that much money and decided it wasn’t worth the price of a pair of shoes to go up in a train, even an awesome uphill mountain train.

In the absence of any open eateries, we went back to Conwy and got a McDonald’s from the retail park drive thru then drove home.  I was glad we ate something because every freaking motorway between Conwy and our house was closed and I had to divert the car so many times!

Travel Tuesday: Nice Pair of Tits, and a Dog Cafe

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Have you ever wondered what a dog cafe would be like?

People often wonder how I can be a dog person and a rabbit person.  It’s like my nationality: I’m eligible for dual British and Irish nationality and could have two passports if I wanted.  I just stick to British for now because it’s convenient and why spend money on 2 passports when I can only leave the country once at a time (there aren’t two of me, although if I ever went to Israel then took it into my head to go to Libya, I’d need to apply for my second passport because you can’t go to Libya if you’ve got an Israel stamp anywhere in your passport.  I think there are other countries where this happens as well, but I don’t know).  Being British doesn’t make me any less Irish.  If UKIP get voted in as the majority party at the next election, I would apply for my Irish citizenship and take my tax money to Eire and continue enjoying all the benefits of being a member of the EU and I would be proud to be part of such an awesome country.

It’s the same with dogs and rabbits.  I love rabbits when I have them, and I love dogs when I have them.  Very, VERY rarely, I meet a cat that I like; so far I’ve only met three, including the Maine Coon my mum found in a bin shortly before I was born, and that used to sleep in my cot and watch me when my mum was out.  Apparently this is not normal.  I’ve heard horror stories about this happening to other people’s siblings and they didn’t go well.  Any cat that has that level of responsibility over a newborn and doesn’t take the opportunity to kill the baby has to be a very special cat.

Sidenote: Cats are not babysitters.

So how good was the Loch Lomond area for dogs?  In the words of the Scottish Weather Forecasting Service, it was phenomenal!  First there was the National Park which would have been an awesome walk for dogs (we went up Ben Lomond in hailstones and 70 miles-per-hour wind).  Then there was the Loch itself, where you could clean the mud off your dog’s paws in the water.

The most surprising part was in the Loch Lomond Shopping Centre in Alexandria.  At the far end, up a flight of stairs was this:

Dug is the Scottish colloquialism for dog.
Dug is the Scottish colloquialism for dog.

It’s a cafe and boutique for dogs.  Owners are welcome too.

I didn’t have a dog (obviously) but I was wearing a dalmatian print fleece so they let me in.  Unlike the cat and rabbit cafes in Japan, they don’t have staff dogs to pet, but a nice couple let me pet their dog instead, which was a rare treat since we don’t know anyone with a dog back home.  There was this lovely photo booth where you could take a photo of your dog hiding amongst these cuddlies, too:

Can you spot the real one?
Can you spot the real one?
Spottydug!
Spottydug!

I enjoyed the decor, the feeling of being around people who were pro-dog, and the delightful lack of screaming children – there was a creche over the way.  The food was nice too – jacket potato, sandwich toastie type stuff that’s just what you need after climbing a mountain.  And a good pot of tea.

“But you said it was a cafe and boutique for dogs.”  Yes I did.  There was a dog menu on the chalkboard behind the dalmatian in the photo above, and at his paws there was a selection of dog collars and other nice doggy things.  In a little basket behind me, there was also a load of communal dog toys for visiting dogs to play with so they could stay occupied.  I would love to take a bouncy dog here and know they would be able to be themselves and run around and play instead of having to sit and stay.

There was also an awareness stand for the SSPCA.  Lots of English and Welsh people think that because the RSPCA covers their countries, that it’s a UK-wide charity.  This is not true, and as a result the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals gets woefully underfunded, with people sometimes even leaving legacies to the RSPCA by mistake because they didn’t know there was a difference!  Unfortunately, the RSPCA believes it needs every penny that it gets and seems to think its cause is more important than that of other animal charities (bear in mind a lot of their work is with farms despite what the adverts show you).  Know which one you want to give your money to because you can’t get it back once you’ve paid them.

Overall I had a great time at this cafe and it really made my day better and brighter to be able to come and eat and drink here and be in such a dog environment.

There were even more doggy accents to the cafe, but I’ll leave them for you to discover when you go there. 😉

Downstairs there was an RSPB shop (that’s the bird charity. They cover the whole UK).  I had been disappointed to not get to see puffins on this trip, because the road to Skye was closed with the snow, so I was delighted when I found this puffin which I was able to keep and take home:

Huffin and Puffin, my new puffin.
Huffin and Puffin, my new puffin.

And this lovely pair of tits:

Ooh er!
Ooh er!

When you squeeze the Bluetits or puffin, they make the same noise they would make in the wild.  They’re an excellent educational tool for children.  We have a trio of bluetits that frequent our garden at home, along with a robin and a couple of other birds.  Sometimes they even fly into the rabbit village to say hello to the bunnies. I couldn’t resist these two though because now I have a great pair of Blue Tits (as opposed to a blue pair of Great Tits, another species of bird, but not actually blue).

I don’t think there are enough people in the UK who can recognise birds either when looking at or listening to them.  It’s one of those skills like plant and tree recognition that seems to be more lost with every generation.  Maybe I’m just being curmudgeonly but when I have children it will be a high priority for them to recognise wildlife and have a good level of awareness of nature and our interactions with the environment, even if we live in a city.

We went onwards to Doune Castle after this.