The Pyg Track is a popular path, and will maintain your interest throughout due to its rugged nature and stunning mountain scenery all along its route to the summit. One advantage of starting at this point is that you are already 359m above sea level.
- Distance: 7 miles / 11km
- Ascent: 723m
- Time: 6 hours
- Start Point: Pen y Pass car park
- Grid Ref: SH 647 577
- Ordnance Survey: OL17 / 114
- Harvey Maps: Snowdonia North
Look up in a south westerly direction from the car park and you’ll see an imposing peak. This is not Snowdon, but one of the narrow ridges leading to the summit, called Crib Goch.
Do make sure you pop your head into the Warden Area, in the stone building where there is a wealth of information and maps about Snowdon. Here, you’ll be able to see images of the paths you’ll be taking and what you can expect to see on the mountain.
And then you’ll be off – into the south western corner of the car park to find the start of the Pyg Track. This is a popular path, and will maintain your interest throughout due to its rugged nature and stunning mountain scenery all along its route to the summit.
Initially the start of the Pyg Track is strenuous with large engineered steps and boulders. This way of building paths is called ‘pitching’ and gives a very hard wearing surface for the 500,000 visitors each year. But, the large stones do need careful attention and balance so as not to turn an ankle!
You will use a lot of energy in the first 40 mins or so, so set off at a steady pace. Too fast and you’ll be panting after 10 minutes of the first steep section! To catch your breath, there are lovely views down the heavily glaciated valley of the Llanberis Pass, towards the lakes of Llyn Peris and Llyn Padarn. Stop and admire.
Then back to work as you climb large steps (hands needed at times) towards Bwlch y Moch. ‘Bwlch’ means ‘gap’ in Welsh, and you arrive at a (usually) windy small pass, between Crib Goch and ‘The Horns’ to your left.
Ahead is a wonderful view to Llyn Llydaw (actually a reservoir) below, with Y Lliwedd’s dark cliffs looming above, as well as a view to Snowdon’s summit if you have a clear day. Yes, you are walking all the way up there!
You will certainly want to have a break here – have a snack and more water. You’ll have worked hard for up to an hour now.
After the initial shock of this steep, physical start, there is now a flatter section of path to follow. It contours underneath the heights of the Crib Goch ridge on your right.
If it’s a fine, sunny day you may be able to see people inching themselves along the ridgeline! You will continue along the Pyg Track more easily now, with short sections of stepped ascents.
All the while you are contouring (keeping to one level) and then gradually rising as you journey deeper into Snowdon’s cwms (mountain valleys).
At times there will be sections of bedrock to clamber over and having a free hand is useful sometimes to steady yourself on sections of rock. Sometimes the path is loose underfoot from erosion (from water or the passage of 1000s of feet).
Take care when walking on larger boulders or slabby sections of rock, especially if they are wet. This is where good footwear, with rugged soles will help to provide friction on slippery rocks. The views towards Snowdon’s summit will become more and more impressive the further you walk, and you may even be able to see tiny figures of people standing on the summit cairn on a clear day.
After another hour of continual effort and gradual climbing you’ll reach a path junction: ‘The Intersection’. This is where another path, The Miners Track, joins up with your Pyg Track.
From this point forward, you’ll notice a distinct change in the steepness of the path, it’s now getting harder to climb as you’ve been walking for approx. 2 hours now, and the path is getting rockier and steeper all the while.
But, this also means you are getting nearer to your goal and, in clear weather, there’s no mistaking where Snowdon’s summit is: as it towers above you.
The cliffs that fall away from the summit are no-man’s land for walkers, but you may see ravens circling above or the odd sheep as it clings to steep grass and rock, looking for vegetation to feed on.
This is called the ‘Trinity Face’ and is a mecca for climbers in the winter, when the gullies fill with snow and ice and are easier to climb. Below you is a small mountain lake, Glaslyn. Very deep, cold and blue.
From ‘The Intersection’ point, you have another hour of walking – and this will be one of the toughest parts of the ascent.
People will have worked hard up to this point, but the steepest part is yet to come. The path becomes indistinct at times above this point, especially in low cloud. It’s very important to keep an eye on your leaders and group companions – as there are some short sections of easy scrambling to negotiate.
You may have to put away trekking poles so you can use your hands to help steady yourself on rocks. Always be aware of where you are putting your poles, though, so you don’t hit the person behind you in the face – an unusual but real hazard to bear in mind!
You will find a mix of rock on the path ahead: loose, big boulders, pitched stones and jagged sections that require some good balance. At this location you will definitely feel like you’re in serious mountain terrain, with a lot of steep ground, boulders, crags and cliffs circling above you.
But, you are on a very well used and popular path - it’s a very exciting place to be. A lot of people stop for a break at the final ‘corner’ before a couple of zig-zags to the summit ridge.
There are stone baskets here and an obvious turn in the path, to the right. You’ll see people taking on food and water at this point, and it’s a very good idea to do this before the final 10 minute climb to the ridgeline. And once you see the ridgeline above you (it’s visible in clear weather only!) then it’s a further 15 minute walk to the actual summit.
In wet or cold weather, it’s also a good idea to put on an extra layer/hat/gloves etc at this point, especially as it can be much windier on the summit ridgeline. Push on, with a couple of steps up large rocky pitched sections.
A lot of people will be feeling the effort of walking this far now, but the steepness does ease off once you get to the summit ridgeline, called Bwlch Glas. Pay close attention to the steep slopes dropping away to your left as you come closer to the summit ridgeline.
The path is wide here, so there’s no danger of ‘falling off’, but it’s wise to keep to the ‘mountain side’ of the path when you can. After approx. 3 hours of walking you will now arrive at a large stone finger post, marking the top of the Pyg Track. You have emerged onto the main ridgeline of Snowdon, and will see the railway track slightly below you.
Here you will turn left for a less steep final ascent to the summit. On a clear day, there will be tremendous views to the south, towards Porthmadog, and the north west towards Caernarfon, the Irish Sea and Anglesey.
Look to the east (behind you) and you will see where you have come from, along the Pyg Track, and also the very sharp ridge of Crib Goch. From here, the 15 min walk (max.) will bring you to the summit steps of Snowdon, man made steps that guide you up to the summit cairn.
On a busy day, you can sometimes queue here for a climb up the steep steps to the actual summit.
It is a must, though, so make the opportunity to visit the very top of the highest mountain in Wales (and higher than any mountains in England, too!) Make sure you have extra layers to put on in colder/windier/wetter weather and do take on board more food and water. You are only halfway and you’ll need energy for the descent, too!
To descend the same way you will retrace your steps to Bwlch Glas, but make sure you have an eye on your direction of travel as Bwlch Glas can be a confusing place on a busy day or poor weather as lots of paths converge at this point. At Bwlch Glas there is a tall marker stone with ‘Pyg Track’ on it and this stands at where the final steep zig zags emerge on to the flat plateau area.