Last month I felt like a challenge, and decided to climb Mount Snowdon – the highest peak in Wales and England. After swooning over some images online, I got taken in by the beauty and it was only a matter of time before we set off!
A couple of weeks before my birthday, I hopped on Airbnb and found a gorgeous little cottage in the National Park, 4 Miles from Betws-y-Coed and within easy distance of most of Snowdon’s highest peaks. I couldn’t resist booking a couple of nights away, all so I could see this for myself in real life:
After booking a quaint semi-detached stone cottage with views across the valley and amazing walks from the door, we drove up to Wales complete with snow boots, a boot full of birthday presents and a (much needed) car care package courtesy of Hudgell Solicitors.
I definitely recommend preparing your car for winter when traveling – stock up on de-icer, blankets, hand warmers and emergency equipment – you never know when you might break down. We got a flat tire and I can’t tell you how glad we were to be prepared with a spare from TreadHunter.com, without it, we might still be there.
After passing some outstanding views, we arrived at the 150 year old former slate miner’s semi-detached cottage, set on the hillside, half a mile above the village of Penmachno in the peaceful Machno Valley, four miles from Betws-y-Coed and within easy reach of many of the major peaks.
After a long day of driving and a ridiculously huge Asda trip for food and wine (because going away for two days, we need to have a VW Polo’s worth of groceries, right?) we decided to make some dinner and sit by the fire, since we knew after breakfast and presents in bed, we would have a long day ahead of us!
If you’re planning to do the trip yourself, I suggest you do some research first and decide which route is best for you before you set off. There are six main routes to the summit of Snowdon – Watkin Path, Llanberis Path, Pyg Track, Miner’s’ Track, Snowdon Ranger Path, Beddegelert Path/Rhyd Ddu.
Crib Goch needs a mention here, but mainly to say it is not a route for the novice walker. If you are walking with a dog, suffer from a fear of heights or are not properly equipped and not an experienced mountain walker do not attempt this route. Crib Goch is a knife edged arete. It is very exposed and should not be attempted in windy conditions at all. It has a steep vertical drop on one side, and also drops off steeply on the other side.
After much deliberation, we decided to take the Pyg Track up the mountain, and come back down via the Miners Track, this was suitable for our experience and also allowed us to follow scenic routes that we were pining after. Whatever route you decide to take, I highly recommend gloves, crampons and waterproofs at the very least.
The Pyg and the Miners Tracks start at the same point. The car park here gets very full, and an early start is essential. It is not known how the Pyg Track got its name – it could be as it passes over the Pigs’s Pass (Bwlch y Mocl), because it is close to the Pen y Gwryd Hotel, or because pyg, in welsh, also means pitch, and part of the surface of the path looks like black pitch. Much of this walk is rugged, and very challenging, but the scenery is incredible.
We were super lucky, as the weather was beautiful. The sun was shining and there were a few clouds, but nothing worth worrying about (or so we thought!). Despite my boyfriend being an incredible professional photographer, pictures don’t do the scenery any justice – I was genuinely left speechless at some points.
If you take the Pyg Track both ways, you’ll end up completing a round trip starting from Pen y Pass Car Park, which will be roughly 7 miles and climb 723m (2,371 ft). This should take you 6 hours in total depending on the weather.
From the picture above, you can see that some parts of the track are flat and there is a clear path. This was taken after about an hour or so of walking. Right at the beginning there is stone steps that are a little exhausting, but generally it’s just a gentle uphill walk with no real climbing.
After a couple of hours, we started taking photographs less and less. It was outstanding, but this is when the ground started to get icy and there were parts where we had to climb, and hold on to stop ourselves slipping. To avoid breaking our cameras, we only got them out occasionally – this felt like every 5 minutes though.
One lost glove, iced hair and half a packet of cookies (we should have taken much more food and water!), we finally summited during a snowstorm. Battling 45mph winds in the snow is probably not what most people consider a good way to spend their birthday – but it was the most amazing day ever and I’m so glad we booked an impromptu trip!
After a celebratory kiss standing 1,085m on top of a mountain, we ascended sliding (unintentionally, and rather dangerously) down ice slides. We didn’t realise that further down the mountain it was raining, so that would probably explain why we were the last ones to reach the top – most people likely turned around because of the weather.
Soaked through, we followed the Miners Track – following the opening of the Llanberis pass in 1832, the Miners Path was built to carry copper from the Britannia Copper Works near Llyn Glaslyn to Pen y Pass, where it was then transported to Caernarfon. The mining came to an end in 1916, remains from the work can still be seen on the path to this day. It’s about 8 miles if you do a round trip, and has a total climb of 723m (2,371 ft).
Once Sam finished taking photos of the back of my head, we went back to the cottage for a hot shower and a steak dinner. We snuggled up around the inglenook fireplace resting our muscles, whilst sipping on Slingsby gin for the rest of the evening.
Before driving back to the Mother Land, we took a trip to IKEA and YO!Sushi to empty the bank accounts – because no trip would be complete without. I heard Edmund Hillary trained on Snowdon before conquering Mount Everest – I reckon we’ll probably be climbing Ben Nevis next, but maybe one day..