A linear walk from Pen y Pass to Llanberis, taking in the Pyg Path and the Snowdon Ranger Path via the summit. A 15K mountain day that involves a bus ride and the spectacular scenery of the Snowdonia Massif.
After a long spell in the Lake District I was back in Snowdonia to take advantage of the great weather that September 2019 was offering. With only a week between my last walk on High Stile and this walk I was feeling blessed to have such great weather to climb mountains.
Being of Welsh bloodline I have started to gravitate to my ancestral home more and more over recent years. There is something about Snowdonia that resonates with me and I prefer it over the Lake District due to its rugged nature. I feel it provides more of a challenge on the fells and this walk was going to provide me with a very unexpected challenge and a visit to hospital.
Llanberis is the capital of Snowdonia, so for most people looking to climb Snowdon it is the obvious choice of abode or parking before the big climb. But what if you want to do something different and take a linear walk, what options do you have? Well look no further and I will explain how to go about this.
During the walking season there is a Sherpa bus service that services every route you can walk Snowdon. The S1 and S2 service runs around the circumference of Snowdon taking in Llanberis, Beddgelert, Pen Y Pass etc. This means you can start off in one place and walk to another and get the Sherpa back to where you started. This website that I found which seems to be updated regularly can be found here.
Due to staying in Llanbers at the YHA, my plan was to get the bus from outside Joe Browns to Pen Y Pass and walk to the summit of Snowdon via the Pyg Path, and then return down the Snowdon Ranger before leaving the path and head towards Llanberis on the path between Foel Goch & Moel Cynghorion. This path passes the YHA but also continues on to Lllanberis a short distance away. It also passes camping Llanberis for those who like to camp.
Catching the bus was a novel experience for me and for £2.00 I found the price reasonable and value for money. The bus service picks up at Llanberis interchange so you can park in the designated parking spaces there, and also further along Pen Y Pass at Maes Parcio Car Park. The journey taking into account stops takes around 35 minutes so I was at Pen Y Pass Car Park for 8:30am.
The weather was glorious and sunny but average temperature for the time of year. The bus was busy with walkers and so was the car park, so there were plenty of people taking advantage of the good conditions before autumn arrived.
From the Car park head west to the top end where you will find the path that starts the Pyg Path, take time to read the Nation Park notice board for conditions on the summit. The path is well maintained and gradually ascends slowly slightly South West whilst to your right you will have amazing views down the valley back to Llanberis and the lakes of Llyn Padarn & Llyn Peris.
A note of caution as you head up the path the big mountain in front of you is not Snowdon, do not make that mistake. What you are looking at is Bwlch Y Morch and the ridge of Crib Goch. It has been noted that people make this mistake and end up on the ridge only to find themselves Crag Fast. If you are experienced enough then this route will provide for an exhilarating day on the arete.
Once the path winds its way up to the base of Crib Goch there is a gate you need to pass through which will lead you into the Snowdon Horseshoe where the sight of Llyn Llydaw below you to the left will leave most people pleasantly surprised at the amazing views on offer. The Pyg Path basically follows Grib Goch but 200 metres lower and much safer. As you walk you can look up and see those brave enough traversing the ridge.
The Pyg Path is relatively safe until you reach the zig Zags underneath Garnedd Ugain. Things get a little tougher here as you start your final push to the summit. In winter conditions this part of the route can be extremely dangerous and crampons and an ice axe are a must. It is also prone to avalanche due to its 35-degree angle. But on a sunny day the worst it can offer is and arduous ascent.
Once you reach the joining of the Llanberis path, head left up to the summit of Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa). You will see the railway tracks to your right and the path to the summit is easy to navigate as is gradually ascends for the last time. On the day I did this walk I managed to reach the summit in 70 minutes and the summit was busy but not overcrowded which it does get around midday.
I had a 10-minute chill to take in the amazing views before heading back on myself to join the Snowdon Ranger path which involves a crossing of the railway tracks. There is a stone way marker that will direct you to the Ranger Path just after where the Pgy and Llanberis path meet. After crossing the tracks, the path is very well maintained and easy underfoot.
For me this is where I had a very unfortunate freak accident, every mountain hiker’s worst nightmare, a twisted ankle! Somehow on the most innocuous of paths my foot caught a small rock peeping through the surface and took me clean out. Straight away I knew I was in trouble and thought I had broken my ankle such was the pain. I removed my boot to reveal a very swollen ankle but luckily no break.
I always carry a first aid kit and always carry those self-adhesive bandages which are invaluable on the mountains. I had done nothing wrong apart from become just very unlucky like many people will experience if they spend enough time in mountainous areas. At this point I had to make a choice of ringing mountain rescue or bandaging my ankle and trying to continue my route back to Llanberis which was 8 kilometres away. It was only 10:30am and although a cold chill I still had at least 8 hours of sunlight left. I made the decision to continue my journey after strapping my ankle.
The good things about mountains is you always find the very best of human nature and a fellow walker saw me struggling, and offered to walk with me given we were heading the same way. I was doing ok until I reached Clogwyn Du’r Arddu, here the path becomes very rough and the descent past Llyn Ffynnon-y-gwas involves down climbs and stone steps which I found aggravating to my ankle. I was starting to struggle more and I was reassessing my situation by the minute.
The route down from the summit is very similar to the Rhyd Ddu in parts and the views on offer to the west and out to the sea are something special. Without a damaged ankle this path is more than acceptable for any level walker and possibly one to try first if you have not done Snowdon before.
Eventually I came to where the Ranger Path heads back to the start near Llyn Cwellyn and where the path I would take leaving the Ranger Path to head North North East. The path has a marker so you will not miss it. From here I left my fellow walker has he headed up Foel Goch and I walked underneath it.
The path back to Llanberis is long and easy to descend from here and will provide pleasant views either side as you make your way down the valley. As you proceed you will have great views of Moel Cynghorion to your right and beyond the Lllanberis Path. With around 3 kilometres of my walk left I was starting to struggle given my ankle was gradually getting worse. I was limping by this stage and in contact with a friend in Conwy about possibly being met and driven to hospital. Common sense should have told me to ring mountain rescue, I had done nothing wrong and had everything an experienced walker should have, but I felt I would be putting who do an amazing job out by doing so. Maybe stubbornness on my part or deciding I was not in enough danger to require MRT.
The path eventually leads onto a country lane near Camping Llanberis and this will lead you back to the centre of Llanberis to where you started. For me I was going to take a right to YHA Llanberis to get my car. The good thing about this route is it is accessible for people staying either at the YHA, the campsite or people staying in Llanberis itself. You can do this route backwards and get the bus from Pen Y Pass to Llanberis so it is a very versatile route.
I still managed to reach my car for around 3pm and then travelled to Conwy before seeking medical treatment, which revealed I had badly damaged my ankle and I was lucky not to break it. It left me with an 8-week recovery period which is sometimes worse than a break.
Putting the freak accident aside this route was a joy to complete and my first linear walk so it was great to do something different. The weather was great and the views of North Wales and beyond are what make climbing Snowdon so enjoyable when the views are on offer.