Mount Snowdon

  • United Kingdom Wales Snowdonia, Mount Snowdon, Miner's Track / Pyg Track, Walkopedia
  • United Kingdom Wales Snowdonia, Mount Snowdon, View From Snowdon, Walkopedia
  • United Kingdom Wales Snowdonia, Mount Snowdon, Snowdon, Walkopedia
  • United Kingdom Wales Snowdonia, Mount Snowdon, Snowdon, Walkopedia
  • United Kingdom Wales Snowdonia, Mount Snowdon, Snowdon, Walkopedia
  • United Kingdom Wales Snowdonia, Mount Snowdon, Snowdon - Ponies on the trail, Walkopedia
  • United Kingdom Wales Snowdonia, Mount Snowdon, Snowdon sheep, Walkopedia
  • United Kingdom Wales Snowdonia, Mount Snowdon, Snowdon, Walkopedia

Key information: Mount Snowdon

  • Snowdon is a complex but majestic mountain, promising atmosphere galore and spectacular views on a good day, despite the railway, café and crowds at the summit.
  • A selection of beautiful approach routes, from the steady slogs to gut-wrenching knife-edges.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating84
  • Beauty32
  • Natural interest15
  • Human interest10
  • Charisma31
  • Negative points4
  • Total rating84
  • Note: Negs: summit is crowded, cloudy, and has a cafe

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Your choice (5 hrs+)
  • Maximum Altitude: 1,085m
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
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Mount Snowdon: Snowdon - © Copyright Lorna Dodds

WALK SUMMARY

Mount Snowdon sits at the heart of high Snowdonia, a complex but majestic mountain, promising spectacular view as far as England, Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man on a clear day(!). It has atmosphere galore, despite the railway, café and crowds at the summit: the mountain’s beautiful lake-sprinkled bowls, glaciated valleys and rugged peaks and ridges fascinate walkers and climbers alike 

From the high summit ridge, you can see the full glory (horror) of Crib Goch, the inviting Nantlle Ridge to the west, with the Lleyn Peninsula receding behind it. The sea gleams to the north and south-west, with central Snowdonia receding to the east and South. Thrilling.

Steeped in history, geological significance and folklore, Mount Snowdon or Yr Wyddfa (‘burial place’ in Welsh – legend has it that the summit’s cairn marks the grave of the giant, Rhita Fawr) is the UK’s highest mountain south of the Scottish Highlands and would be one of the more beguiling mountains in the world, but for the depressing tourism at its top.

Whether your interest is fossils, flora and fauna, from skylarks to bedstraw, Wales’s mining heritage, or pulse-racing extreme sports, Snowdon is laden with interest. The Snowdon massif was much loved by the great early climbers, with Mallory and others often on its sheer flanks.

The only downside to these varied splendours is, sadly, its depressing exploitation for tourism: once dubbed ‘the highest slum in Wales’ by Prince Charles, the funicular railway, ugly navigation dial and former café structure at the very top have been the subject of much disgust for the walking community.  Reopened after a multi-million pound makeover, the new ‘visitor’s centre’ is, at least, an interesting piece of architecture: encased in granite, with one glass, floor-to-ceiling wall (aiming to endure extreme weather, ‘blend with the natural landscape’ and offer a ‘window to the world’), it boasts ‘ecological’ credentials, with rainwater cannily redirected from the roof to flush the lavatories.  Talk about ‘high tea’ …

Snowdon’s starfish form affords an intriguing variety of routes to the summit, each with its own unique allure and varying degrees of difficulty, from centuries-old miners’ tracks to the challenging Horseshoe.

The climb can be conquered in 4-6 hours (or 6-7 hours for those disarmed by the splendour), which makes for a perfect if tiring day.

The main routes are:

The Miners’/ Pyg Tracks

These most-used tracks approach from Pen-y-pass to the east. They both offer well-constructed if heavily used paths to the summit. A classic way to climb Snowdon would be to combine these routes.

The Miners' Track follows the lower hillsides above the valley up to the beautiful Llyn Llydaw reservoir, with its classic views westward up the bowl below Snowdon's elegant cone. A steady climb gets you to the Glaslyn upper lake right below the Snowdon cliffs, passing  the remains of early mining as you go. From Glaslyn you make a taxing, craggy ascent to join the Pyg Track and then on up to the high Snowdon summit ridge, to enter a new world of huge views and often blustering wind. The walk up the high ridge to the summit is an easy if often overpopulated walk.

