Last weekend, I ticked something off my list that I’d been meaning to do for a long time – climb Mount Snowdon. Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales – it’s 1,085m/3,560ft high and is located in Snowdonia National Park. We started planning the trip back in January with my cousin Rick, his lovely wife Danielle and their two sons, who are 9 and 12. The weather in Wales is notoriously wet and cold, we had no idea what we’d end up with but we struck utter gold.
It was a super-long drive up on Friday night – we picked Big Brother up en route and then drove and drove and drove. As we got to the Welsh border, it got dark. The roads narrowed and it got more and more isolated. We arrived at the campsite at 10pm, found our cousins and put up our borrowed tent, making plans to be ready to leave at 8am. We were tired and a little dejected.
The next morning felt totally different. The morning sky was gorgeous and with the daylight, we realised how spectacularly beautiful our campsite was. Llyn Gwynant campsite is located in a gorgeous valley. There was a lovely lake, we were surrounded by steep green mountains – it was wonderful.
We got ourselves ready to hike and then all piled somewhat precariously into the car and drove the few miles to the trailhead. As expected, the small car-park was full but the Husband dropped us off, parked the car a mile or so down the road and got one of the many taxis that shuttle hikers up to the trailhead. There were many people there already of all ages, shapes and sizes. The sky was clear and everyone was buzzing to get going.
Our planned route was to take the Pyg track up and then Miners’ Track down and that worked really well for us. Pyg climbs the whole way but it’s very do-able and never particularly hard. You just have to keep going. It’s a mix of surfaces with some large ‘steps’ but on the whole, it was very pleasant. The views were wonderful. Spirits were high.
As Snowdon’s peak came into view, we were both wowed by the beauty of the place and a little daunted by the climb ahead but we just kept walking steadily, stopping every half hour to rest and to snack. That worked really well for our boys – the snacks were motivating and there was no moaning at all.
There was one big push which got a little steeper as we climbed up towards the ridge but before we knew it, we were there and the views over the other side were fabulous.
I’d expected that final climb from the ridge junction to the summit to be about an hour and to be pretty tough but it was incredibly easy – it must have taken us 15 minutes at the most and wasn’t steep at all. Before we knew it, we were there at the top. We’d made it!
We spent a good hour at the top enjoying the cafe and the warmth. We’d really struck gold with the weather and had nothing to complain about but a little extra warmth was lovely. We’d promised each of the boys a fiver to spend in the souvenir shop if there was no moaning – they all earned their money and spent it with relish.
On the way down, we descended back to the junction with Pyg and then dropped down for a good half hour as people slogged their way up. It was pretty warm now, we were glad we’d started early. We then took Miners’ Track off to the right. The initial descent to the reservoir was surprisingly technical and tricky – I’m a bit of a chicken on the descents so I took it very cautiously and my quads were jelly at the end but we all made it safely and it wasn’t too bad. But we were all glad to rest by the water’s edge for a snack.
After the reservoir, the trail was flat or gently descending the whole way so the hiking was very easy but oh it was endless. It took us forever and we were tired and very relieved when we turned the final corner and saw the car-park at the bottom.
All in all, it took us about six hours up and down. Just under three hours to ascend (2 hrs 50 ish), an hour at the top and about two hours to descend. I think that was pretty decent.
I’m so so glad we did this climb – I’ve wanted to do it for ages – and doing it on such a beautiful day was an absolute treat. It was also lovely doing it with my cousin and his wife – after being good friends as kids, we drifted apart as adults and getting to know him and his family again has been such a delight. I adore his wife and our boys have become firm friends already. I feel really lucky.
I googled many blogs about doing this hike so in the interests of being useful, here’s some practical information.
- We stayed at Llyn Gwynant campsite and wholeheartedly recommend it. Beautifully located, really friendly and relaxed. Clean loos and showers. Helpful, patient staff. There’s a lovely lady who comes to do coffee in the mornings and there was a pizza oven guy on the Saturday night we were there.
- We went up Pyg and down Miners and think we chose well for our party. I wouldn’t recommend going up Miners. That climb from the reservoir to the ridge would be brutal.
- We did well with the weather but we took clothes for rain and cold. We took some emergency blankets, plenty of water and plenty of food. We came back with loads of unused water and food, all of which had been heavy to carry, but it was definitely the right decision.
- On a sunny day, don’t forget sunscreen.
- Our kids were 14,12,9 and 8. They were all pretty fit and healthy but hadn’t done much hiking since last summer. I think most kids with a solid fitness level would be fine – we saw a 4 year old girl bouncing up. What’s most important here is their motivation and attitude – a fiver to spend in the gift-shop was pretty cheap motivation!
- Stopping to rest and snack regularly worked really well – stable blood-sugar and short intervals between snacks were key to getting our boys moving steadily.
- The car-park was filled long before we got there at 8.15. There’s a park-and-ride 3 miles south towards Llanberis but we parked at the junction of the Pen-y-Pass road and Roman Camp. Be REALLY careful where you park – some cars parked in the wrong place and we must have seen 30 parked along the main road with parking tickets! There were plentiful taxis, including minibus taxis, taking people from car-parks to the trailhead for ￡2pp.
- If you’re hiking with kids, be prepared to stop and go back at any point. This could be due to worsening weather conditions or kids simply not enjoying it. There will always be another day!
- This blog post was helpful for me and the photos are much better than mine!