Snowdonia is a area of mountains, myths and legends. An area of outstanding natural beauty where cloud formations sweeping over the valleys make photo opportunities aplenty with each one unique with the varying shadows and natural light. There are many places to stay around Snowdonia which would make a good base for your holiday, from the larger centres of Llandudno and Carnarvon, to the smaller tourist towns of Betws-y-Coed and Beddegelert.
Snowdon is the highest peak in Wales, and the second highest mountain in Great Britain. Hundreds of thousands of people climb to the summit each year normally taking one of the six main walking routes to the top. Apart from the scenic beauty evidence of the area’s industrial past can be seen from the abandoned mine workings giving some of the walks an additional interest as you can stop to admire the diligence of miners in the past who struggled in quite formidable conditions to eek a living off the mountain.
At the summit of Snowdon there is a visitor centre along with a café for those who have made it to the top, often a welcome shelter from the cold winds and mist that descends when cloud covers the mountain. Walking to the top and back can take between 4 and 10 hours depending on the walker’s level of fitness, and many novice walkers appreciate the chance to take the weight off their legs and relax with a hot bowl of soup or snack to replenish their energy levels for the walk back down. In fact the thought of a cup of tea waiting for them at the end of the climb can spur some on to make the last few 100 metres. For hospitality Snowdon is one of the best mountains to climb.
For those who do not think they can tackle the 3 ½ to 5 mile walk to the summit (length depending on route taken) the Snowdon Mountain Railway will make it an easier, but still pleasant and memorable trip. The railway runs daily from the station at Llanberis between the months of May to October, although in bad weather it only runs halfway up the mountain. When the railway is not running all the way, the café at the top is not open as the train is used to take staff and provisions to the centre.
On May 29th 2012 the Snowdon Mountain Railway will add another record into it’s long history as it takes the Olympic Torch to the summit – the highest point of the torch’s journey around the UK.
If you arrive at the train station on a fine day you will find the trains are very crowded, and you may have a long wait before you can get a place. This tempts many people to try to walk up instead. Just be warned that the walk from Llanberis to the summit is five miles in total and is the longest route. It is perhaps a gentler incline than the other walks, although there are still some steeper parts. The views on this walk are not as outstanding as on some of the others, but there are obviously some great views of the trains. If you decide to walk you could consider one of the other routes, and if it is later in the day try the Rangers or the Beddegelert Paths as these are less popular and you may still be able to find space in the car park.
Another way to get to the start of the other walks is to take the Sherpa Bus which runs regularly around all the starting points as well as the local villages. Using this bus you can ascend one track, and come down another!
Whichever way you choose to get to the summit remember that it will be much colder on the top so be prepared with jumpers and waterproofs. Clouds can sweep in very quickly, and you might leave the station in brilliant sunshine, to be disappointed by finding yourself in thick mist at the top.
Making a visit to the top of Snowdon and standing at the highest point of Wales is enjoyable however you make the trip. But for a real sense of achievement getting there under your own steam rather than the train’s is far the better way. Most people are capable of walking up as long as they are moderately fit and have good walking boots or shoes. Even if you only make it half way you will be rewarded by magnificent views and outstanding photo opportunities.
Trish Haill started MountainWalk.co.uk to introduce Serious Walks to Novice Walkers. The site describes the walks up the three highest peaks of the UK and includes contributions from walkers relating their experiences of the walks as well as containing useful information to help people prepare for their excursion.