The Pyg Track traverses the same northern hillside, but significantly higher up. It is, overall, a steadier climb than the Miners’ Track, with bigger views from earlier on and little mining mess but not the lakeside beauty either.

Watkin and Rhyd Ddu paths

These very different paths both approach from the south, with the lowest start and therefore the highest climb to make. While they have way fewer climbers than the Miners’/Pyg, you won’t be alone on the Watkins in particular. -Most people walk both these paths as a circuit, ascending the Watkins Path and descending Rhyd Ddu. Were you to be able to arrange transport so as to descend a different way, you might do well to climb the Rhyd Ddu path and then head on.

The Watkins Path makes the long slog up the right-hand hillside of the beautiful bowl of upper Cwm Llan to the high shoulder between Snowdon and Lliwedd. Then it is the dreary slog up the infamous, horribly eroded southern scree slopes, to rejoin the Rhyd Ddu path just below the summit. 

The Rhyd Ddu path is a really glorious climb/descent, following the marvellous south ridge, between the craggy drop into Cwm Llan and the relatively gentler, lake sprinkled landscape to the west.

Y Lliwedd

This wonderfully inspiring serrated fin of rock to the south-east of Snowdon itself soars above the magnificent cirque below the Snowdon summit pyramid. It looks more exposed than it actually is.  Lliwedd is climbed in conjunction with Snowdon by the great majority. The main approach routes are from the Miners’ Track and from the southern shoulder of Snowdon, from the Watkins Path – but the most exciting, indeed a demanding and in places seriously exposed, route up is the airy scramble up the Y Grilyn ridge from the foot of the Glaslyn upper lake.

Crib Goch

This notorious knife-edge ridge looms to the north of the great bowl east of Snowdon. It is a demanding, ultra-exposed scramble rather than a walk and is thought by most to be a terrifying horror-show and simply not worth trying. (Do not even think of it unless are an experienced scrambler or are with an experienced guide. And never in poor or uncertain weather.) The views are sensational in both directions, and it is staggeringly beautiful and exciting on the right day.

You begin climbing the northern branch of the Pyg Track from Pen-y-pass, turning right to start the hard climb then scramble up to high Crib Goch at the eastern end of the long ridge ending at the Snowdon shoulder, which winds westward as a narrow fin of rock with deadly drops on both sides. Then you tackle the long struggle westwards. Amazing – for the right person!

The Horseshoe 

This is the truly great walk here, although in its pure form truly extreme, too. Starting at Pen-y-pass, set out on the northward/upper Pyg Track, then turn north to join the fearsome Crib Goch ridge – although, if you are (relatively) chicken like Walkopedia, you carry on up the Pyg or Miner’s tracks to the summit. (We call this the Reasonable Horseshoe.) Having enjoyed the views, you head south-west briefly, then turn south-east for the tedious, steep descent down the Watkins Path to the shoulder where it turns downhill below the sharp ridge of beautiful Y Lliwedd. You turn left to climb (a simple scramble at times) to Y Lliwedd’s double summited, dramatic rocky fin high above Llyn Llydaw. Thence you carry on north-east to drop back to the Miner’s Track and head back to a grateful finish at Pen-y-pass. Amazing.

Unsettled Welsh weather often shrouds the summit in moody mist. This is demanding (and can be downright dangerous) walking in sheer mountains with uncertain weather. Come fully prepared, and consider whether tackling it is sensible in poor conditions.

Access and parking can be painful at busy times. In particular, the car park at Pen-y-pass to the east has to be booked ahead, online. There is a good shuttle bus from a car park above the head of Llyn Peris to the west, and a less frequent one from the historic Pen-y-Gwyrd climbers hotel down the hill to the east.

We want to give more information. Photos and ideas welcome! 

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

Mount Snowdon: View From Snowdon - ©By Flickr user net_efekt

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

We have a lot of helpful practical information and tips about this walk, covering everything from the best books and maps, to timing and weather, geting there, possible problems, whether you need a guide and where to find them, and useful websites. This section is only open to members.

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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

COMMUNITY COMMENTS AND PHOTOS

Name: Administrator
Posted on: 27/08/2012

The following is Martin Sweeney�s piece on walking here, which was on our longlist for our 2011 Travel Writing Competition.

 

Inspiring description of weather clearing just in time on Mt Snowdon.

