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Snowdon for Beginners

Posted 23rd November 2021

Walking Up Snowdon – a Guide for Beginners

Wales’ ‌highest‌ ‌peak‌ ‌and‌ ‌one‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌UK’s‌ ‌most‌ ‌famous‌ ‌mountains,‌ ‌Yr‌ ‌Wyddfa‌ ‌(known‌ ‌popularly as Snowdon) ‌plays‌ ‌a‌ ‌significant‌ ‌role‌ ‌in‌ ‌Welsh‌ ‌history,‌ ‌folklore‌ ‌and‌ ‌cultural‌ ‌identity.‌ ‌

For hundreds of years, Snowdonia’s challenging terrain protected the region’s traditional languages, peoples and ways of life from invading armies. Snowdon itself is the legendary resting place of Rhita Gawr, a giant slain by King Arthur and famed for wearing a cloak crafted from men’s beards. It’s the site of Britain’s first designated footpath, paved the way for the opening up of the countryside to those with an interest in nature, and has captured the imagination of generations of poets, painters and writers.

Today, it’s one of the UK’s most popular national nature parks and a mecca for all types of outdoor pursuits. Hikers, trail runners, rock climbers, mountain bikers and wild swimmers flock to this spectacular, mountainous landscape to enjoy both the breathtaking natural beauty and the challenge the peak presents.

But Snowdon isn’t just for the wild and adventurous types. It’s also accessible to anyone with a relatively good level of fitness and the desire to explore one of the UK’s most beloved and unique natural environments. Yes, the mountain demands respect and care must be taken, but nothing is stopping you from scaling the mighty Snowdon should you want to experience the flora, fauna and spectacular views for yourself.

To help you prepare for your own Snowdon excursion, we’ve created this extensive guide to climbing the mountain. It covers everything from possible routes and the equipment you’ll need to the best time of year to visit and what local services are available.

A thousand ways to Climb Snowdon

Climb Snowdon - Walking Up Snowdon
Visitors to Snowdon come for an almost endless number of reasons. Some are attracted by its remarkable biodiversity, others are fascinated by its history or the legends its towering peak inspired.

Runners are tempted by the challenge, families appreciate a memorable day out and some people climb the mountain simply because it’s there.

All this is to say that there are more ways to climb Snowdon than the six established routes and considering why you want to reach the summit can be a great way of helping you to plan your trip.

If you’re interested in local history and have a bit more time on your hands, why not look at tackling part of the Snowdonia Slate Trail before heading up Snowdon?

Want to see how quickly you can summit? The Llanberis Path is used for the yearly Ras Yr Wyddfa (International Snowdon Race) and is a good option. The easier gradients and the ability to take a break at the utterly unique, locally-owned Halfway House Cafe ensure it’s an excellent choice for families, too.

In it for the epic views? The Rhyd Ddu Path might just be the perfect route for you.

If you’re looking for ideas on how you can plan a trip that reflects your interests and passions, get in touch with us here at Climb Snowdon. Our extensive experience scaling the mountain means we have the expertise to help you create the ideal itinerary.

Finally, if you’re coming to Snowdon for a specific sporting purpose, it often pays to do some more specific research, as there may be restrictions in place. For instance, the Snowdon Voluntary Cycling Agreement restricts mountain bikers from riding the three bridleways that lead to the summit between the months of May and September.

What’s the best time of year to climb Snowdon?

The effect the weather has on your experience of climbing Snowdon cannot be understated. In the winter months, it’s a snow-covered peak that requires suitable equipment, experience and expertise to navigate.

In the summer, the trails are far busier but you’re more likely to enjoy reliable weather.

The mountain is often covered in snow and ice from November through to April, though it can last through to May. From May through to the end of October, there’s a good chance you’ll get walkable weather, though mist, rain and storms can all prevent you from climbing.

Climb Snowdon - Winter walking up Snowdon

July and August are the warmest and, with a maritime climate, often bring wetter conditions but generally attract the most fair-weather walkers. Don’t despair though, you can still scale Snowdon via one of the quieter routes and enjoy your day out. October can be unpredictable and keeping an eye on the weather forecasts is even more important than usual at this time of year.

That leaves May, June and September – the three most glorious months to visit Snowdonia. Cooler temperatures, beautiful spring and autumn landscapes and a lack of crowds make this the ideal time to climb to the summit.

Six Classic Snowdon Routes, a Horseshoe and a Railway

When planning your visit, there are six classic Snowdon routes to consider. We’ve tried to roughly rank them in order of difficulty, though this will always be subjective.

