Last weekend, my girlfriend Portia and I set off for a weekend of mountain fresh air and a hiking adventure to Wales. Snowdonia was our destination and we were roaring for an active weekend getaway.
Situated in the Northern part of Wales, Snowdonia is a national park of 2,130 km2 and is a hikers’ playground. The name is derived fromMount Snowdon, UK and Wales’s largest mountain which stands at 1085 meters tall. Many adventurous hikers head there each year to attempt to conquer this magnificent mountain range, albeit not everyone makes it. With it’s “four seasons in a day” reputation, you don’t want to take on this challenge lightheartedly. You need to be prepared for snow, rain, wind and sunshine as well as for sharp and slippery cliff faces. I wish I was a little more prepared for the hike, but we made it back to tell the story. So you have all corners covered, here’s a little guide to help you prepare for your hike:
Betws-Y-Coed is the best place to stay which is located about 25 minutes from the base of Snowdon. It’s a charming little town filled with a collection of cafes, gift stores, restaurants, bed and breakfasts and hotels. We stayed at Tyn Y Fron which was perfect! Cute little double room with ensuite, hot vegetarian breakfasts prepared each morning and just a short walk from the train station. And the hosts Lesley and Mike were great!
The easiest way to get to Betws-Y-Coed from London is to drive or catch the train. Betws-Y-Coed station is right in the centre of the village, making it a hassle free option from London. Once you are in Betws-Y-Coed, you can take the Sherpa bus to Pen-Y-Pass where you can begin your hike. The bus costs £1.50 each way and departs every once every hour. Check the timetable the day before to be safe.
You can hike Snowdon all year round however the warmer months are considered a lot safer as the elements aren’t as harsh. If you do choose to hike in the Summer be prepared for the crowds. We hiked Snowdonia on a Sunday in mid April and it wasn’t busy at all. But it did snow about half an hour into our hike so make sure you have enough layers.
From Pen-Y-Pass, you can take the Pyg or Miners trail. Both will lead you to the top of Snowdon. Pyg is definitely more challenging so I suggest to take the Pyg trail up and then the Miners down.
Layers and layers and more layers. You need to be prepared for all weather conditions so a layered clothing approach is great. I wore a vest, long sleeve fleece, ski jacket and at some points my beanie. I wish I brought gloves but alas, I forgot them. Other items to think about: good hiking boots, water bottle, tissues, sunscreen, bandaids, compass, map, snacks, camera portable charger, an extra layer and a poncho rain coat.
This hike is not a walk in the park. It’s climbing UK’s largest mountain where people die every year. Do some moderate exercise before you attempt to hike it and don’t push yourself too far. My legs were so sore the next day (especially my calves). Stretching before and after the hike can help too – and of course some yoga. Also, invest in some good hiking boots. Trainers just wont cut it. At the summit, the trail is so slippery, you will literally slide off the mountain.
As there were no cafes open up the top of Snowdon, make sure you use the toilet at Pen-Y-Pass before you leave. It’s no fun hiking for 4.5 hours needing to go to the loo after the first hour. Also pack plenty of water and lots of food. If you drive, get to the carpark for 8.30am as it fills up fast. It’s £5 to park there all day.
There are copious amounts of cafes, restaurants and bistros for dining in Betws-Y-Coed. Our favourite was the Alpine cafe outside the station for a healthy breakfast or snack pre departure. They have numerous amounts of vegetarian and vegan options, green juices and snacks for the hike. If you do hike in the off season, make sure you pack your own lunch. Alpine Cafe sell packed lunches which would be perfect to take on your hike. We unfortunately were misinformed and didn’t take lunch – so it was a long 4.5 hours with no food (amateur hour).
After a long hike up and down the mountain, your legs and body will want some TLC. Head to the Waterloo Hotel for a sauna, steam, sauna and swim for only £9. You can also book in for a full body massage for £40.
A man died last week after he slipped and fell from one of the more challenging cliff faces. So my word of advice is to take it slow, be prepared and enjoy yourself. It’s a beautiful experience.
Now I’m looking for my next hiking adventure in the UK or abroad. Any suggestions?