 

Snowdon's Rewards

 

The summit was encircled by black cloud and mist, with visibility measured in yards. A howling gale blowing through - seemingly from all sides at once - threatened to sweep the unwary off the ridge, and cold and wet, my girlfriend and I reached the summit of Snowdon.

 

In the midst of a hot summer, we had set out to climb one of Britain�s favourite mountains. Fully expecting the famous picture-postcard views throughout the day, we had arrived instead to a dank, drizzle-drenched scene, with the less well prepared walkers turning back from the car park before their treks had even begun.

                                                                 

We began our approach to the mountain from the east, along the Miner�s Track, treading across the grey rock, worn down by the long-dead miners of the Britannia copper mine over the hundred years before it closed for the final time during the Great War. easing into our stride, we crossed the causeway over the tranquil waters of Llyn Llydaw. The early part of the walk was easy, but above us we could see greying cliffs and greyer skies. We felt certain though, that the clouds would lift as we gained the summit; this was our day and the mountain would surely not disappoint.

 

Approaching the steep ascent above Llyn Llydaw, the track seemed to vanish up the hillside, becoming almost vertical from our perspective. Struggling upwards we stopped several times for breaks, each time peering down at the water below, where the few figures in view became ever more distant.

                                                                                                                

The sound of voices above us signalled our arrival at the Pyg Track, where our ascent became less steep for a time, and the infamous Snowdon crowds began. The continuous stream of people heading upwards along this motorway of a trail threatened to destroy any sense of wild beauty the mountain held, but the ubiquitous friendly nature of the hillwalker, offering smiles and hellos, helped to compensate for this.

 

Through a thickening mist and a strong, almost burning wind trying to drive us back, we forced our way up towards the summit. Nearing the top, we found that extra energy the body always holds in reserve and seemed to glide upwards, in contrast to our progress up the steep and rocky path by the copper-blue Glaslyn lake. Topping out by the tourist railway that traces the Llanberis path from the valley below, the final few hundred metres along the ridge passed easily. With no sign of a break in the clouds though, the glorious view to both east and west was absent.

 

The dark, chilled mountain top was dominated by a tremendous gale, and the hoped-for early afternoon summer sun was nowhere to be found. Small knots of people huddled together in the lee of rocks, or gathered near the then unfinished café, looking worn and beaten. The only movement at the top was from those battling against the wind, awaiting a moment of calm to dash up the summit rocks for a stolen photograph and trying not to be torn away by the gusts.

 

With little protection from the wind, and nothing to see but cloud and fog, we soon began our descent of the western side of the mountain, following the Snowdon Ranger track. Sliding through the scree that barely clings to the mountainside, we were resigned to the disappointment that can so often accompany high expectations. We were leaving the mountain behind, still shrouded in its evil grey cloak, and still concealing its rugged beauty.

 

Passing close to the famous �Cloggy� (Clogwyn Du�r Arddu) crag though, we received our reward at last. Dream-like, the clouds to the south began to part, and then re-form again. Snatched glimpses of hillside, lakes and streams were reclaimed by the clouds almost as soon as they were offered up. Sculpted green and golden hillsides sheltered glassy lakes, and when the sun penetrated sufficiently, its silver light reflected back to us through the mist.

 

Each time the cloud cover thinned a little, we were treated to a new scene. Like a living gallery - ever changing, never static - the scene to our left held a wild beauty beyond any it could have had on a cloudless day. As we walked on, the breaks in the cloud became more and more frequent. Above us, a dazzling blue sky crept into view to share the scene below, delicate watercolour brush strokes developing before our eyes.

 

So often, I have been to places of truly astounding beauty, but then turned my back on them after just a short while, anaesthetised to their power by over familiarity. Here, on this day, our spirits were renewed and refreshed by the fleeting visions the mountain chose to give us, our thirsty souls lapping up the drops of beauty we were offered.                                                  

 

As the day drew to a close we padded gently downwards towards the Snowdon Ranger youth hostel; former home of the original �Snowdon Ranger� John Morton, an early mountain guide. Looking back for a glimpse of the path we had taken, we knew we were lucky to have been on Snowdon on that day. 

                                                                     

Moving forwards, we have both been spurred to explore further, climb higher and push on deeper into the outdoors. Above all else though, I have learned to savour what the hills offer me, not just what I want to take from them. If I am prepared to stop and look, to feel and to dispense with expectations, I know that the hills will always have a reward for me.



Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

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Mount Snowdon: Snowdon - ©Copyright Lorna Dodds

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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