Walking to Mount Snowdon Miners and Pyg Tracks
By 8.15am the car park at Pen-y- Pass was completely full. Everywhere groups of walkers were gathered. Sorting rucksacks, deciding how many layers to wear and taking it in turns to make the last dash to the toilet.
Some certainly looked more anxious than others. For many, including us, it was clear they had not been here before. Sign posts were consulted and obligatory start of the walk photos taken for walking Snowdon Miners and Pyg Tracks.
At last we were sorted. Rain was forecast at lunchtime so we were keen to get going. What had been a throwaway comment to my friend Alison 3 months earlier was about to start. The conquering of Mount Snowdon. OK, well that may be a bit dramatic!
Where is Mount Snowdon?
Mount Snowdon is in North Wales in the Snowdonia National Park. It’s one of the most well known mountains in the UK and the second highest. The highest is Ben Nevis in Scotland. England has the one that everyone forgets, Scarfell Pike, which at just under 1000m is the smallest by a few feet, but apparently a hard walk.
The nearest town to Snowdon is Betys Coed, about 15 minutes drive away, where there are lots of places to stay.
How Do you Reach the Summit of Mount Snowdon
There are 7 routes up Mount Snowdon.
Pen-y- Pass is popular starting place because two routes start and finish there. It is also the location of a YHA hostel, which means you can make sure you have got a parking place and can start bright and early.
Of the two routes, Miners is the easiest option to walk. It is an old miners track and actually ideal if you don’t need the whole summit experience. Relatively flat, I’d go so far as to say push chair friendly, after about 3 miles it gives you beautiful views of Snowdon before a steep final ascent (which joins Pyg track for the last part). The other is Pyg, which winds its way up through the valley and over a pass on a roughly defined path. Many people opt to go up one and back the other which is exactly what we did.
For details about the other routes to help you decide, have a read of the Snowdon guide put together by Ordnance Survey.
The final option is the train – yes you can avoid all the hard work and still get a picture at the top. The train starts in Llanberis and is a 3 hour round trip. It gives you ½ at the top to admire the views. It costs from £23 – £37 return.
There is also a full blown café at the top for everyone to use, walkers and train passengers alike.
Our Trek up Pyg Pass
Conscious that we had started a bit later than we hoped, we set off at a decent pace. Almost immediately though we had paused to admire the stunning views down through Llanberis Valley. It had been dark when we arrived the previous night so had no idea what it was like. Having last been to Snowdonia 13 years ago I really had forgotten how beautiful the scenery is.
Even if you have no inclination to climb any mountains, you really should try at some point visit Snowdonia for the scenery.
The path was easy to follow at this point and we made good progress, even overtaking people. You can’t actually see Snowdon until you cross a ridge (or pass) about an hour into the walk. This was a busy resting point and we passed a large group who were doing a charity walk.
We were feeling quite pleased with our progress. We were certainly grateful that we all had proper walking boots. Alison and I tutted at each other as we spotted people in unsuitable footwear and flimsy coats – they clearly has not read my useful guide to on what to wear!
However our smugness started to fade as we were being overtaken by a number of people in shorts and trainers. It turned out to be a busy day on the mountain. 250 runners were taking part in a 50 mile Mount Snowdon Ultra race. My daily dog walking training paled into insignificance as they trotted past us like mountain goats and made even the fittest walkers look clumsy and over dressed.
The top of the mountain was shrouded in mist. At just over 1000 metres it often is and the weather is prone to change very quickly. We plodded on. It’s certainly not for the faint hearted as you start the final ascent to the summit – ok maybe not quite Everest but it still made us huff and puff!
For the last part of the walk, the track was ill defined in places, it even involved some scrambling over the rocks. We were lucky that the weather was quite clear, but I can imagine it could be quite hard to work out the exact route in bad weather.
Finally over the brow of the ridge it was a short walk along side the railway track to the very top.
At the very top the temperature had dropped considerably. We queued for an obligatory summit photo (being photo bombed by a family who didn’t think the queue applied to them!) Sadly the view was largely obscured by the mist, but there were glimpses of the valley and lakes as the clouds briefly parted.
We bought a coffee and ate our snacks in the café. It was quite busy but we found a seat and appreciated the sit down in the warm and a loo stop.
Heading back down we initially retraced our steps and then the path turns off down to meet the Miners path. It was pretty steep to start with but once you reach the lake at the bottom it was easy going. The forecast rain started and we were glad we had packed proper coats and waterproof trousers for the girls. A few more photos and it was heads down, back to the car park.
Cold, wet, but feeling pretty pleased with ourselves – we had done it.
Thank you to Ali for making me put a date in the diary and for actually doing this with me, and well done to my girls for making it to the top with relatively little fuss. It really was worth while and I definitely would like to return to Snowdonia for more walking – I just wish it wasn’t quite so far from Devon.
Some of the photos are not up to my usual standard as they are all taken on iPhones rather than an DSLR (which I did not fancy carrying).
TOP TIPS AND INFORMATION
Snowdonia is quite a long way from everywhere! Nearly 2 hours from the M6 near Wolverhampton. We drove from Devon, it should take 5 hours with no stops. The traffic was not great and we picked up my friend from Shrewsbury train station, so it took 7 hours to get to the YHA at Pen-Y-Pass! Be prepared for more driving than walking!
Accommodation a the YHA was basic but absolutely fine for the short time we were there. Last orders for food is at 9.15pm. There is a bar.
There is a car park at the start. It cost £10 for every 12 hours. There’s not really anywhere else to park as YHA staff use the few pull in spots but arriving the night before at least guaranteed a space. By 8.30am the car park was full, but it was a weekend. There is a bus service from Betws y Coed.
We pre-ordered pack lunch from the YHA – it was fine but there was also plenty of food on sale in the café at the top.
Going via Pyg or Miners it takes approximately 3 hours each way to walk and you may want ½ hour rest at the top. We did it quicker than this but were not hanging around.
Was it worth it – yes absolutely! Now Alison wants us to head for Ben Nevis. I think we might need more than just a weekend for that challenge!