Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales and is Great Britain's highest mountain south of the Scottish Highlands.
It has been described as "probably the busiest mountain in Britain" and is located in Snowdonia National Park, in Gwynedd. The summit is known as Yr Wyddfa, (Welsh for "the tumulus") and lies at an altitude of 1,085 metres (3,560 ft) above sea level.
As the highest peak in Wales, Snowdon is one of three mountains climbed as part of the National Three Peaks 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).
Walking on Snowdon
A number of 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 below, starting with the paths leading from Pen-y-Pass. Do note that during winter, all these routes become significantly more difficult.
Over Y Lliwedd
The southernmost of the paths leading from Pen-y-Pass leads up Y Lliwedd, to the south of Llyn Llydaw, and from there over Bwlch Ciliau, where the Watkin paths joins with it, to Snowdon itself. Shortly before the summit, this path merges with the Rhyd Ddu 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 lake Glaslyn to the col between Snowdon and Garnedd Ugain and thence to the summit of Snowdon.
Regarding the name of the Pyg Track, the web site of the Snowdonia National Park Authority states:
"No one 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 at Bwlch y Moch, 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 Goch.
The Miners' Track begins at the southern end of the Pen-y-Pass car park. After approximately 750 metres (2,500 ft) to 1,000 metres (3,300 ft), it passes above Llyn Teyrn and then continues for another kilometre before reaching the shore of Llyn Llydaw. After crossing Llyn Llydaw and following it around, the track rises more steeply and eventually leads to Glaslyn. 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 changed 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 Garnedd Ugain and on to the summit of Snowdon. 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 metres (200 ft) above sea level at the Nantgwynant car park (SH628506) south of Snowdon, and finishing at Snowdon's 1,085 metres (3,560 ft) high summit, the Watkin Path has a height gain of 1,025 metres (3,360 ft). It follows the course of the Afon Cwm Llan river and passes the Gladstone Rock which commemorates the opening of the path in 1892 with a speech by William Gladstone, then Prime Minister, on Justice for Wales. The path then heads up the hillside to Cwm Ciliau (between Y Lliwedd and Snowdon) and onward to Snowdon. It is also possible to walk from Nantgwynant to Bwlch Cwm Llan, between Yr Aran and Snowdon and from there, either down to Rhyd Ddu or along Allt Maenderyn, along the top of the Clogwyn Du cliff face to meet the Rhyd Ddu 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 path was originally built by Sir Edward Watkin and extended in 2003 by the National Trust.
Rhyd Ddu Path
The yd Ddu path leads from the village of Rhyd Ddu 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 Rhyd Ddu to Bwlch Cwm Llan, between Yr Aran and Snowdon and from there, either down to Nantgwynant, or along Allt Maenderyn, along the top of the Clogwyn Du cliff face to meet the Rhyd Ddu path going to the summit. All walkers tread carefully at the last 100 metres (330 ft) or so because of a steep slope with scree.
Another branch, the Beddgelert branch or Pitt's Head path, begins at Pitt's Head on the A4085 road.
Snowdon Ranger Path
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 Llyn Cwellyn, close to the youth hostel and Snowdon Ranger railway station. The path rises gently to Bwlch Cwm Brwynog, between Moel Cynghorion and Snowdon, and then along the top of the Clogwyn Du'r Arddu cliff face to Bwlch Glas between Snowdon and Garnedd Ugain.
The Llanberis Path leads from Llanberis, approximately along the course of the Snowdon Mountain 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 Clogwyn Du'r Arddu. Refreshments are available in a small cafe next to the path, about half-way up the mountain.
The Snowdon Mountain Railway
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.
When the Snowdon Mountain 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 cafe and shop complex (selling, amongst other things, "I Climbed Snowdon" T-shirts). The building displayed a slate plaque with the following couplet: "Grwydryn, aros ennyd; ystyra ryfeddol waith Duw a'th daith fer ar y ddaear hon." ("Wanderer, wait a moment; consider God's wondrous work and your short journey on this earth.")
Becoming increasingly dilapidated, it was described by Prince Charles as "the highest slum in Wales." Its condition led to a campaign to replace the building.
In April 2006, Snowdonia National Park Authority agreed a deal to start work on a new cafe and visitor centre complex. By mid-October 2006 the old building had been largely demolished. The new £8.4m visitor centre Hafod Eryri, designed by Ray Hole Architects and built by Carillion, was officially opened on 12 June 2009 by First Minister Rhodri Morgan. The Welsh National Poet, Gwyn Thomas, composed a new couplet for the new building - to be displayed at its entrance and on the windows - which will read "Copa'r Wyddfa : yr ydych chwi yma, yn nes at y nefoedd." ("The summit of Snowdon: you are here, nearer to Heaven.")