Our top tips on getting your kids up Snowdon!
Last summer Dave and I planned a trip to Snowdonia with the kids (Tiri 7, Mabli 5 & Emlyn 6 mnths) with the aim of getting them, or at least Tirion to the summit of Wales’ highest mountain- Mount Snowdon 3,560ft/ 1,085m. She had already managed to summit Pen Y fan -South Wales’ highest mountain a few years previous, age 3! However, Snowdon is a whole different ball game to Pen Y Fan, so it took a lot more planning!
We managed to get her to the top and we all had the most amazing time and created some wonderful memories, so I’d love to share the do’s and the don’ts, in the hope it will help you achieve the same.
Time of year to go – Snowdonia is the wettest part of Wales. It gets 270 wet days a year and in Autumn, Winter and Spring the mountains can be covered in snow and ice. At any time of year, typically temperatures drop around 1degree celcius for every 100m you climb and that’s not taking into consideration wind chill and other factors. Find out the ‘Snowdon mountain’ weather conditions at The Met Office website (link below) and be sure to type in ‘Snowdon Summit’ for a detail report.
So simply put, you want to plan your trip in THE SUMMER!!!
Firstly- are you all fit enough?
To give yourself the best chance of summiting with the kids (or some of them) and actually enjoying it, then a good level of fitness is required. If your usual day out walking with the kids is on mostly flat terrain carrying a small rucksack with some snacks and having to give piggy backs, while Dad runs back to get the car, then a fair bit of training is going to be essential to get you up Snowdon!
A great start to test your metal is to walk up Pen Y Fan, taking with you all the gear I talk about further down in the blog. Walking long sections of the Gower coast path, taking in lots of hilly bits with uneven rocky terrain is another great place to train. If you find it tough, then I recommend a few more days of training walks. A really good indication that your ready, is when you can all plod uphill for at least 30mins, whilst maintaining conversation. In the outdoors we call this ‘The Mountain Plod’ it’s slow and steady and this is the pace you’re aiming for on the uphill sections. (You want to avoid the ‘stop, start, stop start’ )
Trip duration – Having been to Snowdonia many times, Dave and I were both all to aware that even in the height of summer, you can be struck with bouts of wet, damp weather and all hopes of mountain climbs quickly change to trying your luck nearer the coast. So, with that in mind we decided a 5 day trip ‘should’ be enough to afford us 1 day of decent weather to attempt Snowdon.
Accommodation – I reluctantly forked out for a cottage on AirBnB, leaving behind our touring caravan. This turned out to be very good decision. Our caravan has its place, we’ve had loads of lovely trips in it, but being a small 4 berth and awning, space is limited for a family of 5 with the amount of mountain gear and baby paraphernalia we had with us!
The cottage was ideally situated in Nant Peris, which is a 13 minute bus ride to the start of our chosen route up Snowdon. It had the space we needed to just dump all our stuff and to get it organised ready for an early(ish) start on our chosen day. We also knew that some comfy beds with enough room for everyone, including space for baby and cot would be key to ensuring we were all going to get the sleep required for a big day out in the mountains. Having use of a normal sized kitchen to prep the pack lunches and cook good evening meals was also really important. It made food prepping a lot quicker and less stressful, allowing for some much-needed moments to relax and enjoy the trip.
You can park in Pen Y Pass carpark if you book your car in early enough for popular dates.Please check the JustPark website for all the info you’ll need.
Thankfully, our cottage was across the road from the Sherpa bus shuttle carpark, where the buses run regularly to Pen Y Pass carpark. They also pick up/drop off from the other main footpaths and villages around the mountain. More info can be found here: https://snowdoninfo.com/sherpa-bus-service/
Route Choice – The route we chose for the walk up was the PYG track (this eventually joins the Miners to reach the summit). This is one of the shortest routes up, starting at Pen Y Pass carpark (1,178ft/ 359m about a third of the height of Snowdon) It is also the most exciting! It’s rocky and slabby and bends its way gradually up the mountain, taking in breath taking views. There are some easy scrambly sections along the way and its fairly easy to stick to, even if visibility is quiet poor. Some sections are flatter and easy underfoot and some are steep and tough. It has a good mix of terrain to keep the kids interested.
For our descent we opted for the Miners Track, which has some long, very steep rocky sections to descend initially, followed by some very long, flat, wide sections that contour around 3 lakes before reaching the carpark. We felt we’d welcome the flatter, easier paths for our tired legs and some foot soothing paddling in the cold lakes. As seen on the map, the PYG meets the Miners about a 3qrts of the way up. This is an ideal place to take a break and decide if you want to continue to the top, or call it good day and head down the Miners, happy and content with your efforts .
Of course there’s the option to keep going up and then turn back, but for us, reaching that point felt like the perfect time to assess how we were all feeling and make some decisions.
Perhaps the more talked about route up Snowdon amongst the summit virgins is the Llanberis Path, which starts in the village of Llanberis. However, although the terrain will be easier underfoot, this will add on an 5 extra miles of up-hill walking and in my opinion could become pretty boring for the kids.
