I've spent half a century (yikes) writing for radio and print—mostly print. I hope to be still tapping the keys as I take my last breath.
In the British Isles, Mount Snowdon is what passes for a peak. It has become a magnet for weird challenges, mostly for charities. Some of the charity events simply involve walking or running, others are, well, crackpot.
Facts about Mount Snowdon
There are frequent references in the literature about the ascent of Snowdon being referred to as a “climb.” This is somewhat misleading. It conjures up images of hammering pitons into rock walls, of ropes, and, perhaps, of breathing apparatus. Lyons Holiday Parks adds to the mystique by saying “Snowdon is a staggering 1,085 metres or 3,560 feet in height.” Staggering? Perhaps only if you live in a hill-free zone.
One doesn’t climb up Mount Snowdon so much as walk up it in a five-to-seven-hour round trip. It’s a strenuous hike. I know, I did it when I was young and fit. Now that I’m a fat, arthritic, septuagenarian there’s a steam-powered rack and pinion railway to take me to the summit.
Of course, the potential mountaineer will have to contend with Welsh weather, which is notoriously cool and wet. Mount Snowdon gets about three metres of rain a year and if it isn’t raining it’s likely to be foggy. The mean temperature at the summit is five degrees Celsius. Sometimes, there’s snow and there are usually strong winds.
Still want to tackle one of the challenges? Go for it. I’ll be in the Gwynedd Inn, Llanberis, along with a helpful beverage, awaiting your return.
The Endurance Race
Let’s start out with the most legitimate use of Snowdon as a backdrop for raising money. Ignoring the gender non-inclusive title of Man vs. Mountain organizers have set up a gruelling race that takes competitors over Snowdon. But wait, there’s more.
Here’s a description of the event: “This legendary mountain adventure run starts at sea level in the stunning Caernarfon Castle and weaves its way to the summit of Snowdon and down the other side into Dinorwic Quarry where we’ve thrown in an array of punishing obstacles, including the infamous Vertical Kilometre, for you to tackle before you can cross the finish line victorious.”
There’s no specific mention of a prohibition on using the choo-choo train, but it would almost certainly be frowned upon.
The event has raised more than £1 million in support of research into childhood cancer.
Clothing Optional Snowdon
Jon Jolley is a football (soccer) fan. When the 2014 World Cup was being played he placed a £100 bet that Brazil would win the competition. He went further. He bet the Brazilian star Neymar would score more goals than anybody else.
Wrong on both counts. Germany trounced Brazil 7-1 in the semi-final and Neymar spent a lot of time rolling about on the ground simulating near-fatal injuries and not putting the ball in the net.
Another part of Jolley’s bet was that if his predictions failed he would scale the heights of Mount Snowdon wearing only a thong. He was a man of his word and raised £450 for cancer research. He is quoted by Wales on Line as saying “The weather was great apart from the very end when it got a little foggy at the top – which I guess was a blessing for people at the summit.”
To which Dan Arkle would likely say “Wuss.” In January 2014, he conquered the mountain in a similar state of nature as Jon Jolley, only without the thong.
Andy Simpson, spokesperson for Mountain Rescue England & Wales, was not best pleased: “Apart from the fact that he’s naked and exposed, he has nothing on his feet which means he has no grip with the mountain. It’s tough to comment without calling it a really stupid stunt.”
Of Sprouts, Sailboats, and Showers
Surely, Stuart Kettell can mount a serious challenge to the nude dude for Mount Snowdon silliness. Over a period of four days in 2014, he reached the summit by rolling a Brussels sprout ahead of him with his nose. Equipped with knee and elbow pads, and a special snout protector, he wore out about 50 sprouts during his crawl.
Again, cancer research was the beneficiary of Kettell’s odyssey, as it has been for several others of his exploits. He lived in a box for a week, walked along every street in his hometown of Coventry on stilts, and ran in a human-sized hamster wheel.
After shoving a sprout uphill with his schnoz, he mused, “People definitely think I’m mad, and I’m beginning to think it myself.”
One suspects helpful beverages in excess may have been involved in the planning for an exploit completed by a group of yachtsmen who carried a small sailboat to the top of Mount Snowdon.
And perhaps, a similar background was behind the plumbers to took a shower to the summit, assembled it, then dismantled it and carried it back down.
- About 400,000 people go up Mount Snowdon every year and a small number come back down in body bags. The peak has claimed the lives of a few hikers who have slipped off the more difficult tracks.
- Snowdon is the English name and it comes from the Saxon “Snow Dun,” which means snow hill. However, its Welsh name is Yr Wyddfa Fawr, which means “Great Throne” or “Great Tomb.”
- Sir Edmond Hillary trained on Mount Snowdon before becoming the first person, accompanied by sherpa Tenzing Norgay, to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
- Scotland’s Ben Nevis, at 1,345 metres (4,411 ft) is the highest peak in the United Kingdom. In 1971, Highland Games athlete Kenny Campbell carried a 226 lb (102 kg) organ up the mountain on his back.
- “A Guide to Snowdon Weather.” Mountainwalk.co.uk, undated.
- Rat Race Man vs. Mountain.
- “Football Fan Climbs Snowdon in a Thong - after Losing a World Cup Bet.” Mark Smith, Wales on Line, July 23, 2014.
- “Climber Who Scaled Snowdon Peak Naked Branded ‘Stupid and Irresponsible.’ ” Benjamin Russell, Daily Express, January 7, 2014.
- “Man Rolls Brussels Sprout to the Top of Mount Snowdon ... with His Nose.” Jack Simpson, The Independent, August 3, 2014.
- “9 of the Strangest Things Ever Seen on Snowdon.” Three Peaks Partnership, 2016.
© 2019 Rupert Taylor
Kari Poulsen from Ohio on November 12, 2019:
I remember reading in the paper about Stuart Kettell rolling the brussels sprouts. This is an interesting mountain.
Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on November 11, 2019:
That was really interesting to read. I know Mount Snowdon is very popular with climbers, but no, not for me!