Scaling Mount Snowdon
Perhaps Great Britain’s most popular mountain to climb, Mount Snowdon stands at an elevation of 1,085 meters above sea level and provides an exhilarating as well as challenging climb, particularly for first timers. Located in the beautifully scenic Snowdonia National Park, there are a plethora of walking and climbing routes throughout the park. Even if summiting Snowdon is not on your agenda, it’s certainly worth spending some time in the park to soak up the natural beauty and friendly Welsh atmosphere.
For anyone whose bucket list includes climbing a mountain, Mount Snowdon provides a great training ground. An ample number of routes lead up to the summit catering for all levels of fitness and experience. For those who’d rather take in the view at the top with a cup of tea without putting in the hard work, Snowdon even caters for you, with its mountain railway and café. Return tickets from Llanberis to the summit cost £25 per adult, and singles are £18. It’s worth noting the railway only runs if weather conditions are favorable and the café at the top is only open throughout the summer months.
Visiting on the weekend is probably the most practical time, but expect hoards of tourists especially over bank holiday weekends when the peak can get exceptionally overcrowded. If you want to avoid crowds it’s worth considering a visit in autumn or generally when the weather forecast scares most people away.
Due to its central (ish) location, Snowdon is reasonably accessible from most of the UK. Travelling up on a Firday (after work) and making it in time for last orders is the preferred option. You can then wake up fresh on Saturday knowing that you have all day to walk, climb or scramble up to the top… and back down again. The evening is best spent putting your feet up and basqueing in your own sense of achievement. Sunday is home time, but no need to rush back home, Snowdonia offers a great deal in terms of ancient heritage, castles, and ruins scattered all over the park. The area also has a rich industrial heritage snuggled between hills and lakes. It’s best popping into a tourist information office to find out what’s on route home.
Each of these routes through the Snowdon Massif requires variable levels of experience or fitness. Start and finishing points should also been taken into account as routes don’t start in one location but rather are dotted around the range. The last thing anyone wants after hours of climbing is to realize that their car is parked on the other side of the mountain. However the network of tracks allow you to take one route up and take a different route on your return journey, whilst still ending up at the same start point. A very popular option is to head up the Pyg Track and back down the Miners’ Track.
Official parking sites are scattered around the area and a bus services the route. However it’s often worth parking in a lay by 20 minutes from the official start point to avoid the steep car parking fees.
A few routes worth exploring:
The Pyg Track
This starts at the Pen-y-Pas car park (limited parking at £10 a car and fills up normally before 8am) and starts up pretty steep before leveling out over a lower ridge. An option, for the more confident, take the side track which leads across the infamous Crib Goch Ridge. The Pyg Track is later joined by the miners track where the route then zig zags for the final push to the summit. The views can be absolutely stunning. To one side you will look up to see towering screers belonging to the Crib Goch ridge and to your other side, you can look down and see the lakes and ant sized people walking the Miners Track.
A very gradual path/track that takes you via a causeway through the lake and then it runs along the shore line past the abandoned mine buildings. Eventually this route makes up for its gradual beginning by providing walkers with a very steep accent route. It then joins with the Pyg Track. It’s our opinion that this route is best suited as a return journey when ascending via the Pyg Track.
As the name suggests, this route begins at Llanberis and follows the route of the mountain railway. It’s the longest of the routes, with less gradient then the others. Some say this is the least interesting route to the summit but for those who don’t wish to push themselves too much, this is a viable option to summit a great mountain. There is a small café around the half way point.
Crib Goch and the Horseshoe
The Crib Goch ridge is the most dramatic route. Not one for the faint hearted of if you suffer from a fear of heights. This should be considered a mountaineering route which will require scrambling. As you traverse over the peaks, you will see sheer drops either side. This is a very exposed ridge so it’s not advisable to attempt this in bad weather conditions, fatalities do occur. The route takes you over 2 peaks (Grib Coch and Garnedd Ugain) on route to the summit of Snowdon. The Crib Goch route makes up part of the Snowdon horseshoe. A circular route around the ridges surround the lakes below.
Other recognisable routes are:
Over Y Lliwedd
This forms the second part of the Horseshoe and is normally used to descend. It’s oposite the Crib Goch ridge.
The walking path starts at the lowest elevation of all the routes up meaning that you physically ascend the most out of all the routes
Rhyd Ddu Path
This is considered an easy route up to the summit and has relatively the least amount of visitors.
Snowdonia has one of the highest annual rates of rainfall in the whole of the UK so it’s prudent to prepare to get wet. One should be aware that the conditions at the peak wont necessary resemble what is experienced at lower levels, so don’t be caught out believing it will be nice and sunny at the top just because that’s what it’s like when you set off. Often hail and snow can be encountered at the top and the weather can change very quickly. It’s best to pack a few different layers, wear comfortable footwear as well as carrying water and snacks to boost your energy levels. It’s best to take short breaks rather then longer ones to prevent your body cooling and stiffing up too much. When the sun’s out it’s well worth applying suntan lotion.
Where to stay
The popularity of this area means that booking early is a must. I’d recommend staying at one of the following:
Eagles Bunk House – Penmachno 25 minutes drive from Snowdon.
Though it markets itself as a bunkhouse, it’s more of a bed & breakfast without the breakfast, making this excellent value for money (£17 pppn). The owners make you feel very welcome, the rooms are comfortable, the shared kitchen is very modern. The bunkhouse is above the pub which serves the village and has real Welsh community spirit. If you’re lucky you’ll be invited to sing along with the Welsh choir practice.www.eaglespenmachno.co.uk
Vagabond Bunk House – Betws-y-Coed about 20 minutes form Snowdon.
A real mountain adventure feel about this place, it has a small pub and is located in town meaning that you have shops, bars and restaurants very close by. Prices start at £18 pppn. Booking in advance for this place is a must, play it safe and book months in advance.
Gwern Gof Uchaf Campsite and Bunk House by the A5 about 15 minutes from Snowdon
If you want to stay in the middle of nowhere, this is the place for you. Camping is available from £4 or a basic bunk is £10. There is a modern shower block but the closest pub is about an hours walk away. www.tryfanwales.co.uk