We decided that Tirion and I would continue up and Dave, Mabli and Emlyn would head down the Miners and we’d meet again in the carpark. This turned out to be the right decision for 2 reasons. Firstly we felt that although Emlyn was perfectly happy in the carrier, we didn’t want to push our luck ! Secondly, we new Mabli had enough in the tank to continue to the summit, but we had concerns the accent would then be far too much for her.
From the junction it took Tiri and I about 1 hr to reach the summit, we spent about 30mins at the top , 10mins of which included queuing to get the obligatory summit photo, followed by another 2 hrs to get back down.
We only stopped the once for about 15mins at the first Lake we reached, Lyn Glaslyn, to paddle and have a sit down bite to eat. We then made the long steady descent to the carpark. It was only at about 30mins before we got back to the carpark that Tirion ‘hit the wall’ She stopped on the spot and refused to walk anymore. I was impressed she’d made it that far without a single complaint. Out came the emergency lolly stash and we were away again and with the carpark and bus in sight. Unfortunately, as we arrived in the carpark (approx 6pm), we saw the bus leave and the next one was a 1hr wait. Thankfully, a quick call to Dave and they came and picked us up in 10mins.
There are 2 shops in Llanberis to stock up on all the food essentials you’ll need. We used pretty much a whole loaf up for sandwiches, plenty of cereal bars, fruit, nuts, biscuits and LOTS of sweets and had about 7 litres of water between us. A small flask of boiling water and formula to make up milk and enough baby food for Emlyn.
Having checked the forecast, we dressed accordingly and took some water proofs just incase, spare layers (which we needed at the top) our handy snoods and the much-needed baseball caps!
We always go for lots on thinner layers, as these are easy to remove and pack away. Lots of thinner layers will keep you warmer than one thick one. Cotton when wet will stay cold, so avoid cotton. Opt for sports outdoor wear such as sport leggings or walking trousers, base layers, fleeces etc. Stores such as Mountain Warehouse have everything you need at good prices. You really don’t need to be spending hundreds on the best brands, unless you plan to go into the mountains regularly in all weather conditions.
Dave opted for a walking shoe, while the girls and I had comfy trainers with decent grips. Again, this was due to knowing we had dry weather and the terrain underfoot would be good. Anything other than dry, good terrain we would go for something more waterproof with a tougher sole. If you do go for a walking shoe/boot, don’t make the school boy error and wear them for the first time on a big day out – you’ll need to wear them in for a good few days first.
The girls each had their own rucksacks to carry their food, drinks and spare layers.
In addition to this we took along a
– first aid kit – make sure you have plenty of plasters to deal with blisters quickly.
– a fully charged mobile each as we knew there was a chance we’d split and might need to contact each other or in the unlikely event we’d need to call mountain rescue (call 999 and ask for mountain rescue) also to take loads of pics, you won’t be able to stop yourself!
– A map and compass. Mainly to teach the girls some skills as the likely hood of needing to navigate on such a clear day was extremely slim.
– Sun lotion and sun glasses. There are very few places to find shade on the mountain on sunny days, so this is definitely something to bear in mind.
– A comfortable backpack baby carrier. We used a BushBabys. This has been the best carrier we’ve tried to date and has all the added features you need for a big day out with lots to carry and protection against wind and rain.
– Comfortable rucksacks are an absolute must for a long day hiking. We use the 18ltr Deuter Juniors for the kids and for us the largest 65L Osprey Expedition rucksack. Both of which I highly recommend for quality and comfort. However, you can find cheaper, comfortable sacks-or borrow off a friend.
-Walking poles- we always forget them and regret it! These are life savers on the downhill sections, taking a bit of weight off the knees and helping with balance.
Some useful pointers
– There are toilets and a café in Pen Y Pass carpark and also at the summit-. The café at the top is not always open, even on sunny days in the school holidays. So check opening times and don’t rely on cafes for food and drinks.
– If you have to go to the loo, then bring a bag to take away toiletries/loo roll if you use any, and find a spot hidden away from the path.
-If you hope to catch the train then it must be pre booked! I saw a lady in tears after realising she wasn’t able to get the train back down.
– Be aware of your timings if you’re catching buses. An hour wait after a long day can feel like a lifetime with kids!
– Take more food, drinks and sweets than you think you’ll need. Annoyingly I thought we’d nailed it, but I’d run out of water for myself on the way down. Some water purifying tablets would’ve been ideal, so we’ll be taking them next time!
-Don’t get ‘Summit Fever’ – If the summit looks about 20 mins away – then triple it! Remember it’s about the kids and giving them a positive experience. The mountain isn’t going anywhere, so it’s a great excuse to come back to conquer it another time.
-Most accidents happen on the way back down due to fatigue and complacency. So do keep in mind you’ll still have about a 2hr walk ahead of you once you’ve hit the top.
So, to conclude!
If you want to try to reach the summit of Snowdon with your young family, my advice to you would be to:
- Get mountain fit
- Plan your trip in summer
- Book a few days
- Choose comfortable accommodation
- Choose the day with the most suitable weather conditions
- Start from Pen Y Pass carpark
- Take plenty of food, water and the equipment mentioned
- If using buses- keep track of timings
- Go at it with high hopes and low expectations
- Have the beers in for the end of the day!