Mountain walking in Snowdonia

A beginners guide to mountain walking in Llanberis Snowdonia.

Snowdonia is the range of mountains that form the welsh part of the Caldeonide range. the greater extent of the range spans  England and Scotland moving into Norway.

Snowdonia was carved out into its current form between approximately 21,000-and 11,000 years ago when the ice sheet that covered the greater extent of Wales, which was up to a mile thick.This huge ice volume at the height of the last glacial maximum carved the large U and Classic V shaped valleys that give such character to our North Wales landscape. The Glaciers moved through the regions ripping out rock debris and leaving a notice able foot print. Where they formed in the high Cwm’s in the hills, large hollowed out deep holes formed due to the deep scour, now these have been submerged by lakes which are fantastic to swim in the summer months! Snowdonia therefore like our English and Scottish mountain range counterparts has something for everyone and every ability when it comes to Hiking and Hill walking.

Whether you come here to do a gentle walk through the meadows to the foot of some of the hills or you have come to bag a few peaks, the hills are a wonderful way to spend a day in nature. The snowdonia national park has many routes and walks that have been pre made specifically with walking paths and signs. There are quite a few and the make for an easy taper into the walking in North Wales. The snowdonia range cover the region of mountains from just south of Anglesey in North Wales to Aberduffi and Machynlleth  in Mid Wales.

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Image by the wonderful Sarah Edmonds (sarahedmondsillustration.com)

As locals we break the norther part of Snowdonia down into distinct regions. The Llanberis pass, The Ogwen Valley, The Conwy Valley, Beddgelert and the LLyn Peninsular. For most day walkers this is more than enough to keep you going for the next year at least! Each area has its own specific walks some with paths some without. For simplicity in this first chapter on North Wales hill walking we will focus on the Llanberis Pass as it has the easiest access to some of the more straight forward walks and Snowdon itself. We will focus on the other four later in the next chapters.

The Llanberis pass is the iconic feature of a V shaped valley that runs six miles from Nant Ffrancon in the snowdonia valley to Pen Y Pass at the head of the valley before dropping into the valley below. The steep valley sides of Llanberis are the home of many a famous climb, in fact the birth of British Trad climbing was begun in the Llanberis region on the steep slopes of the cromlech region at the lower parts of the Pass. As it winds up tot he head of the six miles up the pass there is a region to park for tourists and walkers know as Pen y Pass. It has toilets, a cafe, mountaineering shop and a bunk house / youth hostel across the road.

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The panoramic, Llanberis Pass, Snowdonia

From here you can access a two good routes to the summit of Snowdon. They are as follows and these are in order of their severity / strenuous nature. The miners track and The PYG track.  The website undoubtedly with some great information to prepare for these hills is either www.eryri-npa.gov.uk  or www.walkupsnowdon.co.uk.

Here is a list of some of  the other walks and hikes in the Llanberis region which we will go into further detail later.

Miners Track– 8 miles, moderate difficulty,

PYG track– 7 miles, moderate difficulty,

LLanberis Path– 9 miles, moderate difficulty,

Rhydd ddu Path-8.5 miles, difficult

Snowdon Ranger Path– 8 miles, difficult

Watin Path– 8 miles, difficult

Cryb Goch ridge walk– 8 miles Very difficult with big exposure**

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The PYG track on a lovely summers day- Image courtesy of walksupsnowdon.co.uk

It must be noted that a good standard of fitness is needed but for all the hikes that are mentioned here and these are the easiest of the range. The Miners track is 8 miles return which equates to 4-6 hours of walking depending on your fitness. The PYG track is 7 miles but with a quicker and more steep ascent to the higher tiers on the walk.

Walks in the Snowdonia range are not easy by any means and as mentioned previously it is of upmost importance that the correct kit is taken, worn and used on a day out in the hills. This is because so many hikers and walkers come to Snowdonia a little ill prepared- get into trouble in bad weather and then have to call the mountain rescue services out- which are at best stretched in summer months. So what is in the kit list for items that should be taken with us firstly.

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A basic selection of day pack walking gear in summer months.

A basic kit list includes the following : This is for a summer / Spring kit list – winter packing lists varies considerably.  We will do a full article on a winter pack list in a future blog..The kit list is personal and varies from person to person, but god kit will keep you warm and dry if conditions worsen unexpectedly. Safety kit is a given.

Good sturdy hiking boots and socks- My choice- Hanwag Ferrat combi GTX, Bridgdale hiking socks

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A warm set of base layers in spring and autumn- Ice breaker Marino Wool

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Good, quick drying walking pants/ trousers not jeans- My choice- Montane

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Good warm layering systems, including fleeces and wind stopper – North Face Fleece, Berghaus Windstopper

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Water proof trousers – Paramo Velez Adventure Trouser

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Water proof Jacket – Paramo Velez Adventure Smock

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Gloves, Hat, neck scarf- Buff neck wear

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Gators-  Berghaus expedition

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Rucksack in summer and winter- Low Alpine peak attack 

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Snowdon Explorer OS Map (1:25,000 and 1:50,000), compass and whistle

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Water bottle, and thermal flask – I use a Nalgine water bottle and Sigg thermal flask.

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Walking poles -Leki make fantastic poles and have great warranty systems on them

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Camera  / Phone- basic phone

Dry bags- Kurtzy dry bags

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**New addition- GPS (for more advanced walkers this is very useful kit for low vis hikes) I now use a Garmin.

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Food and bits- I like to take trail mix, some chocolate and some smoked meats-very European!

Basic navigation skills on the hills is a must, weather can change in a moment especially the higher the elevation you go. If you navigation skills need a top up why not contact a local guide (see guides section) or contact one of the larger organisations such a Plas y Brenin, who can help you to get good navigation sorted.

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1:25,000 Snowdonia OS Map

Good preparation for the hill means looking at the weather a couple of days before on websites such as MWIS or Llanberis Mountain rescue website, any making designs ahead of time. Plan your route,  time taken and allow extra day light hours either side of your time allowance. Pack food and water for duration and take correct kit for conditions. Tell people where your going and take a mobile phone.

Some interesting books of merit for the Area..

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Have fun in the hills! leave a comment below if you have a favourite route you want us to do an article on in future posts…

Next Post >>> Winter Climbing / Mountaineering in Snowdonia