Over 10 million people every year visit Snowdonia, which is called Eryri in Welsh, with approximately 600,000 of those climbing to the summit of Yr Wyddfa (SNPA). It’s fantastic to see so many people enjoying Wales’ breathtaking countryside. However, with substantial numbers of visitors exploring the region, there’s growing concern about the impact it’s having on the environment and local communities.
One of the best ways of reducing this impact is by practising responsible tourism. In today’s blog, we take a holistic look at how you can climb Snowdon responsibly. We’ll cover what safe and responsible preparation looks like, how you can be environmentally responsible and what social responsibilities visitors have to residents and the communities they live in.
When you’re climbing Yr Wyddfa, one of your main responsibilities is ensuring you understand the challenge ahead of you. While most hikers can make it to the summit on a good day, your excursion may not always play out as expected. In fact, there’s a diverse array of complicating factors that could put you and your companions in danger.
While Yr Wyddfa isn’t the tallest mountain in the UK, it’s a tough physical challenge that can be made more or less difficult by your choice of route.
For instance, Llanberis Path is considered by far the easiest way up the mountain and is accessible to most hikers. On the other hand, Crib Goch requires a higher level of fitness and more experience in the mountains.
Part of being a responsible visitor to Yr Wyddfa involves accurately matching the challenge to your ability. If you’ve never climbed the mountain before, you won’t necessarily know which path to choose, what you need to wear or what effect the weather will have on your experience. If that’s the case, you need to do a little bit of research and draft a plan. Here at Climb Snowdon, we’ve created a Snowdon for Beginners Guide that should help resolve many of your questions.
Many visitors to Eryri and Yr Wyddfa are surprised by just how quickly the weather can turn. What starts out as a warm and sunny morning can quickly descend into remarkably windy and rainy conditions. A lot of the time, there’s no way of telling how the day’s weather will pan out just by looking at the sky. A responsible visitor always checks the weather forecast and keeps an eye on what’s happening and whether it’s changing.
Drastic changes in conditions can put you in a perilous position. If you’ve failed to check the forecast and find yourself on an exposed mountainside with the wind howling and the rain lashing down, at the very best, you’re not going to enjoy your day out. At worst, you’ve put yourself in danger and threatened your own safety. If you’re considering climbing Snowdon, we recommend using the Mountain Weather Information Service forecast to prepare for your visit.
It’s also vital that you consider the differences in climate between your starting point and the peak. At 1,085 metres, Yr Wyddfa is sufficiently high that the temperature at the peak is regularly five degrees colder than the temperature at your start point. Factor in the exposure and wind chill and you’re looking at a significant difference. To guarantee your safety and comfort, you need to be prepared for that change.
A big part of being a responsible hiker is making sure you’ve got all the kit you need to enjoy your climb and stay safe. While your kit list will change depending on the season and the conditions on the mountain, there are some basic items that you’ll always need when climbing Yr Wyddfa. For instance, food and water are clearly essential.
Suitable clothing is also a must. That means comfortable walking clothing that’s designed for the purpose. Cotton T-shirts and jeans may not seem like a bad idea but they offer none of the protection and comfort you need when climbing the mountain and become heavy when wet. A pair of good-fitting hiking boots and waterproofs for when the rain arrives are also indispensable.
However, it’s the extra pieces of kit that either keep you safe or help you out of a spot of trouble that many visitors to Yr Wyddfa forget. For instance, head torches, mobile phone charge packs, a map and compass and first aid supplies are all important parts of your Yr Wyddfa kit list. While you may not end up using all or any of these items when you climb Yr Wyddfa, they’re there for your safety and may one day prove essential.
Much of the advice we’ve provided so far boils down to one key concern – your personal safety. As well as making sure that you understand the challenge Yr Wyddfa presents and that you’re well equipped, you must have the skills required to hike safely.
This can mean different things depending on the conditions. For example, visitors attempting to climb Yr Wyddfa in the colder, winter months should have experience of hiking in the snow and using crampons. The ability to use a map and compass is also key. If conditions change suddenly and you lose your way, that map may be the only thing that can get you safely back down.
