One sunny day in early 1970s I was having a nap on the summit of Tryfan, Snowdonia’s Matterhorn when I heard a double boom and the whole mountain seemed to shake. Almost panicking and still half awake, my first reaction was that there had been an earthquake. Just then I looked skywards and saw the graceful arrow of Concorde disappearing to my left, southwards. It was on one of its first trial flights, flying above the speed of sound back home to Bristol.
My first introduction to Snowdonia was not along its footpaths, but by climbing some of its horrendously steep crags along with my friend David. In a moment of madness I had agreed to accompany him on the hard-man cliffs overlooking Llanberis. Later on I set my sights somewhat lower in order to enjoy the maze of footpaths within the Snowdonia National Park.
One of these paths can be classed as alpine, it is the round of the Snowdon Horseshoe. Starting at Pen-y-Pass at the top of the road up from Llanberis, it first attacks the hardest section of Crib Goch Ridge, then crosses Crib-y-Ddisgyl in order to make the final climb towards Snowdon’s summit. A steep scree-covered slope leads to the final climb up Lliwedd’s northern ridge, then home by way of the wild-swimmers’ water of Llyn Llydaw. I once took my sons on their first real mountain expedition along Crib Goch accompanied by my cross-labrador, Duke, a fine hill climber in his day. When we reached Crib Goch’s pinnacles I had no worries about the dog moving ahead while I concentrated on the boys’ safety. As we inched along I could see Duke in the distance, dithering about at the foot of one of the pinnacles. When some kind person came along, he would look at them plaintively until they helped him up the steep bits, only to see him jump back down, waiting for the next kind person to come along.
Duke’s memory of Crib Goch must have been long, because when I took him up there the next and on reaching the steepest and most exposed section of ridge, he simply turned left and made his way at high speed in and out of crags and on scree, all the way down to Lake Glaslyn, far below. There was no way I could rescue him until we finished the ridge, and expecting that we had seen the last of our dog, I simply carried on. But nearing Crib-y-Ddisgyl, I met people enquiring if anyone had lost a large black dog. This sounded very much like Duke. He had descended the difficult slopes beneath Crib Goch without harm to reach the Miners’ Track up to Crib-y-Ddisgyl and wait for us slower humans.
Since that time I have gradually to explore the network of Snowdonia’s paths. Most lead to interesting places and wide ranging views. My favourite by a long way is the one that explores Cwm Idwal (walk 9 in this guide). It leads to one of the most dramatic places in an already dramatic region. Cwm Idwal is the site of some of the rarest semi-alpine flowers to bloom on British mountains. This is where the very rare Snowdon Lily can be found, but I am sure you will accept that I will keep its venue secret.
As a past appointed member of the Peak District National Park Authority, I have a lasting agreement with the whole principle of the National Parks in Britain. I see them as places where people can live and work, while at the same time, retaining their special interest and beauty for everyone to appreciate and enjoy.
Discover more with this brilliant walking guide to the Snowdonia National Park, with 20 best routes chosen by the park rangers here