Climb Snowdon - Llanberis Path
Llanberis Path

  • • 7.25 km (4.5 miles) one-way to the summit
  • • 975 metres elevation gain
  • • Depart from Llanberis

Often considered the “easiest” path up Snowdon, the Llanberis path is also the longest. As we’ve already mentioned, it’s popular amongst runners, families and first-timers due to its slightly easier gradients and the surer footing the well-trodden path provides. However, it can be dangerous in the winter on the upper sections above the railway that bank out with snow and ice, and a change in conditions can make it one of the more challenging ascents.

In peak season, Llanberis is often the busiest of Snowdon’s footpaths thanks to its extensive parking facilities, accessibility and the possibility of enjoying a warming beverage at the Halfway House along the way. The wonderful Penceunant Cafe is situated at the base of the trail and makes for an excellent post-climb stop. The homemade lemonade and local Snowdon beer are particularly popular in the warmer months.

Find out more about the Llanberis Path and download a map

Climb Snowdon - Snowdon Ranger Path
Snowdon Ranger Path

  • • 6.5 km (4 miles) to the summit
  • • 936 metres elevation gain
  • • Depart from Llyn Cwellyn car park

Thought to be the oldest route up the mountain, the Snowdon Ranger Path is considerably quieter than Llanberis, making it an excellent choice if you’re looking to avoid the crowds and enjoy a more solitary experience. The initial section is relatively straightforward, before the gradient ramps up as the trail swoops over the dark cliff tops of Clogwyn Du’r Arddu, making it a little trickier.

Find out more about the Snowdon Ranger Path and download a map

Climb Snowdon - Miners Track
Miners Track

  • • 6.5 km (4 miles) to the summit
  • • 723 metres elevation gain
  • • Depart from Pen y Pass car park

The Miner’s Track is defined by its relatively shallow gradient and the presence of several abandoned mine buildings along the route. The first section ranks amongst some of the easiest walking you’ll do on Snowdon but this quickly changes when you reach the high mountain lake of Glaslyn and begin climbing the steeper paths that lead to the Pyg Track.

Climbing up Snowdon along the Pyg Track and returning via the Miners Track is one of the most popular walking routes on the mountain.

Find out more about the Miners Track and download a map

Climb Snowdon - Rhyd Ddu Path
Rhyd Ddu Path

  • • 7 km (4.25 miles) to the summit
  • • 895 metres elevation gain
  • • Depart from Rhyd Ddu car park

Despite the fact that you can see the summit from the start of the route, the Rhyd Ddu Path is probably the quietest of all the footpaths on the mountain. The wonderful views and the fact that the route incorporates the upper sections of the Snowdon South Ridge make this path Snowdon’s best-kept secret and it’s a fantastic option for those who want to enjoy the mountain without the crowds.

There are some steeper sections and traversing Bwlch Main isn’t straightforward, but the climb isn’t overly technical and rewards those who attempt it with some of the best vistas in Wales.

Find out more about the Rhyd Ddu Path and download a map

Climb Snowdon - Pyg Track
Pyg Track

  • • 5.5 km (3.5 miles) to the summit
  • • 723 metres elevation gain
  • • Depart from Pen y Pass car park

No one quite knows the origins of the name but the Pyg Track is a classic Snowdon climb. It’s also the shortest route up to the top as you start from 359m, at the pre-booked car park. Don’t be fooled by the summit you see from the start – that’s not the top of Snowdon but the knife-edge ridge of Crib Goch, instead.

Parts of the Pyg Track are tough, technical and rough underfoot, making it a more challenging climb than many of the others on this list. It can also attract a fair few people in the busier months, so won’t be as quiet or relaxed as Rhyd Ddu, for instance.

Find out more about the Pyg Track and download a map

Climb Snowdon - Watkin Path
Watkin Path

  • • 6.5 km (4 miles) to the summit
  • • 1,015 metres elevation gain
  • • Depart from Pont Bethania car park

Both the hardest and most spectacular route up Snowdon, Watkin Path starts off almost at sea level and features 1,015 metres of climbing. This makes it a demanding, but rewarding, way to reach the summit. From Watkin Path, you’ll enjoy some of the best views to be had anywhere on the mountain and you’ll also pass several impressive waterfalls and the famous Gladstone Rock.

While the start of Watkin Path is relatively simple and scenic, the upper part features loose scree sections that are particularly dangerous in wet or low visibility conditions. The first officially designated footpath in Britain, Watkin Path holds a special place in many walkers’ hearts and remains a favourite amongst those who have climbed several Snowdon routes. That being said, it does require more care, experience and confidence than many of the other climbs.

