Mount Snowdon Hike 17-19th June 2016
Having climbed Ben Nevis last year and feeling very pleased with myself for completing the challenge, it has opened a new gate for me to climb/hike even more. What initially started out as a challenge for charity turned out to be a new passion that I wish to continue. It makes sense to follow a theme with my new passion and continue with the highest peaks of Britain; Ben Nevis is the highest peak in Scotland so the next step is to climb the peak of Wales, Snowdon!
I am still by no means what you would call an expert mountain climber so tackling the mountains of Britain seems like a good way to train for the more ambitious climbs like Mount Everest (I’m brave, but not THAT brave). The climb up Ben Nevis was a part of an organised group through a charity; this provided a mountain guide which adds safety for the climber. Even though I have chosen to do Snowdon independently I have decided to hire a professional mountain guide to take us up.
With any trip you take, especially one that may involve adventurous activities, researching is key. The first thing I have considered is the best time to go. British weather being unpredictable you will find it drier during May to September. I have chosen the end of June, praying that the weekend will be dry and have good visibility. I have the correct walking boots and waterproofs from my last climb so I am already prepared in that sense. Snowdon offers several climbing routes from the long and scenic climbs which is suitable for a beginner, to the hard and physical climbs involving scrambling and rock climbing, there is all in all 6 main routes up Snowdon. For the leisure traveller who wants to see the mountain summit without the strain then there is a railway to the top.
With all my facts about Snowdon, the routes up and my climbing gear in place there is one more major part to the trip, accommodation. The route you choose up is something to factor in when booking to ensure you are staying in the correct location. There are a lot of hotels, or guest houses to choose from and all very centrally located. I have booked a guest house which is in a fantastic location of North Wales; however the biggest bonus is it offers a mountain guide service.
Glyn Peris is the name of our home for 2 nights, this is a privately-owned guest house run by a couple, Paul and Ceris. Once I have made the booking, Ceris assists me with organising my climbing guide and recommends which routes to take, with her guidance we choose Pyg track up and Miners track back down. Glyn Peris will also organise a packed lunch for your climb if you let them know in advance. All in all, if you are unsure where to stay and what route to choose, the friendly staff at Glyn Peris will make the whole process easier and allow you to book everything with confidence.
With everything in place, we make our 4-hour road trip to the beautiful North of Wales. I have formed my very own little climber group as I am being joined by my Dad, my elder brother, a colleague from work along with my best friend and travel companion Dipali. I knew my Dad would be keen to join, when I did Ben Nevis the year before, my Dad travelled with us as our groupie, little did we know that he decided to start a small climb up Ben Nevis and ended up doing the whole route to the top! When I decided to book Snowdon and invite him along, he didn’t hesitate to join.
You will know when you have reached Wales even before you see the “Welcome to Wales” signs. There is a lot more greenery; the whole place looks so natural and beautiful. But, the biggest tell-tale sign is the human population starts to decrease, you will be surrounded by sheep, not one or two grazing in a field alone, they have taken over the human race! It definitely feels as though there are more sheep than people, this offers a very peaceful surrounding with a few “baas” to break the silence every now and then.
Glyn Peris is located in an area called Llanberis, which is also one of the paths up Snowdon. Llanberis is a longer route but would be the easiest; this more or less follows the train path. I read in a few online reviews that this can be a popular and busier route, seeing as we are climbing on a Saturday there will be a lot of tourists. Glyn Peris is very close to all the major routes but also situated within a short walk to restaurants and pubs. There are also a few shops if you want to stock up on essentials. The part that I jumped for joy at was, the fact we are in a small quaint little village and I found, not one but TWO Indian restaurants! If in doubt on food choice, there is always a butter chicken and naan just around the corner.
Once we arrive at our guest house, we complete a registration form then are each shown to our rooms. The guest house is perfect and I am really pleased with the find. The location is perfect, cleanliness perfect and most of all, the staff are ready to help with local information or booking any hikes. I generally haven’t considered booking a guest house before but this has completely changed my view. I feel extremely pleased with myself for finding it and with everyone else telling me they love the choice, I know that I have found a little gem.
