Without doubt the easiest route to the summit of Snowdon from the capital of Snowdonia, Llanberis.
I finally got around to walking up Snowdon from a path i have avoided for a long time. The reason being i know this route is very easy apart from it being the longest. I have nothing against this route and i promised to cater for all abilities on this site, and that is why i finally took the plunge and did it in early April.
Llanberis is obviously the capital of Snowdonia and where all the amenities are including supermarkets, restaurants and pubs. It is only natural that the Llanberis path is the starting point for the majority of people wanting to climb Snowdon. It is also home of the world-famous train that takes thousands of people up to the summit, who otherwise would never be able to experience to true essence of Yr Wyddfa and Eryri.
The section of the Llanberis Path beside the railway near the summit has been called the “Killer Convex”; in icy conditions, this convex slope can send unwary walkers over the cliffs of Clogwyn Du’r Arddu. Four people died there in February 2009.
I started my day by visiting Pete’s Eats’ in Llanberis for a full English breakfast given the weather had turned and it was snowing heavily on the tops. Pete’s Eats’ is famous for its generous portion sizes, but i believe it has changed ownership due to illness. None the less my experience was good and my fry up was going to set me up for the day ahead.
I had come over the tops from where i was staying and passed Pen-y-pass, and there was a good few inches of snow on the road, but when i got to Llanberis it was a little better. I knew the further i would climb towards the summit the snow would be much worse so had prepared and had my crampons and full winter gear etc.
Starting the Llanberis path could not get much easier given you just take the next right after passing the mountain railway station onto Victoria Terrace. The station is hard to miss given the size of it and the food outlets accompanying it. Victoria Terrace is just a street that leads you through an estate to the end of the road where you will pass through a gate and start your Snowdon adventure.
The path is a tarmac road that winds its way up hill past some cottages and it is quite steep to be fair. This will lead you to a gate on your left that is well marked as the Llanberis path. Once through the gate the path becomes synonymous with most mountain paths around Snowdonia and it is a mix of stone and shale and is rather rugged. Make sure you look behind you at this point given you will get good views of Llyn Padarn.
The path will lead you up to the half-way house on your right but before you get to it, you will pass under a railway bridge where the path comes close to the railway tracks, and if you are lucky you may get chance to view one of the trains coming up or down the mountain. There were no trains running on my visit because it was out of season and it would not have run anyway as you will find out further on.
At the halfway house the snow was coming down much heavier and the mix of green and white was now turning to all white and there was a good few inches on the ground but the path was still visible. After the half-way house which is around 450 meters in altitude you will make your way up to Clogwyn Station. The path now starts to rise in altitude and your first test will be navigating up the steps which can be demanding but not difficult. The big fell in front of you is Clogwyn Coch and also part of the Snowdon Ranger Path. It looked pretty impressive covered in snow as i passed it by.
You will now pass under another railway bridge beneath Clogwyn Station and this is where the fun starts, well on my visit it did. After passing under the bridge the snow had turned from inches to feet and was coming down much heavier now and visibility was getting poor. I saw a few people heading past me coming down who had said they had turned around given the conditions and not being properly equipped. At this point i returned to the bridge and whilst sheltered i put on my crampons and ski mask.
Once geared up i set off again and walked what was a precarious walk above Cwm Hetiau, the path was feet deep so i kept my distance from the edge given the 700 m drop to the left. Once past this section you will be walking on an incline of Clogwyn Coch. In bad weather or poor visibility never follow the railway track given there are some sheer drops into Clogwyn Coch. It was only last year in snow conditions a walker fell to his death here.
At this point i was now alone with no visible path and not a sole in sight. Visibility was very poor and i was more or less in whiteout conditions. Without my ski mask i would have had to possibly turn around given the snow was mixed with hail and was coming down worse than i have experienced before. There was no way i was going to pass on this opportunity to experience Snowdon alone.
My journey up to Bwlch Glas was hazardous and hard work given i was trying to stay close to where i thought the path was but it was now under feet of drift snow. I was trying not to stray too far to the right knowing there was more chance of me slipping and sliding off the mountain. The thought had passed my mind to abandon the mission but i knew if i kept my cool and used my knowledge i would be ok.
Once i reached Bwlch Glas i knew i was home and dry for a summit of Snowdon. The path was invisible and i could not see more than a few feet in front of me now, but i knew where i was and kept away from the edge of Clogwyn Garnedd (1000-meter drop) to my left i would be safe. Finally, i could make out the shape of the cafe and then reached the summit.
I was all alone on the summit of Snowdon, the biggest mountain in Wales to myself and it was freaky in a way, given i could not see a thing and it was deadly silent apart from the elements. I got my phone out and took some pictures and headed for the entrance to the cafe for shelter. Snow drifts had built up and they must have been at least 4ft. Just having one hand exposed for a few minutes took its toll and the freezing temperature had given me frostbite. I struggled to get my glove back on because i could not feel my fingers. Once i did manage to get it on, i decided it was time to get off the mountain pretty rapid given the conditions.
As i made my way back such was the weather all my footprints had been covered by fresh snow, and i went a little off track (too far to the left at Bwlch Glas) i had to correct myself given i knew the dangers of what would happen. I found myself thigh deep in snow as i was trying to correct myself, i was wading through drift snow and my heart was beating a little faster now, knowing i had to get out of it.
Once i was back on track i saw the faint silhouette of somebody in front of me. They were not getting closer so i knew they were heading in the same direction as me. It was not long before i caught up with them and exchanged views on how bad the weather was and i asked had they managed to summit, which they replied yes. We must have been minutes apart yet such was the weather we were totally invisible to each other. As we got talking, he told me he was called Andy and he was an advanced on the mountains (Obviously to get to the summit in these conditions) He told me he had seen someone following the railway track and commented on how dangerous this was.
As we were talking in front of us appeared a group of four walkers out of the mist. A young group of 2 girls and two lads. We asked them where they intended to go, and advised them that the summit was possibly not the best place for them to visit today given the attire they were wearing. Sensibly they agreed they were ill equipped and turned around to walk back down the mountain with us safely.
During this conversation we noticed one of the young ladies was possibly close on suffering hypothermia. Having spare gloves and jackets between us, me and Andy made sure the group was warm and offered some sweets for energy. We walked off the mountain with them until it was safe, and then Andy had to make moves so i stayed with the group until we returned to Llanberis.
The Dominoes gang as i will now call them had done nothing wrong apart from underestimate that weather conditions can be totally different from ground level to summit level. Also not being equipped for the condition either. I explained i had also made the same mistake only a year earlier on Great Gable and it is something to learn from but not be put off by.
Hopefully Andy and the Dominoes gang will be reading this blog so i hope you are all well. By the way i later found out Andy is part of Mountain Rescue and he deserves a special mention for the work that he does, and we now follow each other on Instagram.
So let this be a lesson, the easiest route up Snowdon turned out to be one of the trickiest days i have had on a mountain, and it tested everything i know to keep safe. Of course, this route in the summer months is accessible to even the novice walker. Winter and Summer are two totally different dishes and it’s best to be prepared.
Did i enjoy the Llanberis path? given the conditions it was an adventure i will never forget, but i do not think i would do it in the Summer months just based on my own preferences as i become more advanced. Don’t let this put you off the Llanberis path because i would recommend doing this first before trying harder routes up Snowdon.