I missed snowdon last year and Johnnie said it was just my thing, "can't ride up can't ride down" so despite my chest still being a mess I went anyway. I'm planning to retire my ageing heckler this year so figured this would be a perfect send off. Si chauffeured us up there we met up in the car park, drooled over Tony's new bling carbon nomad, deliberated about getting myself a saturday job in a bike shop to discount my habit and eventually we set off. I coughed and spluttered my way up the start of the rangers path, we turned off and pushed up Bwlch Maesgwm. Graham promised me today's ride would be steep, rocky, loose, dangerous and altogether disconcertingly sexually alluring to me (in his own inimitable style of prose). The first descent was 3' wide trail, fast, a few twists and lots of water bars to jump. They all seemed to have nice little kickers to help you over. Unfortunately Toss flatted so we waited halfway down while he fixed and on we went, next section was a bit trickier, stone pitch and not quite so helpful waterbars. Toss (and Matt I think) flatted again so we waited at the bottom.
Next we cut across to the Llanberis path, the long hard slog began. Started off tantalisingly rideable, I managed brief glimpses of inspiration, the strength and technique were there but I soon ran out of puff and regularly had to stop for a breather. We struggled on, mainly riding, to the halfway house and had a bit of a rest, Tony warned the rest would be mostly pushing. He was right, I started using his bike carrying technique and it is quite good, could do with some padding on my downtube tho. The slog went on and on, silence descended as we all trudged upwards in our own little worlds of pain. We'd been under or in low cloud all morning and on one particularly nasty stepped section just before Clogwyn station the blue sky and sun saw fit to shine through, "wahey blue sky" was soon appended with "what the ~@!% is that?!" as the full enormity of snowdon reared out of the cloud to our right. Oh dear. Quick breather at the tunnel and everyone was disappearing to check out the view at the other side, I finally went through to have a butchers and wow, full on inversion, the llanberis pass valley was full of cloud, the nearby peaks rising out of the mist and with the sun right behind us we got a rather fantastic Brocken Spectre (no I didn't know what one was either) One of the coolest views ever.
No trains running today so we used to train line to ease out the terrain and gradient, nice easy (ish) push and sometimes ride in the glorious sunshine. Eventually we climbed the last of the steps to the peak, 1085 metres up. Fantastic view up there, scenery wasn't bad either. Bit of a rest and everyone had a quick trip to the top then we kitted up for a 5mile 3100ft descent, elbow and knee pads seemed de rigueur so I was feeling a little under dressed but with fingers crossed we set off. Steps and fixed (big) rocks to start, walkers looking at us in good natured (i think) bemusement. Made it down to the train line with a grin wielded to my face. Brilliant. Some had chosen the more sedate train line route but that was the last of the easy options. Next was faster bit rocky bit loose, flew down picked up a big rock strike on my shin. Kept getting close to Tony's 2 mates despite leaving a decent gap between us when we set off. Another re-group the onto VERY loose rockageddon, Having riders infront of me was a bit new to me and I ended up just blatting into stuff less cautiously than usual (well they'd made it ok hadn't they? no need to look before leaping then) couple of times I was right on the ragged edge, realising mid corner/drop/buckaroo that stacking was a very near possibility then riding it out giggling like an excited toddler. What a blast! I headed out first on the next section, more of the same, I stopped at a switchback further down for a regroup but Nick blasted passed so I set off again, we both piled into the next one, Nick binned it but I managed to sneak passed around him, Tony had a proper OTB there, dunno how everyone else managed. I was beaming, I had cleaned everything so far but it wasn't to last I'm afraid, just above Llyn Ffynnon y gwas (The Welsh really don't like vowels much do they?) I mucked up a proper dodgy section, managed to stop upright thankfully. Tony's gang had a couple of goes and Keith (I think) cleaned it and the next bit but my bottle had gone, the adrenaline had peaked and was now in decline and I was getting my sensible head back on, so I passed. At the next regroup I noticed my rear disc was wrecked, must have it a rock somewhere and if not technically taco'ed then it certainly had an air of poppadom-ness about it. A few people had a go at bending it back but the alloy carrier was cracking and the wheel would just about go round so I just kept on. Trail was back to smoothish 3' wide hardpack winding it's way down the hillside, fast and flowy. Si flatted and we got a bit behind fixing that. We set off with an empty trail and a group to catch infront of us, woohoo. I nailed it, flying round corners and jumping waterbars, weeeeeeee. Coming down onesection there was a dip and I couldn't see where the trail went, presumably a left/right jink, I launched off the lip then noticed the switchback immediately ahead whoops so that's where the trail went. Slam on on landing, managed to not overshoot too far, back on trail and off we go again and nearly did the same at the next hairpin :-)
Got to the bottom buzzing, only the second "proper" ride and already a contender for ride of the year. Heckler was amazing as usual, climbs, corners, jumps, soaks up rocks, hits lightspeed, gets down/over/through the tech stuff, just feels ace all round, love it to bits. Can I really retire it?
Lowey has pics.
Apologies for the verbosity, I was reliving it whilst writing and it really was very, very good.