After a comfortable sleep and a lovely hot cooked breakfast, we meet with our Mountain guide John. The drive to our base takes us approx. ten minutes, there is car parking facilities which for a whole day is GBP £10 (USD $12). If you are not driving they offer a bus service called Sherpa bus that will stop at your desired route. As we are doing the Pyg track up and Miners path down you can park (or take the Sherpa bus) to Pen y pass.
Once you park up you can see the peak of Snowdon standing proudly in front of you. Whilst it is a clear day the summit is completely covered by clouds. John gathers us together and explains how our climb will be, explaining what Pyg track will be like in terms of the terrain. He makes sure that we all have decent walking shoes/boots, back packs with water and waterproofs in case of rain. Having a group of you with a guide is sensible, the guide can judge how safe the mountain is and if there is a sudden change in weather, they will know if you should be continuing to the top or turning back around.
The last pre-climb prep to consider is the toilet stop. The car park and bus stop area is your very last toilet opportunity, so make sure you use it as your next loo will be a tree, a bush or perhaps a sheep infested field. Toilet breaks taken, we begin towards Pyg track with a slow and steady walk. The terrain is rocky but does not start off too steeply.
The bonus with Snowdon is it’s our own private group, so the walk can be at a much more leisurely pace. With our last climb it was part of a charity hike and therefore more urgency to get to the top. I have my camera with me so that I really can take in everything and enjoy the entire experience as well as challenge my personal goal. I’m really pleased I roped my brother into this as I can already tell he is enjoying himself. He is skipping off ahead of me along the rocky terrain like a child with a new toy. My brother, my Dad and I are very competitive people so wasn’t sure if we would try and annoy one another to get to the top first; I especially thought my Dad and brother would have the “I am man” race against one another. But, we are all appearing to be in a team spirit instead of a competitive one.
Snowdon is a beautiful mountain to climb; there is so much greenery and a lake below us with the crispest, clearest water. This must be the view you have on the mountain rail as it climbs up, it is stunning. Every so often the sun starts to appear and creates a powerful reflective crystal glaze over the lake. I cannot stop taking pictures or filming it, there is so much scenery you want to bring back with you and show people how amazing British mountains are. I continue walking looking through my camera and snapping but then the ground starts to become a lot harder to walk on, as I nearly go flying over a boulder I realise that I need to tuck the camera away for a while before I fly off the mountain taking my last ever photo!
The terrain takes a dramatic change and we are now having to scramble over a few higher rocks and having to raise our legs to get to our next step. I am taking it slow and notice John our guide hopping over the rocks like a speedy little chipmunk. He then explains that I should trust the support of my boots (you always feel like you may slip) there is more grip than you realise. The other tip John offers as he notices that if there is a higher boulder on our path we are all finding the lower and smoother ground to walk on, he then points out to stay on the higher ground as it will keep getting rockier and we will tire ourselves out quicker.
We make a few pits stops to regain our energy along the way. The weather for hiking is good and it will feel colder as you climb higher, but your body will be very hot with the constant moving and climbing. The clouds are very low so it has created a lot of dew on the smooth boulders, this makes it very slippery, I do take a slight tumble, I’m weirdly finding Snowdon to be a tougher climb than Ben Nevis!
This is generally people’s misconception of mountain climbing (when I say people I mainly mean me) that if it isn’t as high as the one you have already climbed, then it will be easier. Err nope, you couldn’t be more wrong. Well, so I am finding out, as I’m struggling with Snowdon, there seems to be a lot higher boulders and not much smooth pathways. I feel like everyone in my group is finding it easy whereas I seem to be lagging behind and complaining when I see another rock to tackle.
John is a great guide; we are picking his brain on skills and tips for climbing. He tells us about the various groups he takes and even teaches navigation skills, there are GPS devices you can buy that will do the hard navigation work for you, but John recommends learning the good old fashion map reading skills. I would like to gain more knowledge for these challenges; even some rock climbing could be a good skill to acquire.
The climb up takes around 3 hours, for a steady pace. This can of course be a shorter climb depending on your fitness levels. The start should be early morning to get a clear less populated climb, plus this will give you a good amount of time to get to the summit and to spend some time up there. After a couple of hours tackling a few hefty boulders, we manage to reach a steady path with a few little rocky areas and the train track now beside us. Towards the peak, I notice the little rock collection that climbers add to mark a point of their route (I have now discovered this is called a Cairn, a trail marker); what I haven’t seen before which John points out to us is a Penny post. The Penny post is a block of wood where other climbers have added their penny to for good luck wishes.
