I'm sitting in the upper floor of Pete's Eats (petes-eats.co.uk), a restaurant-cum-hostel in central Llanberis, the outdoor climbing/hiking/paddling mecca Wales' Snowdonia region. Not only is Pete's a good little restaurant, it has rooms on the upper floor, WiFi (pretty rare in these parts), and an awesome climber's library and map room, with hundreds of books, old magazines, and stacks of map drawers that cover everywhere from Snowdonia to the Karakoram. This is where the local climbers come to hang and plan their exotic expeditions. I can see why. It's awesome. I've seen nothing similar in the U.S., and more's the pity.
Our Editor's Choice testing trip was indeed testing. While Wales is lovely, I don't recommend visiting in November. We saw incessant rain and high winds. One night we even destroyed two out of six tents, while they were pitched on an in-town campground and we were in a nearby pub haggling about test choices. We returned well after dark to find one tent missing. We thought it might have been stolen, but then we noticed all the tent stakes were still in the ground. We found it about 200 yards downwind, wrapped around an oak.
But despite the meteorological challenges we've hiked high moors in Brecon Beacons, walked along the brink of towering sea cliffs in Pembrokeshire, and witnessed gorgeous stormy sunsets camping atop the Glyders in Snowdonia. Two days ago the main crew returned back to the States, while I stayed on to tour and map more Welsh highlight treks. Yesterday I met up with Neil McAdie, who works with Rab outdoor gear, and we scrambled the Crib Goch-Snowdon-LLiwedd horseshoe ridge. Basically, it's a superb knife-edge scramble on excellent rock, traversing Britain's highest peak. The exposure was impressive, especially with 40mph wind gusts, but the holds were always bomber. An awesome adventure, but my camera batteries died (yes, this happens to pros too). You'll have to be content with the video.
One of the funnest things about being in Llanberis is the climbing history here. The photo above shows our packs sitting outside the Pen-y-Gwyrd Hotel, where some of us finished our Glyders trek. This is where the early Victorian climbers based while scrambling the Snowdon area. It's where Mallory and Irvine trained, where John Hunt and his gang did their final preparations for the 1953 Everest expedition. Yesterday I saw Cenotaph Corner, a world-famous rock climb first done by Manchester climber Joe Brown in the 1930's, with a hemp rope, waist loop and minimal pro. It's still hard 5.10.
Ooops, my laptop battery's about to die. So I'm off to the Coed-y-Brenin forest, with its famous network of mountain bike trails, then on to the Rhinogg Range to hike the Roman Steps, a medieval era pack trail. As Neil told me yesterday; there is no gigantic wilderness in the U.K., but there's no shortage of history, beauty, and adventure.
Yacchid Da! (Good health)
See More Photos from the 2009 Editors Choice trip right here.