Walk around Snowdon's foothills from Pen y Gwryd with this route from Dan Aspel.
© Copyright Philip Halling via Geograph.co.uk
In the book South Col (1954) Everest veteran Wilfrid Noyce recalled that: "Outside Pen-y-Gwryd, in the calm frosted air of Snowdon, I looked up at those still unrivalled pyramids, snow-covered and dimly shining in the starlight… When the top of Everest floored the sea, Snowdon stood greatly upon pedestals whose fragments remain. And now she lay coiled in dreams of that past, yet watching, as it seemed, the tiny creatures preparing to swarm up her gigantic successor". The thought, it turns out, had been a prophetic one: the previous year he had been part of the British-led team that had succeeded in putting Edmund Hilary (a New Zealander) and Tenzing Norgay (a Nepali-born Sherpa) on the summit of earth’s highest peak. It was in Snowdonia that the team had trained, and at the Pen-y-Gwryd that they had stayed.
Still maintaining all of its original charms, this ornate and slightly anachronistic Inn remains as great a draw to mountaineers and mountain-lovers as ever. Step into the bar area and you’ll find the signatures of generations of climbers adorning the ceiling. Find yourself invited behind the bar (access is at the discretion of the owners) and you’ll discover a mini-museum of Everest artefacts ranging from photographs of the ‘53 team to their clothing and equipment and engraved mugs (ask politely if your child has climbed Snowdon and would like to sip from one) to rock samples and beyond. The rooms vary in the breadth of their facilities - you may share a WC or secure your own freestanding bath - and the meal timings are rather stricter than some may be used to, but for a rare and possibly unique overnight experience, the PYG is a memorable choice.
Hilary, Tenzing et al. chiefly used the local peaks to test their breathing apparatus, and held various reunions in the years and decades following their summit success. To follow in their footsteps, a walk from the pub and onto the flanks of Snowdon makes perfect sense.
1 Given potentially fierce winter conditions at this time of year, an ascent to Snowdon’s summit is best saved for those competent with ice axes and crampons. Instead, walk or preferably drive the mile uphill to Pen y Pass. There’s no path besides the road, which makes driving a more sensible option, although the sting is that parking here costs £5 for 4hrs (an alternative is the S97 and the S4 Sherpa bus, which runs up and over the pass - check Gwynedd Council website for details). Regardless how you get here, from the car park a walk along the Miner’s Track and back will pass the dramatic shores of Llyn Teryn, Llyn Llydaw and Glaslyn, skirt old mine workings, and reveal all the jagged glory of the Snowdon Horseshoe from deep within its icy folds.
2 Follow the signs for “Crib Goch” (don’t worry, you’re not going up it!) onto a meaty path heading upwards to the west-north-west towards Bwlch-y-Moch. Bear in mind that certain sections of the path, even at this early stage, are fairly steep and occasionally uneven and can be iced up in cold winter conditions. If you suspect there’s ice about and don’t fancy your chances on it then best stick to the Miners’ Track (our return route) which is signposted from the car park and runs to the south.
3 After roughly 1.5km you’ll reach Bwlch-y-Moch, marked by a fence post and the opening up of views into the Snowdon horseshoe. You’ll also begin to see signs pointing towards the looming slope of Crib Goch directly to your west. Do not follow them. Instead, continue following the lower trail (signed Pyg Track) which winds slightly downwards and then contours around into the horseshoe. After around 2km, during which (given good visibility) you’ll be treated to increasingly impressive views of Snowdon and neighbouring peaks, you’ll notice the ground ahead begin to steepen and a path meet your own from the left. Continuing on would taken you up potentially iced up ground towards the summit.
4 Instead, turn left and drop down towards Glaslyn on the Miners’ Track. This is a much more distinct path and along its flattest sections it’s much easier to stride out (ice allowing) than on the Pyg. You’ll be following this path all the way back to the car park and the Pen-y-Gwryd, so stick to it and you’ll be fine from here on.
5 You’ll notice many ruins of the Britannia Copper Mine, at whose behest this path was constructed, along the way including the old crushing mill, the remains of the workers’ barracks and other fascinating detritus that may delay you on your journey back. Once you cross the man-made causeway you’ll know you’ve only got a couple of kilometres to go to the car park, where there are toilets, a cafe and a warm bar courtesy of the nearby YHA.
> Double bedrooms from £45pp
> Dinner from £25 (three courses)
Distance: 11km, 700m ascent