Snowdon: King of the Welsh Mountains
Ok, I’m in Wales. In Snowdonia to be precise. And for someone who enjoys hiking that can only mean one thing; Welsh Cakes! Well, they are rather nice. But joking aside, I am of course talking about Snowdon, the King of the Welsh mountains; in fact, king of the English ones too considering it is the highest out of both countries.
Snowdon: King of the Welsh Mountains
Phil Whyman, Sara, and their son Ben take on the awesome Mount Snowdon in Wales: spectacular views; changing climate; and some oddly dressed people. How did they get on? Hike.Mountain.Trail has all the details!
This is the first time that I – and my family – have visited Snowdon, and we were looking forward to it; we had already opted for the ascent via the PYG track, with the Miner’s track being our preferred choice of descent. So, with our plans all set, route chosen, and our hiking gear in tow we set off for Pen y Pass car park, the usual starting point for the PYG track. Things were looking good…until at 8.20am we pulled in to the car park just as the warden was putting a line of cones out across the entrance, and shaking his rather strict face firmly in our direction; it was chocka.
PYG Track 1 – 0 The Whymans.
Unperturbed, we had a family conflab (incidnetally, family being my wife Sara, and our son Ben) and came up with the brilliant idea of heading to the Llanberis Path, and ascending Snowdon via this route. Granted, it was a longer way up to the summit. Granted, it would more than likely be a lot busier. But what the heck…
So, at about 9.30-ish after parking the car, and having been given some very friendly advice from the car park wardens (they were making sure everyone who parked there had the right gear, clothes, and water for the climb) we set off towards the Llanberis Path, which began proper after a walk of about 20 minutes to get to it, via a steep roadway. It was a beautiful day.
Depending on how quickly you go it is advisable to give yourself about 3 hours to ascend, and the same to come back down again, making a total journey time of 6 hours; it is approximately 9 miles in total. Incidentally, Snowdon is 1,085 metres high…or 3,560ft in old money. Whilst it is not a technical climb / hike it is a long slog on a never-ending rise; having a good level of stamina is your best friend here, and I advise having your walking poles at the ready. You can of course opt to take the Snowdon Mountain Railway train to the summit if you feel so inclined to do so; this narrow-gauge railway runs from the bottom of the mountain all the way to the top, and takes about 45 minutes or so. Anyway, I digress slightly…
Visibility was great, although looking up towards the higher peaks you could see cloud being blown across their tops. The track – which is easy to follow what with so many others on the mountain – can be a bit mischievous, and if you do not watch your footing you will find yourself slipping on the loose chunks of rock, or tripping on a stone jutting up from the ground; this is where the poles comes in handy.
About 90 minutes or so in to the ascent stands the Halfway House café, so called because it is approximately halfway between the top and the bottom of Snowdon’s summit (it’s slightly more than halfway); but I guess I didn’t need to tell you that, did I? It is popular and can get very busy. You can get such luxuries as sausage rolls, chocolates, pop, and of course tea, coffee, and water. You can stop for a loo break too, but be warned that if you do not buy anything from the café you will be charged 50p to use the facilities. Either way you will have a wait most of the time, as there is only one loo!
After a little respite, we set off again for the second leg of our Snowdon hike; apparently, according to one of the café staff members, we had about another 90 minutes of hiking ahead of us, and that it started to get a lot steeper from this point on. They were not wrong; the views are amazing, however. The far-reaching vistas include mountain lakes, distant mountains, towns, and a beach; I don’t know which one though (I shall now don the dunce’s hat and stand in the corner for a while).
Ok, I am back out of the corner.
One of the best moments – and for us this truly was a wow factor – is when you walk through the little railway track underpass and out the other side, where you are met with an awesome view of rugged mountains and the road entering Llanberis way below you; you really do get a proper taste of how high you are. Not good for my fear of heights, but well worth my tip-toeing to the edge for a better peek. Breathe, Whyman, breathe! We took a little rest here; we just wanted to stay a while to admire the views.
It wasn’t long before Sara, Ben, and I were off again, and heading in to the final leg of our journey: the Snowdon summit. The weather soon started to change somewhat, and quite quickly too. Initially I had started out in my t-shirt, with my gilet over the top, and not too long in to this final section I had to pull out my down winter jacket; the temperature was rapidly becoming very cold, in no part thanks to the brisk wind whipping the clouds across Snowdon’s higher sections. We had catered for this though, and had winter outerwear stashed in our backpacks.
Sara and Ben were now wearing gloves as we plodded along at our own pace, in and out of the now fog-like cloud cover. Stupidly I had forgotten to pack my own gloves, but I did have a rather nifty piece of kit that I just happened to be carrying for review purposes; a Celestron Elements FireCel Mega 6 handwarmer (it’s also a power-bank and a 4-mode torch…look out for my review coming up on the site very soon!). It was this device that stopped my hands going completely numb in the wind, thankfully.
Looking around me as I was taking stock of how the climate had changed, I simply could not believe how some on the mountain were dressed. I saw people in clothes that you would wear to go to the supermarket in; people wearing flat-soled plimsoles; kitten heel-type boots; summer jackets; the list is almost endless.
TIP: PLEASE make sure you wear appropriate footwear and clothing, and have something you can put on when the climate or weather conditions turn, whenever you venture out on a hike/mountain walk. And have food, drink, and an emergency first aid kit…and a phone. And tell someone responsible where you are going, and what time you are expected to return.
Eventually we start the final approach, walking past the Finger Stone which is a waypoint marker for the descent via The PYG Track / Miner’s Track. Looking over the edge here at the path I could see just how much cloud had descended on that route; it was a regular pea soup type affair.
Finally, out of the cloud emerged the train station which is the final port of call for the Snowdon Mountain Railway train; from here it was now just short walk to the actual trig point and the mountain’s summit. To say it was busy at the summit proper would be an understatement; it was heaving to the point of being downright dangerous. There is a small winding set of steps to the actual trig point, and everyone and their dog seemed to be bustling and jostling to get a photo opportunity here.
Sadly, the views from the top were almost non-existent, apart from when we had just set off on our descent; the clouds cleared just enough for Sara to take a snapshot over the edge of the lake far below at the bottom of the PYG track; it was awesome. There goes my fear of heights again…*breathe*.