I’m on top of the world, or, at least, higher than anyone else in Wales or England right now. I’m with two of my three favourite people under a searing sky, a spiral of walkers fanning out patiently below us. This is Yr Wyddfa, and Wales, at their heart-skipping best.
Two years have passed since I stood at this most iconic of summits, blearily gripping the trig in thick, 6.30am Snowdonia fog and drizzle. The laughter and friendship stomping up the Miners’ Track that day guessed nothing of the maelstrom that was swirling towards us, lockdown still a long way from our comprehension.
This caravan holiday, in our favourite, hideaway Snowdonia site, is the third time lucky, after cancelling Canada and then having to postpone even the consolation caravan. The week starts under a magical mist, which drapes itself around Lord of the Rings-esque mountains and ruined castle towers. We run – well, two of us run – around Llyn Padarn, losing ourselves in the majesty of the view and the slate mine car park.
It’s L’s first holiday with our little gang and we take him on the teens’ favourite walk around Cwm Idwal, the mist drifting over Y Garn, the Devil’s Kitchen peeping through. The aching beauty of this towering amphitheatre is the reason one teen loves this walk. The other teen likes it because it’s short and flat.
We zip down the A55 to meet L’s friends and we watch Black Widow in an unfamiliar, cool cinema as a heatwave starts, outside, to burn. We mooch around a closed Caernarfon (north Wales doesn’t open on Sundays) and my three favourite people surf while I fall off my board a lot, dipping gleefully under the rushing, man-made waves of Surf Snowdonia.
And then, we hike.
Today is scorchio in the way it rarely is when I’m on a hill in Eryri, let alone atop the nation’s favourite peak. Tall Teen has decided to sit this one out, with inarguable ‘I’ve climbed it before’ nonchalance, but Top Teen and L are up for the challenge. The ‘easy’ route from Llanberis is tougher than I recall – or my mountain fitness was left on a ridge towards the end of 2019 – and I have an unfamiliar dizzy spell, my legs hollowing, my mind overwhelmed by a passing swarm of hikers. Then I remember that, in the un-routine of an overdue holiday, I’ve simply forgotten to eat enough breakfast. I cram in a squashed Milky Way, instantly revive and haul myself on.
Three and a bit hours later – the ‘bit’ spent politely waiting our turn to stand at the viewfinder trig point – we’re here. The cafe is, mercifully, closed all season and the Snowdon Mountain Railway runs only to Clogwyn, a good quarter of a mountain short of the summit. The queue for the trig, although substantial, has a comradeship sadly missing when the train’s in town, and no one pushes past children to get there first. One step from the top, we take photos for the grinning trio of lads on the podium, then hop up as they hop off. All around, mountains spill to the sea, scooping out dark bowls and dancing waters. Ridges drop away to thin air. I first stood here 30 years ago, and I’m home.
A hiker just below, overlooking Llyn Llydaw and Glaslyn, clearly doesn’t understand summit etiquette, her long trekking poles poking into my photo. But, no matter. Today isn’t an Instagram square, it’s a sweaty, messy, beaming collective hauling itself up a darn tough mountain after the hardest months most of us have known. Two of my three favourite people are, for fleeting moments, champions of the world. The poles stick up in a victorious V, and they’re welcome.
Selfies hastily snapped, we retreat to our real moment – or 20 – in the sun, stretching out in the quiet saddle between Yr Wyddfa and Garnedd Ugain. We soak up welcome flasks of tea and give true kudos to the few hikers approaching from behind, as they have arrived via Crib Coch’s razored pinnacles and deserve a wave.
In the absence of the train, we walk alongside the tracks to Clogwyn before rejoining the motorway path, now less peoply in still-hot evening sunshine. The layers of Moel Elio, Foel Goch, Moel Cynghorion and Mynydd Mawr unfold ahead, waiting patiently for ‘next time.’ I’ve climbed this mountain every which way bar Rhyd Ddu and Watkin, in Snowdonia fog and drizzle more times than not. It may not be British Columbia, but it’s hard to beat 360° viewfinder photos on a third-time-lucky holiday in Wales.