Climbing Snowdon was never a must-do activity for us when we moved to the UK three years ago, and we definitely never considered climbing Snowdon in the winter! Over the past few years, Wales has become a go-to destination for us; we love how it’s so close, and yet feels like traveling to a completely different country (and technically it is). There’s also something about Wales that inspires us to get outside and explore, and this year we decided to start out 2019 with a particularly memorable experience: climbing Mt. Snowdon.
If Snowdon is on your bucket-list for this year, we’ve got a few tips to help you make it the optimal experience.
What you should know about climbing in the winter
Snowdon is a pretty popular mountain so if you’re keen to avoid crowds wintertime is the best time to climb it. The train that runs up to the summit is closed during this time of year, and fewer people are willing to brave the cold in order to reach the top. You’ll still get absolutely stunning scenery though, so in our eyes it’s definitely worth doing!
That being said, weather is quite tricky in the winter. It can get extremely cold in Wales and the weather tends to be temperamental—as in, from one hour to the next it can change very suddenly. Case in point, we failed on our first attempt to ascend the mountain due to the weather. It was simply too cold, rainy, and windy to risk trying to get to the top, so we ended up turning around. However, the very next day we got sunny weather for the entire climb, so it can really vary from day to day, hour to hour. Check the daily forecasts to see which days are the best to climb, and don’t be embarrassed about turning around if the weather takes a turn for the worst.
What you should know about preparing for the climb
We didn’t feel that you need to be incredibly fit or an experienced hiker to climb Snowdon. We saw all types of people (and dogs) making the climb and it can be done as long as you’re safe and careful. If you’re planning to climb in winter we’d recommend investing in a decent pair of hiking boots with no-slip treads as the rocks can get wet and icy and it’s a bit treacherous at parts.
Layers are also key in the winter. It never hurts to have an extra layer to keep you warm—you can always take stuff off if need be, but you can’t wear what you don’t bring! Wear clothing that will wick away moisture. Wool is a great option for a winter trek. While it might sound weird, you actually will sweat, even in really cold weather, and it can be dangerous if your clothes don’t dry quickly enough or keep the moisture off your skin. Opt for wool on the inside and waterproofs on the outside. We learned this lesson the hard way!
What you should know about the length of the trek
Locals told us that it would take 4 hours to ascend and descend Snowdon, but we think this only applies to people who have done it before. For first-timers we recommend setting aside 5-6 hours to do the trek. The reason being that you’ll most likely be stopping to take photos along the way, pausing to rest, or simply climbing more slowly because the trail is new to you.
Of course, in winter this means that you need to make the most of your daylight hours and embark on the hike by 10am if you want to be back down before it begins to get dark. The first hour of the trek is quite straightforward and easy, you’ll be walking a wide path that slowly rises, so you can even start the hike early in the morning when it’s still dark out. We saw people starting out at 7am before the sun was up (we ourselves started the hike at 8am). This is also another great way to avoid crowds as not many people are climbing at that hour.
Remember to carry energy bars, sandwiches, or other snacks as well as water. The nearest food is the café at the foot of the trails, and you’ll definitely need food and water during your 5-hour trek!
What you need to know about the trails
There are several paths up Snowdon, and you can select your option depending on how difficult you’d like your climb to be.
Llanberis Path – This one is the easiest, but also the longest. It meanders at a steady rise all the way up to the peak and is smooth enough you can bike it if you dare.
Miner’s Path – This is the path we took up both days and is pretty easy going for the first half but can be tricky on the second part (this will be where you’ll need no-slip boots). Recommended if you’re looking for a challenge but are still new to hiking.
Pyg Path – This was by far the hardest path we attempted and you need to be extra careful with this one. It involves more rocky climbing than gentle slopes and the pathway isn’t always clear so it’s easy to get lost.
For maps and info you can stop in at the YHA at the foot of Snowdon where some of the major paths begin.
What you need to know about getting there
There is parking at the base where the paths begin, but this fills up fast so you need to arrive quite early (around 7am) to get a spot. In the summer we heard that by 7am it’s full already, so be sure to adjust accordingly. All-day parking is £10 here.
If the parking lot is full, you do have the option of parking on the shoulder of the road. There’s several free parking areas along the road, but this will add about an hour to your trek as you’ll have to hike from your car up to the paths and back.
A third option is to use the Snowdon Sherpa. This is a bus that serves as a form of transportation around the foot of Snowdon. You can buy a day pass for £5, or a single-use pass for £2. Check the website for updates though, as the Snowdon Sherpa doesn’t run on some holidays.
That’s it! Hopefully this will help you plan your winter trek up Snowdon. Let us know how it goes!