Find out more about the Watkin Path and download a map

Additional Options

Many of the six “classic” Snowdon routes can be combined so that you’re ascending via one path and returning along another. However, there’s also the Snowdon Horseshoe, a circular ridgeline route that takes in the famous Crib Goch ascent and is regularly voted the best walk in the UK. It’s far more of a mountaineering route than the others and there’s plenty of scrambling, so it’s best taken on by those with more hiking experience and a good head for heights. To join us on a guided Snowdon Horseshoe walk, get in touch.

Climb Snowdon - Snowdon Mountain Railway
Snowdon Mountain Railway
Finally, for those who don’t fancy the walk, there’s the Snowdon Mountain Railway. It departs from Llanberis and, depending on restrictions and weather, climbs either ¾ of the way to the summit or to the summit itself. You can find more information on the service, timetable and ticket prices here. Unfortunately, you can’t purchase a one-way ticket down at the top of the track, so if you walk up to the summit, you’ll also have to walk back down.

Making Sure You’re Well Equipped

It’s never a good idea to head into the mountains unprepared, so knowing what you need to bring along for the climb is essential.

  • • Sturdy walking shoes or boots with good grip
  • • Spacious, comfortable rucksack – at least 25 litres and with a waterproof liner/cover
  • • Food and water – climbing can take it out of you, so make sure you’re well fuelled
  • • Warm layers – temperatures vary significantly between the base of Snowdon and the summit. Even if it feels warm when you set out, there’s a good chance you’ll need at least a jacket at the top, if not a couple of additional layers
  • • Suitable clothing – comfortable walking clothing is essential. We would recommend avoiding cotton t-shirts and jeans at all costs
  • • Warm hat and gloves
  • • Waterproofs – the weather changes quickly in the mountains and getting caught in a brief downpour without waterproofs is, at a minimum, uncomfortable. However, it can also leave you dangerously exposed in the upper reaches of the mountain
  • • Suncream and hat
  • • First aid kit
  • • Map and compass (and knowledge of how to use them)
  • • Headtorch and whistle
  • • Mobile phone with charge pack and waterproof bag for storage

Of course, in the winter, you’ll require a whole lot more gear – maybe even crampons, an ice axe and winter boots. If you’d like to know more about our suggested winter kit list, just get in touch!

Safety First When Climbing Snowdon

Safety is paramount when climbing any mountain and Snowdon is no different. With this in mind, there are a few key things to take into consideration.

The weather is possibly the biggest danger when climbing Snowdon and all walkers should check a dedicated mountain forecast before setting out. We’d recommend the Mountain Weather Information Service. All types of weather – be it hot, cold, wet or dry – can cause problems, so be aware. And don’t forget to check the wind! Not only do high winds make for an unpleasant experience but they can also be extremely dangerous.

Plan Ahead
It’s always best to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. It minimises opportunities for confusion and bad decision making. Make sure your plan leaves enough time to ascend and descend without you losing light and factor in things like how you’re planning to arrive and where to park.

It’s also a good idea to let a family member or friend know your plan, so there’s someone with that information, should anything go wrong. Finally, don’t be afraid to turn around if things don’t go to plan or you’re not comfortable. The mountain’s not going anywhere, so don’t plough on if everything’s telling you to turn back.

Be Well Equipped
We can’t exaggerate the importance of bringing the right clothing, food and equipment. You’ve seen our suggested kit list above and should aim to pack everything on the list, even if you think there’s little chance you’ll use it.

Being well equipped also means having the skills you need to climb. Don’t over-stretch yourself with a route that’s beyond your ability. If you don’t have experience with a map and compass, try and get some practice in before your climb date. You may not need to use them, but you never know.

Emergencies and Rescue Team
Mountain Rescue teams – all of which are run by volunteers – are there to help you in emergencies. You can reach them by calling 999 and requesting to speak to the Police and then Mountain Rescue. Once you’ve spoken to the service, make sure you keep your phone on in case they call back and follow all the instructions you’re given.

It is important to note that quality of signal can vary in the hills and you won’t always be able to make that call. In such an instance, you can blow your whistle or flash your torch six times, then wait 60 seconds before repeating. Always remember that assistance is not guaranteed, so it’s better to be well-prepared and safety-conscious, just in case.

The Towns Surrounding Snowdon

Llanberis, as the name suggests, is the departure point for the Llanberis Path and also where you board the Snowdon Mountain Railway service. It boasts a beautiful location beside Llyn Padarn and Llyn Peris and plenty of accommodation, restaurants, outdoor equipment shops and endless options for walkers.

