A walk up Snowdon

August 22, 2019

Climbing Snowdon is the most popular mountain challenge in Britain, upwards of 400,000 walkers head for the summit every year. I have only climbed Snowdon once before, that was the full Snowdon Horseshoe over 20 years ago.

Therefore I was looking forward to my next visit with the family in which I planned to walk the southern part of the Horseshoe over Y Lliwedd, up the Watkin Path to the summit and a return via the Miners or Pyg Track.

Views north from Y Lliwedd
Views north from Y Lliwedd

Parking

The first challenge in climbing Snowdon is where to park! Pen-y-Pass in the summer is usually full by 9 am. However a shuttle bus (roughly every 3/4 an hour) transports people up from a larger car park 3 miles towards Llanberis. I left the family to a cup of tea at Pen y Pass and dropped the car off. From Pen-y-Pass there is a choice of routes, to the right is the Pyg Track (which is also the access to Crib Goch) but an obvious access road leads directly on. This is the Miners Track and provides probably the easiest ascent of Snowdon.

Y Lliwedd

We headed along the track, passing a number of ill equipped people who I assume were off to spend the day at the tarns, until arriving at Llyn Llydaw. Here we left the hordes and took a steep path heading south towards Y Lliwedd. The climb is straightforward and the views were superb. In particular the northern cliffs of Y Lliwedd are wonderfully dramatic, both visually on the climb, but also when perched above them on the twin peaks. The crossing is rough underfoot, particularly on the descent to Snowdon, but the weather was holding and the light clear (all my photos were taken at this time!).

Climbing Y Lliwedd
Climbing Y Lliwedd

During the crossing of Y Lliwedd we only saw 3 other walkers. One was heading down, a second looked as though he had come the wrong way and a third was heading for a long crossing over the Glyders from Llanberris. He had a lovely border collie as company and we joked of swapping his collie with Mist. So for over 2 hours we passed 3 people whereas only 1/2 a mile away 100’s were hauling themselves up the much less attractive Miners and Pyg Tracks below. Herd mentality or just a lack of knowledge of better alternatives?

Meeting the Watkin Path
Y Lliwedd looking towards Snowdon

We lunched in the col before the steep 1,000 foot climb to the summit of Snowdon. The track here is rather eroded, reminding me of the final climb up Helvellyn after Striding Edge. Some wispy cloud had coated the summit before we reached it but there was no sign of the bad weather to come. It just seemed a shame that there was no views.

Twin summit of Y Lliwedd
Twin summit of Y Lliwedd

Snowdon Summit

The summit of Snowdon is a hellish place. I make no bones of the fact that having a railway and cafe on a summit is, in my opinion, all wrong. On this occasion a train had just arrived so the cafe was full to bursting. There were queues for a drink, queues for the toilets and worst of all queues to have a photo at the summit trig. After a quick touch of the trig we had all had enough and started down the Llanberris trail next to the train line. For 10 minutes it was like a slalom course except the slalom poles were people who had just wandered away from the train. They were clearly ill equipped for the rapidly deteriorating conditions.

Snowdon summit
Snowdon summit

The Pyg Track

On the way down I wanted to try the Pyg Track rather than the Miners Track. It is straightforward to follow but in the wet (and by now it was!) the rock is slippy and awkward. In particular large slabs of rock were difficult to cross. The weather had closed in as we descended and our previous happy party was not now. However what was most surprising (and bear in mind it was after 3.30) was the number of people still climbing. Many (not some) were clearly unsuited for the weather, a large Jewish party (roughly 60 in total) were in traditional dress with no packs. Engaging them in conversation it was clear to me they had no idea what they were doing. One asked at 4.30pm ‘If the cafe at the top was expensive?’ I told him he was not going to get there and it would be closed. He carried on regardless.

The cafe on Snowdon
The cafe on Snowdon

I am the last person to criticise walkers considering how badly I was equipped in my younger days and, I live by the philosophy that people learn by their mistakes, but this seemed totally wrong. I do not know if they got in to trouble (at best they would have ended the day cold, wet and miserable) but they should not have been on the mountain in such conditions. Better education and information is the key.

The Pyg Track on a wet day
The Pyg Track on a wet day

Us four and a very wet dog eventually made it back to Pen-y-Pass and a welcome cup of coffee. We were out 7 hours. It was a very enjoyable and very interesting day. The first half was superb, the weather and route choice helped, but we all agreed the day went downhill once we arrived at the summit of Snowdon.

Looking to Y Lliwedd from Snowdon

Looking to Y Lliwedd from Snowdon

Enjoy your walking

Jonathan

1 Comment
  • Welsh Walker says:

    Hi, just read your post on Snowdon. I’ve been walking for more than 30 years and no matter where you may find yourself, you will encounter, there’s no other way to put this, stupid. People are advised at the start of every trail on the dangers involved, the equipment needed etc. Yet year in year out we read the same stories of the fantastic Mountain Rescue Services putting their lives on the line to save unprepared people’s lives and get them back to safety.
    I’ve not read any of your other articles but it seems Snowdon gets the bad press every time and yours is just one more. The popularity of Snowdon, unfortunately means that the number of casualties is higher. The parking is getting sorted, but again it’s the popularity that’s the problem. It’s a problem in every town and city, it’s even more difficult to solve in the middle of a national park.
    I’ve seen people pushing prams, in flip flops, shorts and vests etc but what can you do? The trail of litter shows they give little respect for their surroundings you can only guess what respect they have for themselves.
    Being in such stunning surroundings is lost on a minority that are blind, I pity them and pick up what litter I can.

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