Hike Distance: 8.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,985 ft
First off, a lessons from the locals: Snowdon is a special mountain, it doesn’t need supplementing with superfluous descriptions such as 'Mount'. We know it’s a mountain, the most famous and well known mountain in the United Kingdom! So in conclusion, the only excusable time to call our beloved 'Mount Snowdon' is if First off, a lessons from the locals: Snowdon is a special mountain, it doesn’t need supplementing with superfluous descriptions such as 'Mount'. We know it’s a mountain, the most famous and well known mountain in the United Kingdom! So in conclusion, the only excusable time to call our beloved 'Mount Snowdon' is if you’re American, but that still doesn’t make you right. It's just Snowdon!
Hiking Snowdon was one of main hiking-related goals for the 6-week trip through Great Britain. However, I greatly underestimated all of the other hiking opportunities we'd experience during our trip. Looking back now, I would say hiking Snowdon was one of the many amazing hikes we completed.
We had used the Met Office web site to track extended weather forecasts for the Snowdon summit and gambled that our last day in Northern Wales would provide the good hiking weather we needed to complete and enjoy our hike of Snowdon. It paid off!
Of the 6 major trails to the Summit we chose the Snowdon Ranger Path. Because there was a chance of rain during the mid morning we didn't want to find ourselves in fog trying to navigate a more difficult terrain. We decide to play it safe with the Ranger Path. Who knows, maybe in the future we can try the Rhyd Ddu Path.
The weather for the start of the hike was perfect: cool temperatures and a partly cloudy sky.
There was convenient parking at the Snowdon Ranger Station car park located along the shore of Llyn (Welsh: lake) Cwellyn.
We followed the path over set of rail tracks to the Llwyn Onn farmhouse. Once through a couple of farm gates, a steady climb up a series of switchbacks (zig-zags as the Brits call them) through an open field is ahead of us.
As we climbed, there were fantastic views looking toward Llyn Cwellyn and the crags of Mynndd Mawr rising from the waters edge. Crags are formed when a glacier or ice sheet passes over an area that contains a particularly resistant rock formation often granite). The force of the glacier erodes the surrounding softer material, leaving the rocky block protruding from the surrounding terrain.
Beautiful views of the Nant y Betws valley and Mynydd Drws-y-coed located right of center. The mountain dominated views of the valley; it looked much higher than its modest 2,565 ft elevation. This is one of my favorite pictures from Northern Wales. For me this picture sums up the experience of walking, hiking, and driving in this region.
After a steep initial climb of approx. 25 minutes and roughly 0.5 miles, we had gained almost 1,100 feet in elevation. The path began to level off. On a clear day we would have views of Snowdon’s summit towering above us, but not today. In a short time, the sky had gone from blue to grey and the clouds began to roll in.
And then as with most of our hikes, we were joined by a flock of sheep.
The path continued for close to a mile along the lower slope of Moel Cynghorion. We would need the 'rest' from this gentle slope before we began our next climb up the ridge to our right.
Traversing the slope of Moel Cynghorion provided excellent views of Cwm Clogwyn. A cwm or corrie is a horseshoe-shaped valley with steep sides and a gently sloping floor formed in mountainous regions through erosion by glaciers. Even with the cloud cover, the shape of the corrie was evident. The Snowdon peak sits atop Cwm Clogwyn somewhere behind those clouds.
The satellite image of the Snowdon Ranger path with the clearly delineated Cwm Clogwyn. The 'X' marks the approximate vicinity where the picture was taken.
A narrow iron gate marks the final section of the approach toward Llyn (Welsh: lake) Ffynnon-y-gwas and the Bwlch Cwm Brwynog. The bwlch (Welsh: gap) formed between Moel Cynghorion and the rise of the Clogwyn Du’r Arddu ridge. Click to learn how to pronounce Clogwyn Du'r Arddu.
The clouds lifted and we could see the Snowdon Ranger Path traversing just below the ridge line of Clogwyn Du'r Arddu. Fortunately we had a ways to go before reaching the start of the ridge.
As you approached Bwlch Cwm Brwynog, Llyn Ffynnon y Gwas lake came into sight on our right. This is the largest of the 5 lakes that formed in and around Cwm Clogwy.
It is at the lake where the path became steep and challenging as we started the ascent over the rocky shoulder of Clogwyn Du’r Arddu.
After a short climb, we reached Bwlch Cwm Brwynog and where now over 1/2 way to the summit. It was an impressive view looking down the gap/valley and was time for water, snacks, and a brief rest.
From Bwlch Cwm Brwynog the path climbs steeply nearly all the way to the summit. Over the next 1.2 miles, we will gain over 1390 vertical feet.
Although this picture was taken on the way down, it shows the gradient of the trail after as its ascends the rocky shoulder to Clogwyn Du’r Arddubwlch. Right of center is the bwlch and the flat plateau of Moel Cynghorion. You can also see the Ranger Path skirting the lower slope of the moel (Welsh: bare hill).
Despite climbing close to the cloud line, we had amazing views looking back toward the Nant y Betws valley.
There was now a steady wind and it was getting cooler as we approached the cloud line.
The further we traveled up the shoulder, the more the gravel path turned to a scree slope. Our approach was to look for the most direct line between the cairns and not try to follow a 'defined' trail.
It was a slow steady climb interrupted by an occasional water break. Below us were the a few hikers making their way up the shoulder.
Even with the cloud cover we could see the Llechog ridge and Cwm Clogwyn with its three small lakes – Llyn Glas, Llyn Coch and Llyn Nadroedd. (Blue Lake, Red Lake and Snakes’ Lake). Picture taking became challenging as we approached the cloud cover.
Finally we reached the top of the Clogwyn Du’r Arddu. There was no doubt about this transition. The trail suddenly leveled out and the terrain turned to grass.
Unfortunately, we also had reached the cloud/fog line when the trail became less defined. We became more careful even though we were walking on a wide shoulder. Conditions like these were why we had chosen a less 'adventurous' path to the summit.
The final summit push becomes busy with walkers as three routes (Llanberis Path, Snowdon Ranger Path and Pyg Track) merge for the final few hundred meters to the summit.
The summit was in sight and surprisingly there were very few people, but we discovered it was all a matter of timing. The crowds form when the train arrives and everyone scurries to the summit. Most of these people are unprepared for the wind, rain and cold temperatures, so they run to the summit, take a selfie and then run back to the visitor's center for a hot drink.
To put things in perspective, crowds can look like this during warm days in season.
We waited out the next 'train crowd' and had the entire summit to ourselves. We could barely see beyond the length of our nose and it was was cold, wet and windy—but we had reached the trig point and were going to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.
Within minutes the next train arrived and we left the summit and headed for lunch in the visitor's center. We were soaked not from rain, but the wind and fog.
After drying off and finishing the lunch we had packed, we started our descent. The weather had changed little from when we passed this point on the way up.
We stopped at the base of the Clogwyn Du’r Arddu ridge for a well deserved selfie. It had been a great 5-hour hike and although the summit views were lacking we still a great time climbing Snowdon.
But our day was not done. Once back to the car we changed clothes and prepared for the 4 hour drive to Charlton Kings in the Cotswolds of England.