Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales and the highest
British mountain south of the Scottish Highlands, is "probably the busiest mountain in Britain". It is located in SnowdoniaNational Park (Welsh: ParcCenedlaetholEryri). The summit
is known as Yr Wyddfa, Welsh for "the
tumulus", and lies at an altitude of 1,085 m (3,560 ft) above
highest peak in Wales, Snowdon is one of three mountains climbed as part of the
NationalThreePeaks Challenge. The English name Snowdon
comes from the Saxon "Snow Dun", meaning "snow hill",
although the amount of snow on Snowdon in winter has
been decreasing recently, having dropped by more than 55% since 1994.
Snowdon has one of the wettest climates in Great
Britain, receiving an annual average of more than 4,500 mm (180 in)
recorded ascent of Snowdon was by the botanist Thomas Johnson in 1639. However,
the 18th-century Welsh historian Thomas Pennant mentions a "triumphal fair
upon this our chief of mountains" following Edward I's
conquest of Wales in 1284, which, if true, indicates the
possibility of earlier ascents.
Climbing on Snowdon
steep cliffs in the Snowdon range are significant in the history of British
rock climbing. The first recorded climb in the area was the 1798 ascent of the
Eastern Terrace of ClogwynDu'rArddu (Welsh: the black cliff of the dark(ness)) by the Reverends Peter Williams and W. Bingley, botanists looking for alpine plants. The north
face of Y Lliwedd was explored in the late 19th
century and in 1909 was the subject of the first British climbing guide, The climbs on Lliwedd by J. M. A.
Thompson and A. W. Andrews. Also, Edmund Hillary trained here for his climb up Mount Everest.
has six ridges. These are steep and rocky to the north and east, shallower and
grassy, but more remote to the south and west. There are many cwms formed by glaciation in the
ice age, some filled with tarns (meltwater lakes).
Subsidiary summits include GarneddUgain (1,065 m), the knife-edge summit of Crib Goch (923 m), Y Lliwedd
(898 m) and Yr Aran (747 m).
Snowdon offers some of the most extensive views in the
British Isles; on exceptionally clear days, Ireland, Northern Ireland,
Scotland, England and Wales are all visible, as well as 24 counties, 29 lakes
and 17 islands. It is also possible to view the newly built BeethamTower
in Manchester from here. The view between Snowdon and Merrick (southern Scotland) is the longest theoretical line of sight in the
144 miles (232 km).
Routes to the
footpaths lead to Snowdon's
summit from all sides , and can be combined in
various ways. The circular walk starting and ending at Pen-y-Pass and using the
Crib Goch route and the route over Y Lliwedd is called the Snowdon Horseshoe. The routes are arranged here
clockwise, starting with the paths leading from Pen-y-Pass. During winter, all
these routes become significantly more difficult.
southernmost of the paths leading from Pen-y-Pass leads up Y Lliwedd, to the south of LlynLlydaw, and from there over BwlchCiliau (Welsh: variously pass of corners/nooks or
pass of retreat), where the Snowdon Ranger paths
joins with it, to Snowdon itself. Shortly before the
summit, this path merges with the RhydDdu path. This is one half of the Snowdon Horseshoe, together with the Crib Goch route (see below). It includes a sharp ridge and
requires some experience of scrambling and a head for heights.
The Pyg Track is a popular path leading from the car park at
Pen-y-Pass along the lower slopes of Crib Goch before
zig-zagging above the smaller lakeGlaslyn to the col between Snowdon and GarneddUgain and thence to the summit of Snowdon.
name of the Pyg Track, the web site of the SnowdoniaNational Park Authority states;
is certain how the Pyg Track came by its name;
possibly from Bwlch y Moch
(Pigs' Pass) over which it passes. (It is sometimes spelt Pig Track). "Pyg" in Welsh also means 'pitch' and may refer to the
dull black pitchy appearance of the path in one location; or it may have been
the route used to carry pitch up to the copper mines. A third possibility is
that it was named after the Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel nearby,
by the early climbers who stayed there."
The Crib Goch route forks off upwards to the right from the Pyg route after roughly a mile (1.6 km), whilst the Pyg route itself carries straight on, initially dropping
down slightly onto a flatter section of path before the ascent towards the zig-zags. Some less experienced walkers have been known to
get confused at this point, later finding themselves out of their depth on Crib
The Miners' Track
begins at the southern end of the Pen-y-Pass car park. After approximately
750 m to 1 km, it passes above LlynTeyrn and then continues for another kilometre
before reaching the shore of LlynLlydaw. After crossing LlynLlydaw and following it around, the track rises more
steeply and eventually leads to Glaslyn (Welsh: blue
lake). The final part of the Miners' Track consists of a scramble from the edge
of Glaslyn onto the latter part of the Pyg track, although recent step-building has improved this
considerably. The combination of ascent via the Pyg
track and descent via the Miners' track is one of the most common ways of
combining routes on Snowdon, due to their sharing a start point at the
Pen-y-Pass car park.
