LLANBERIS, ten miles west of Capel Curig, is the nearest you’ll get in Wales to an alpine climbing village, its main street thronged with weather-beaten walkers and climbers. At the same time, this is very much a Welsh rural community, albeit a depleted one now that slate is no longer being torn from the flanks of Elidir Fawr, the mountain across the town’s twin lakes. The town is inextricably linked with Snowdon, the highest British mountain outside Scotland.
Hardened outdoor enthusiasts sometimes dismiss Snowdon (3560ft) as overused, and it can certainly be crowded in summer when a thousand visitors a day can be pressed into the postbox-red carriages of the Snowdon Mountain Railway, while another 1500 pound the well-maintained paths. But this fine mountain massif sports some of the finest walking and scrambling in the park: hike early, late or out of season if you want a bit more solitude.
The Snowdon Mountain Railway
The Snowdon Mountain Railway is Britain’s only rack-and-pinion railway, completed in 1896. Trains (sometimes pushed by seventy-year-old steam locos) still climb to the summit in just under an hour from the eastern end of Llanberis to the smart summit café (mid-May to Oct). Inside is a bar and a post office where, for a few pennies, you can enchant your friends with a “Summit of Snowdon – Copa’r Wyddfa” postmark. Times, type of locomotive and final destination vary with demand and ice conditions at the top: to avoid disappointment, buy your tickets early on clear summer days.
The following are justifiably the most popular of the seven accepted walking routes up Snowdon.
The easiest and longest route up Snowdon, following the rail line, which gets gradually steeper, to the “Finger Stone” at Bwlch Glas (Green Pass). This marks the arrival of the routes coming up from Pen-y-Pass to join the Llanberis Path for the final ascent to Yr Wyddfa, the summit.
The easiest of the three routes up from Pen-y-Pass, a broad track leading south then west to the dilapidated remains of the former copper mines in Cwm Dyli. Skirting around the right of a lake, the path climbs more steeply to the lake-filled Cwm Glaslyn, then again to Upper Glaslyn, followed by a switchback ascent to the junction with the Llanberis Path.
A steeper and stonier variation on the Miners’ Track, leaving from the western end of the Pen-y-Pass car park and climbing up to Bwlch y Moch (the Pass of the Pigs) before meeting the Miners’ Track prior to the zigzag up to the Llanberis Path.
Guides and bikes
If you’re not equipped or confident enough to get out on the rock by yourself, there are various companies who will guide you. You could also consider cycling up the mountain: in addition to many easy rides, the Llanberis Path, Snowdon Ranger Path and Pitt’s Head Track to Rhyd-Ddu are open to cyclists.
High Trek Snowdonia
High Trek guide everything from straightforward hillwalking to scrambling, rock climbing (all abilities), navigation and winter climbing.
Llanberis Bike Hire
Rental and a good source of information about local rides.