Pen y Pass
Many hikers set out for the summit from the Pen y Pass car park. This is now a pre-booked service but there are regular buses running from the villages of Llanberis and Nant Peris park and ride. There’s a YHA Hostel at the pass that’s a great option for anyone who wants to make a super early start on the Pyg or Miners Track. However, there aren’t any other facilities to enjoy. The hostel can get booked up in the busier months, so plan ahead and make your reservation early. If the hostel is full, the YHA also operate hostels in Llanberis, Bryn Gwynant, Betws-y-Coed and at the Snowdon Ranger.

As well as being the home of the infamous, mythical hound, Gelert, Beddgelert is an ideal place to stay if you’re heading up the mountain via the Watkins, Snowdon Ranger and Rhyd Ddu paths. With plenty of places to eat, relax and enjoy yourself, it’s the perfect, picturesque spot from which to explore Snowdonia. It also boasts one of the best ice cream shops in the whole of Wales!

Rhyd Ddu
The picturesque hamlet of Ryhd Ddu is an absolute treat! Featuring a wonderful pub and hotel in the Cwellyn Arms, as well as the quirky Tŷ Mawr tea rooms, the village is accessible via the Rhyd Ddu Welsh Highland Railway station.

A little further afield than the other towns mentioned, Betws-y-Coed still offers easy access to Snowdon. It’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and the wide array of hiking and climbing shops mean you’ll be able to pick up any gear you need there, too. There’s a diverse array of restaurants, accommodation and other facilities, as well as a stop for the S2 Snowdon Sherpa bus service, which departs Betws-y-Coed for Pen y Pass and Llanberis.

Getting to Snowdon

When considering how you’re going to get to Snowdon, there are a few options. While we know it’s not always possible, we would encourage visitors to arrive by public transport if they can. Snowdon is a place of outstanding natural beauty and vast numbers of cars not only threatens that beauty but also detracts from the experience of being out in nature.

By Car

  • • Pen y Pass – a busy car park that now offers a pre-booking service. Rates in the summer months range from £18 for 8-12 hours to £40 for 12-24 hours. Departure point for Pyg and Miners tracks
  • • Llanberis Village – plenty of parking opportunities in the village, from which the Llanberis path is easily accessible or you can catch a Sherpa bus to Pen y Pass
  • • Nant Peris Car Park – a good option for those travelling from Betws-y-Coed. Situated between Llanberis and Pen y Pass, you can park up and hop on the Snowdon Sherpa service, which will take you up to Pen y Pass
  • • Llyn Cwellyn Car Park – A relatively small and quiet car park designed for those attempting the Snowdon Ranger Path, it charges a rate of £6 per day
  • • Rhyd Ddu Car Park – at the foot of the Rhyd Ddu path and a short distance from the Snowdon Ranger car park, the Rhyd Ddu parking is shared with the West Highland Railway train station but usually has space. The rate is £6 a day
  • • Pont Bethania Car Park – located in Nant Gwynant, this serves those visitors climbing the Watkin Path. In peak season, it can get busy so make sure you don’t arrive too late in the morning. £6 per day.

By Bus
The Snowdon Sherpa Bus Service links all the main Snowdon routes and several nearby towns, making it the ideal way to reach trailheads without driving. It’s also a fantastic service for any walkers who want to start their day in one location and finish in another. You can find pricing, route and timetable information on their website.

By Train
Arriving by train is by far the most environmentally friendly option. The North Wales Coast Line skirts the northern edge of the park and includes stops at Llandudno and Bangor, from which you can reach the Betws-y-Coed and Blaenau Ffestiniog stations via train or bus.

The Cambrian Line approaches the park from the south and stops at Porthmadog – a historic harbour town just outside Snowdonia National Park. From Porthmadog, you can pick up the fantastic Welsh Highland Railway, which runs through Snowdonia and stops at Beddgelert, Rhyd Ddu and Snowdon Ranger.

We Hope to See You Soon!

We hope our guide to climbing Snowdon has helped you prepare for your trip! Here at Climb Snowdon, we offer Snowdon experiences that are grounded in a respect for the environment, sustainability, safety and, of course, having fun.

As experienced Mountain Leaders, we help you plan your Snowdon climb, provide you with a full kit list, lead excursions with experienced, qualified and insured guides and offer advice on local accommodation and activities. We truly love Snowdon and the surrounding area and bring that passion with us whenever we head up the mountain. We hope we can share it with you someday soon.

If you would like to learn more about Climb Snowdon, take a look at what we do. If you want to get in touch, please contact us.