Having read mixed reviews online we were unsure just how safe it was to climb Mt Snowdon in winter as many people recommended only to attempt Snowdon in winter if you are an experienced hiker in these conditions. Whilst we enjoy walking and hiking we certainly aren't experienced in these kind of conditions and so turned to our host, Jane at Ty Mawr Farm cottages for her advice. She advised that our best option was to follow the path that runs parallel to the train track as this was the safest and also the easiest to turn back if the weather conditions turned nasty on us.
Following on from Jane's advice we turned back to the internet to discover this path was called the Llanberis Path & is the easiest and longest path to the summit. The next morning we woke up early and checked the weather forecast which was not ideal with gale force winds, torrential rail at midday and heavy snow at 3pm predicted. We set off straight away with the goal to get as far as we could before the weather forced us to turn back. Parking at the car park next to the train station in Llanberis (£6 for all day) we then walked five minutes up the road to the first trail sign and markers where we walked for another 10-15 minutes along a small country road before hitting the start of the trail which as you can see you can't really miss.
The road and beginning of the trail is quite steep but before long it turns into a nice gradual uphill walk. Walking past streams, countless herds of sheep, stunning mountains, grassy fields and a beautiful lake once you get close to the summit ensures there is no shortage of stunning scenery. Take the time to turn around and take it all in, with views stretching over slate mines, lakes, stunning Llanberis, the surrounding mountains and farm lands - we were constantly in awe.
The path became quite steep for the last quarter or so of the hike with a lot of steps, steep inclines and loose rocks under foot with icy steps and big chunks of ice along the path. This was probably the hardest part of the hike and took the longest in terms of actual distance covered.
The path did still feel completely safe until after you walk under the second train tunnel and tackle the final climb to the summit. Completely exposed to the elements by this stage with gale force winds, rain and sleet we pushed on to the top - avoiding as much ice as we could along the path.
The views were absolutely breathtaking and the sense of achievement one of the best feelings ever. It certainly wouldn't be the same feeling had we waited until summer and caught the train to the top. We didn't hang around for long at the top as we were up in the clouds, being blown around and pretty bloody cold!
The weather did turn quite bad once we were about 1/4 of the way down the mountain with the wind picking up, small hailstones, snow and rain once we were further down the mountain. Feeling on top of the world we powered back down the hill - the hail, snow and wind barely even phasing us.
The sign at the bottom of the mountain advised that the Llanberis path took about 6 hours return, and we took a few breaks along the way and completed the return path in just over 4 hours. We did pass people who were just starting out when we were nearing the bottom of he mountain, I felt for them as the weather was awful by this stage and only got worse throughout the afternoon as we were snuggled up in front of our fire in our gorgeous cottage.
I'd recommend Snowdon for anyone who likes a good walk/hike, stunning scenery and the great outdoors. We felt safe the whole time but are glad we chose the Llanberis Path - we might try another more difficult path in summer when the gale force winds, ice & snow are taking a break!
Our tips for hiking Snowdon in Winter.
1. Start out early - the weather generally turns for the worse in the afternoon.
2. Dress appropriately - think gloves, thermals, beanies, scarves, layers, jackets - you'll regret not bringing any of these items.
3. Wear good, sturdy hiking boots - the path is generally pretty good but big steps, ice and loose rocks can be ankle breakers - wear smart shoes.
4. Pack lots of food, snacks and water. We took bananas, trail mix, boiled eggs, sandwiches, Gatorade, water and a thermos of hot chocolate - you'll appreciate the energy hit from these.
5. Use common sense and turn back if the conditions become unsafe. A lot of people have had to be rescued off the mountain each year due to the weather & conditions (and sadly some don't make it).