The Essentials for Hiking on Snowdon
So you’re feeling adventurous and you’ve set your sights on conquering Snowdon – a worthy goal indeed. But before you set off, it’s important to think very carefully about how you’re going to ascend the mountain and what you need to complete the challenge safely. Snowdon’s hugely popular among visitors, hundreds of thousands of whom scale the mountain every year.
If you’re in reasonably good physical condition, you shouldn’t have too much trouble reaching Snowdon’s summit on foot. Nevertheless, proper preparation is still essential – so here’s a quick guide to what you’ll need to bear in mind when you’re hiking up Snowdon.
Planning your trip
Firstly, you might have to be flexible about when you attempt your ascent. If you’re visiting Snowdonia, it’s best to take a few days out in the hope that the weather clears up sufficiently on at least one of them. You should always check the weather forecast before setting off so you have a good idea of what conditions to expect. Conditions at the summit are likely to be somewhat colder than lower down, so it’s always best to have warm clothing to hand just in case.
However experienced a hillwalker you are, you should be prepared for mishaps. Be ready to deal with getting lost or being involved in an accident. Be ready to provide information as to your whereabouts and the conditions around you. Some knowledge of first aid can also be highly useful in these situations. Of course, if you’re relatively inexperienced and feel you need a helping hand, there are plenty of mountain guides in the area who can help show you the way up to Snowdon’s summit.
Equipment and clothing
You will, of course, need to make sure you have the right equipment to hand when you’re attempting to hike up Snowdon – and you should dress appropriately for the occasion. Here’s some of the gear you’ll need.
- Walking boots and thick walking socks.
- Waterproofs are worth having even if the weather is forecast to be favourable – so consider taking a waterproof jacket and over trousers. A lightweight fleece can help keep you warm, too.
- A hat and gloves are must-haves for Snowdon. It’s worth taking more than one pair of gloves if there’s rain forecast.
Take a roomy rucksack with you, preferably one with a capacity of between 25 and 35 litres.
- Take sun protection such as sun cream, sunglasses and an appropriate hat.
- Make sure you take any required medication with you on your trip.
- You’ll need to have plenty of food and water to hand. Don’t take sugary sweets, though – bananas, dried fruit and sandwiches are much better.
- Be prepared in case of an accident. A whistle can be useful for getting the attention of other people should you need to.
- An orange poly survival bag is also worth having so you have some shelter in case conditions turn nasty.
- Take a map of the area and a compass, and make sure you know how to use both.
Also, consider bringing a pair of binoculars to spot the best of North Wales’ wildlife.
While being a great place to hike, Snowdon is also an animal hotspot. Expect to see a variety of local wildlife, including mountain goats, otters, polecats, and even a soaring peregrine falcon if you get especially lucky.
The bird charity RSPB is a good option for buying a pair of binoculars for your hiking trip. After all, profits made from your purchase are reinvested in vital conservation work, including work happening at the nearby Ynys-hir reserve.
The best binoculars for wildlife spotting in Snowdonia are those with 10x magnification — this is because they provide a narrow field of view, ideal for tracking animals in the expansive open wilderness found on the Snowdon rails.
Snowdon’s main paths
There’s a number of footpaths up Snowdon offering varying levels of difficulty. If you’re a seasoned hillwalker then you might prefer to take one of the more challenging paths, but if you’re a relative newcomer it’s best to take one of the less arduous options. That said, none of the paths leading up to the summit are totally straightforward. Here’s a quick guide to six of Snowdon’s main paths.
Llanberis – the most popular path among visitors to Snowdon, the Llanberis path is easy to follow and the least challenging of the paths leading up Snowdon. In the summer, walkers can stop off at the Half Way House café located along the Llanberis path. The path does, however, get very busy in the summer.
Snowdon Ranger – perhaps the oldest path to the summit, this is also a relatively easy path compared to some of the others on the mountain. Snowdon Ranger also tends to be quieter than the Llanberis path until the two join. There is, however, a steeper section on loose scree to watch out for. The path meets up with Llanberis, Crib Goch, Pyg and Miner’s as well as the railway near the summit.
Watkin – named after railway owner and MP Sir Edward Watkin (who designed it), the Watkin path starts at a lower elevation than any of the other routes and is among the longest on Snowdon. Its length means it’s best suited to more experienced walkers, and there’s also a loose scree slope to watch out for at the top of the path. Gladstone Rock – where then-prime minister William gave a speech in 1892, aged 83 – is located close to the Watkin path.
Rhydd Ddu – although a generally moderate route similar to the Snowdon Ranger path, Rhydd Ddu has a sting in the tail in the form of a short, steep section on loose scree. It’s therefore best avoided by less experienced walkers. It meets up with the Watkin path just a few hundred metres from the mountain’s summit.
Pyg & Miner’s – tougher and best avoided by less experienced hikers, the Pyg and Miner’s paths form a lengthy circular route across some tricky terrain. Both paths begin from the car park at Pen-y-Pass, with the two joining for most of the zigzag ascent towards Bwlch Glas. Be careful to make a note of where the Pyg path joins Miner’s as it can sometimes be difficult to spot on the way back. If conditions take a turn for the worse and you need to descend via Llanberis, you can always catch the Sherpa bus back to the Pen-y-Pass car park.
Crib Goch – unsuitable for all but the most experienced and confident scramblers and mountaineers, Crib Goch is an exceptional ridge walk but also a very tough one. Part of the Snowdon Horseshoe, Crib Goch follows Pyg until separating from it at Bwlch y Moch and heading up the east ridge.
There are a few other points to remember too. For one thing, you should leave details of the route you’re planning to take and an indication of when you expect to return. That way, it should be easier for rescuers to find you should something go wrong. Being able to read maps and use compasses is very important. If you do find yourself involved in an accident, the ability to give the relevant grid reference could be potentially lifesaving.
Of course, there is another, much easier way of savouring Snowdon’s stunning sights. If you want to take in the breathtaking scenery of Snowdonia with the minimum of physical effort, you can always enjoy a relaxing trip to the summit on the Snowdon Mountain Railway instead.