europe, wales

Climbing Snowdon for beginners

Growing up just a stones throw from North Wales, I often tell fond tales of weeks spent exploring the beautiful Welsh countryside, mostly from the base of my grandad’s caravan in Powys. So recently when Conor asked if I had ever climbed Mount Snowdon, my response almost surprised me; ‘Well, in year 9 we went to Snowdon on a field trip and we did a little bit of a walk there and it was raining, we definitely didn’t get to the top… Hmmm, did I go with my parents perhaps? Surely I’d remember….’

Basically, no. I had never climbed Snowdon, despite all my years visiting Wales. Sue and Paul had thought it would have been too difficult when we were holidaying and Mr Cooper and co, had more sense than to take 240 whining year 9 students clambering up rugged terrain.

Standing at 1085m, Snowdon is the highest point in the British Isles, excluding Scotland; but according to a google search, not too difficult an ascent. ‘Lets do it!’ Conor said. I hastily agreed. I had already booked a mini trip to Wales for Conor’s birthday so we could fit it into that trip.

Despite liking to think that I am super fit, my gym routine is more sporadic than sunshine in the UK and my legs hurt climbing the two flights of stairs to my classroom most days. If you can sympathise with that and are wondering if Snowdon is an accessible climb, I’m here to tell you that it is, it’s wonderful and you can do it!

There are a multitude of different paths up and down Snowdon. After researching different routes we decided to ascend via the Pyg Track and descend via the Miners’ Track. Following these tracks, you will start and finish at Pen-y-Pass Car Park (postcode: LL55 4NU). The car park here is a little pricey, £10 to park your car for the day but the proceeds go back into looking after Snowdonia National Park. Alternatively, before you reach Pen-y-Pass, there is a lot of on the road parking for £4 per day near to the Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel – note that this will add an extra 3km on to your round trip to Snowdon Summit.

The ascent via the Pyg Track reminds me a little of one of my favourite graphs, y=x³… it starts off steep, mellows in the middle and then returns to a steep finish. Don’t be put off by the first ascent. After you’ve put in the leg work here, there’s some lovely views of Llyn Llydaw and a relatively steady path to enjoy it. After around 45 minutes of this leisurely walking, the Miners track joins the Pyg track as it’s time for the final ascent.

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The View of Llyn Llydaw from the Pyg Track
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Conor walking past Glaslyn on the Pyg Track with the Miners Track below.

The final ascent is a bit of a scramble and hands as well as feet may be needed here. The trusty grips of my Karrimor walking boots really came into their own at this point. I did see a girl walking up in a pair of converse, but personally I’d really recommend some boots! We were told at Pen-y-Pass that the winds were 30mph near the summit and the temperature felt like -7C so my hat, gloves and extra jumper were also handy.

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The view of both lakes from near the summit.

Upon finally reaching the summit, we bizarrely did a very British thing. We queued to stand at the very highest point. A nice, orderly, British queue. As it was quite misty, we couldn’t see too far into the distance but we were able to see the different trails below and see the mountains nearby. We rested here but at this cold temperature it wasn’t long before we decided to make our descent.

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Our ‘summit selfie’ amongst the clouds!

We retraced our footsteps back to where the two paths met, but this time verged right for the Miners’ path. The steepest descent of the Miners’ path comes first and is the part that I found the trickiest of the whole experience. Upon arriving at Glaslyn lake below, I breathed a massive sigh of relief. The Miners’ path is adjacent to the lakes for the whole descent and I enjoyed this alternate view. After the initial descent, the return down the track is gentle and very accessible. We saw some people walking up this track to the lake before returning back down again for a shorter walk. The sun shon upon us for our final half an hour, making our descent even more euphoric.

Overall we had hiked 14km and with a couple of rest breaks, for no less than 2 lunches, it took us 6 hours. Although in parts the climb is very steep, I didn’t at any time feel like it was too difficult. In comparison to our walk in the Swiss mountains (read here) it was almost a walk in the park, almost!

One of the first things I noticed when I arrived at Snowdon was the sheer amount of children and young people starting the hike. Nothing makes you believe you can do something than seeing children with legs half your size reaching the summit! It’s also worth noting, for those who have noticed that my knee is bandaged in the past, that this time I upgraded to a knee brace. I bought this one over at Sports Direct and it was perfect. If you have a knee injury I would really recommend it.

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The view of Snowdon Summit on the final ascent.

So, if you’re thinking of climbing Snowdon, but you’re not sure, here’s a few pieces of advice:

  1. Go for it. If I’m able to climb Snowdon, it’s likely that you are also fit enough to make the ascent.
  2. If you’re not, you can always turn back around. People are continuously walking along the paths in opposite directions and lots of people only walk part of the way.
  3. Check the weather forecast. Try to find a day where the forecast looks dry without being icy.
  4. Bring enough supplies. You’re probably going to be walking between 5-7 hours. Take enough liquids and enough food to last that long. Also, bring an extra layer of clothing and a waterproof coat. The temperature is much colder at the summit and the winds are strong.
  5. Wear adequate footwear, preferably walking boots, that will support your ankles and other joints. Likewise, as said before, bandage any injuries up and ensure you take any other medical items, eg inhalers or medication.
  6. Know your route to the car park, phone signal is non existent in these mountains so if you don’t have a satnav ensure you have a good idea where you are going.
  7. Enjoy it! The journey up to the summit is just as beautiful as the view from the top and the satisfaction of knowing that you’re standing at one of the highest points in the UK is second to none.

For any other help advice, please don’t hesitate to send me a message or tweet me @_teachertravels

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