Crib Goch route
The Crib Goch route also starts at the Pen-y-Pass car park and
initially follows the Pyg track before separating off
from it at the Bwlch y Moch
and leading up the side of Crib Goch. From there it
follows the ridge of Crib Goch, over the summit of GarneddUgain and on to the summit
This forms half of the Snowdon Horseshoe route, the other half passing over Y Lliwedd (see above). It includes a very sharp ridge and
requires some experience of scrambling and a head for heights. It should not be
attempted in high winds or rain. In winter it is classed as a full climb
requiring appropriate equipment and skills.
The Watkin Path has the greatest change in altitude out of all
the paths up Snowdon.
Starting at 60 m above sea level at the Nantgwynant
car park (SH628506) south of Snowdon, and finishing at Snowdon's 1085-metre high summit, the Watkin
Path has a height gain of 1025 m. It follows the course of the AfonCwmLlanriver, past the Gladstone Rock, before heading up the hillside to CwmCiliau (between Y Lliwedd and Snowdon) and onward to Snowdon. It is also possible to walk from Nantgwynant to BwlchCwmLlan, between Yr Aran and Snowdon and from there, either down to RhydDdu or along AlltMaenderyn, along the top of
the ClogwynDu cliff face
to meet the RhydDdu path
going to the summit. During the summer, apart from views of the surrounding
Welsh countryside, plenty of tourists take to "cooling down" in the
local waterfalls, part of the way up the path.
The RhydDdu path leads from the village of RhydDdu to the west of Snowdon, gently up on to Llechog,
a broad ridge to leading west from the summit of Snowdon. This is one of the easier routes up Snowdon. It is also possible to walk from RhydDdu to BwlchCwmLlan, between Yr Aran and Snowdon and from there, either down to Nantgwynant, or along AlltMaenderyn, along the top of the ClogwynDu cliff face to meet the RhydDdu path going to the summit. All walkers tread
carefully at the last 100 metres or so because of a
steep slope with scree. This is the path, but it is
branch, the Beddgelert branch or Pitt's Head path,
begins at Pitt's Head on the A4085 road.
The Snowdon Ranger Path is named after an early mountain
guide, John Morton, also known as "the Snowdon Ranger". His former home is now the Snowdon Ranger Youth Hostel. The path begins on the
shores of LlynCwellyn,
close to the youth hostel and Snowdon Ranger railway station. The path rises gently to
BwlchCwmBrwynog, between MoelCynghorion and Snowdon, and then along the top of the ClogwynDu'rArddu
cliff face to BwlchGlas
The Llanberis Path leads from Llanberis,
approximately along the course of the SnowdonMountain Railway. This is one of the longer routes up,
although as the slope is mostly comparatively shallow, it is considered one of
the easiest. It is also the path followed during the annual Snowdon Race (Welsh: Ras Yr Wyddfa). The first part of the path also leads to the well-known
climbing cliff ClogwynDu'rArddu. Refreshments are available in a small café
next to the path, about half-way up the mountain.
For those who
do not wish to or are not able to walk, or wish to walk one way only, the Snowdon Mountain Railway (a rack railway) runs from Llanberis to the top. A restaurant and shop can be found at
the top station, just below the summit.
opening of the new SummitBuilding in spring 2008, the train will terminate at Clogwyn, weather permitting.
pastime for Welsh climbers has been to use large smooth stone with notches in
to ride down the rails of the track, often resulting in near misses with the
tourist trains. However this activity has almost stopped since most of the good
stones are now at the bottom of the hill.
When the SnowdonMountain Railway was opened in 1896, a hotel was built at
the terminus, a short distance from the summit. In the 1930s, this was replaced
by a restaurant designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. By the end of the
twentieth century, this was run as a café and shop complex (selling, amongst
other things, "I Climbed Snowdon" T-shirts). However it was becoming
increasingly dilapidated and was described by Prince Charles as "the
highest slum in Wales". Its state led to a campaign to replace
the building. In April 2006, SnowdoniaNational Park Authority agreed a deal to start work on a new
café and visitor centre complex costing £8 million. By mid-October 2006
the old building had been largely demolished. The new visitor centre will be
erected during 2007 and formally opened in Spring
2008, and will be named HafodEryri
building displayed a slate plaque with the following couplet - "Grwydryn, arosennyd; ystyraryfeddolwaithDuwa'thdaithferar y ddaear hon."
(Wanderer, wait a moment; consider God's wonderous
work and your short journey on this earth.) The Welsh National Poet Gwyn Thomas has composed a new couplet for the new building
- to be displayed at its entrance, and on the windows - and this will read
yr ydychchwiyma, ynnes
at y nefoedd." (The summit of Snowdon : you are here, nearer to Heaven.)