It is completely clouded at this point and my hair is covered with the cloudy due drops giving me a new mountain hair do! I remember a couple of Everest climbers that had mountainous hair and updated everyone with their new bizarre dos each day by trending a post called “Hair by Everest”, I now have “Hair by Snowdon”.
The train is approaching through the clouds and I stop to snap some beautiful shots of the area, the mist adds a spooky look to the picture. The summit is within our sights and we all have a new excited burst of energy, both my brother and father are racing ahead to the top.
Unlike the summit on Ben Nevis which seemed quiet and almost eerie, Snowdon is the complete opposite. There is a crowd of people queuing to get on the steps to the highest peak of the mountain and grab their selfie with the summit plaque. There is a café at the top of the mountain for all the train passengers to have a coffee or a sandwich so be warned that it is very busy up the top. There is nothing wrong with getting to a summit in this way as hiking is not for everyone, I found it comical seeing us with all our boots and layers taking pictures next to people with shorts and flip flops. The only drawback is that after your hours of hardship you then must queue with a large crowd (busier as it is a Saturday) to get to the highest point. I’m not disappointed and we are all pleased with ourselves for getting to the finish line. We take a while to sit and have lunch and take a well-deserved break.
The feeling of getting to the top is an indescribable, but I now feel my heart sink as I know my challenge is about to begin. Ben Nevis taught me the hard way that the descent is the hardest part of a mountain climb. The steps you took up will feel a million times harder stepping down it. The part that worries me the most is the slippery ascent will feel a lot scarier in reverse.
The Pyg track is classed as a moderate climb and not the hardest, however it has still been quite challenging. John explains the miner track will not be as bad, there will be a few high steps down for the first hour or so but it will then become a pleasant walk close to the beautiful lake we saw. This is always a better way to climb Snowdon, take one route up and a less challenging one back down, not adding too much strain on your knees.
The first hour back down proves that we are all tired; we are all walking at a much slower pace. Just like John advised the nearer we head to the lake the less strenuous the walk seems to be and thankfully we are on a smooth path for the next couple of hours. The Miners track is less taxing and picturesque but definitely a longer journey down.
Dipali and I slow our pace right down and start to enjoy a slow and scenic walk, the men are ahead of us having a well-deserved man moment, possibly re capping their heroic climb. The sun also appears as if it is lighting our path home. This allows us to take our pictures of the lake with the mountain as a backdrop. I look behind me a few times to see the beautiful beastly mountain, it sets in what we have done, and that is 2 out of three peaks!
After thanking John for helping our group safely up and down the mountain we all have a little celebratory drink and meal in the evening. I may have to repeat the climb up Ben Nevis at some point as my brother now has the mountain bug and wants to add it to his list. For now our next summit will be Scafell (hopefully).
North of Wales is a destination to add to your list of places to visit. The hiking and mountain aside there is so much to offer. Before we make our trip to London we make a pit stop at Swallow falls in an area called Betws y coed. If you like a natural waterfall, this is the place to see and have a photo stop. These breaks I have taken to the British mountains are fast becoming a learning experience for me; you don’t need to fly across the world to find beauty. A couple of nights in the North of Wales is ideal for everyone. If you are not a hiking person then there is lot of history or natural waterfalls, beautiful areas along with quaint little Welsh villages to visit. There is no shortage of sheep either if you are a sheep spotter (if there is such a hobby).
I have so much respect for the three peak challengers; I am wiped out after one climb the fact they are tackling all three in 24 hours (I saw them during my climb) all I can say is “I am not worthy”. Maybe I could do this, someday. For now, one at a time is fine.
Click for more information on Glyn Peris
Follow the hike @ Snowdon Hike
- Llanberis path – moderate
- Miners track – moderate+
- Pyg Track – moderate+
- Snowdon Ranger – moderate
- South Ridge – moderate+
- Watkins Path – moderate/hard
- Snowdon Horseshoe – hard/severe