If you’re unsure you have the skills required to safely reach the summit, you could also consider climbing Yr Wyddfa with a guide or as part of a group. This puts the guide’s expertise at your disposal and ensures you’ve got someone to rely on should difficult decisions need to be made.
That strain can be minimised by ensuring you follow a few relatively simple guidelines. They include:
Yr Wyddfa may be the National Park’s iconic centrepiece but it’s not its only attraction. Eryri is home to a wide range of communities and people whose lives are intrinsically connected to the mountain and its surroundings. Just as the large number of visitors affects Yr Wyddfa, its ecosystems and its natural environs, it also impacts these communities. While some of the effects are incredibly positive, others aren’t.
At Climb Snowdon, we believe being a responsible visitor also encompasses support for local communities. That means considering your environmental footprint in towns and villages, buying from local stores where possible and treating residents with respect. Yr Wyddfa isn’t just a mountain, it’s part of a cultural and historical legacy that informs many people’s sense of identity. It’s a part of the daily lives of thousands of people, many of whose livelihoods now depend on the visitors who come to enjoy their home and experience the wonders of Yr Wyddfa.
A significant number of people climb to the summit of Yr Wyddfa with their dogs. There’s nothing to stop you from doing so, either. If you choose to bring your dog along for the adventure, there are a few things you can do to ensure you’re a responsible hiker.
First, you need to make sure that your dog is capable of reaching the peak and that you won’t over tire them by doing so. Most people have a pretty good idea of how far their dog usually walks and what they can and can’t do, so you’ll probably be the best judge of their abilities. If you’re not sure as to whether you’ll be pushing them a little too far, it’s best to get some practice walks in on hilly terrain. You’ll also need to bring food and water for your pooch, as they’ll consume a lot of energy during the walk, much like yourself.
While you may walk your dog off the lead regularly at home whilst on Snowdon there are a lot more distractions and hazards for them, such as livestock, wild ponies, cattle, cliff drops and even squirrels! Dogs can react unpredictably to animals and just because you’ve never previously had problems doesn’t mean there won’t be this time.
Similarly, on busy sections of some of the more popular tracks, the presence of lots of people can be confusing and distressing for some dogs, resulting in behaviour that could put them or others in danger. As dog owners ourselves, we suggest it is best to keep your canine companion on the lead throughout the hike.
We encourage all visitors to Eryri to practice responsible tourism. But if your trip inspires you to go that little bit further, take on a little more responsibility and give something back to the local area, that’s even better. There are more than a few ways you can help the Snowdonia National Park Authority maintain the park, improve access for future visitors and ensure Yr Wyddfa retains its magic.
One of the biggest volunteer programmes is the Care for Snowdonia Volunteers scheme, run by the Snowdonia Society. The programme encourages people to sign up to help out with collecting litter and advising visitors on weekends and busy days of the year. Volunteers can also perform an array of other roles, ranging from controlling invasive species to acting as a walking guide for those with sight impairments.
The Snowdonia Society also runs a Practical Conservation Skills Unit that helps gain volunteers accreditation for the time they put in working on the Park. This can be a fantastic way to start picking up the skills you need for a career in conservation but is also well suited to those who simply want to better understand the natural environment around them. Finally, the Snowdonia National Park Authority is always on the lookout for Volunteer Wardens to ease the strain on the Park’s stretched full-time team.
At Climb Snowdon, we’re firm believers that we all have a responsibility to the natural environment. But we recognise we have social responsibilities, too. Eryri is a spectacular place to visit but it will only remain so if we do our part to care for what makes it so special. A lot of people also call the region home and we should respect it as such. As visitors, we have a responsibility to both the place and people.
If you’re interested in how you can be a more responsible visitor, have any questions relating to the information in this blog or would like to sign up, get involved and volunteer to help out, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We would be more than happy to point you in the right direction.