Mount Snowdon: “Pyg Up, Miner Down”
Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 10, 2014
“Pyg up, Miner down” was the advice some rather merry Welshmen in the hotel bar offered my husband. There are six main trails to Mount Snowdon: Llanberis and all the rest. Llanberis is not too challenging and roughly follows the railway line. All the other climbs are a bit more strenuous. One or two fall into the “not recommended unless you are an experienced mountaineer with paid-up life insurance” (that doesn’t stop people from trying). Although Mount Snowdon is only 1000 meters high (in other words, not high by world standards), it’s made more challenging by slippery rocks, high winds, very changeable weather, and poor visibility. If you are in good physical shape and allow enough time (3-4 hours each way is a realistic estimate) and choose good weather, you will have no problem. If you set out 2 hours before darkness or choose a rainy day to walk Crib Goch, your chances of injury or death are a lot higher.
The origin of the name “Pyg” (sometimes spelled “Pig”) is uncertain. It’s a good trail for ascending Mount Snowdon if you’re staying in Betws y Coed because it starts at Pen y Pass, which has the highest elevation of the various starting points (so less uphill climb) and is fairly close to Betws y Coed. We took Sherpa bus #2 to the Pen y Pass parking lot. There is a helicopter landing point at the beginning of the trail. The blue helicopters haul huge stones to repair the paths. The rescue helicopters are yellow.
The beginning of the Pyg trail is an easy, occasionally steep climb. The peak just ahead is not Snowdon but Crib Goch, a dangerous knife edge with drops of 100s of meters on either side. That ridge also has the most changeable weather. Walking a knife edge in fog is not my idea of a good time.
Assuming that you don’t turn right up Crib Goch, but turn left over the ridge, you see Llyn Llydaw (Lake Brittany), a large glacial lake with a causeway crossing it. The lakes are blue from the copper (these mountains were mined for copper and slate). The causeway was built in 1853 for the Brittania Copper Mine company, to allow horses and wagons of copper to cross. The lake had to be drained by 12 meters in order to build the causeway. Before that time, a raft was used to transport the horses and wagons.
First view of Mount Snowden, the peak on the right side of the next photo. The lake is Llyn Glaslyn.
View of Llyn Glaslyn on the ascent up Mount Snowdon itself. You might notice that the weather is constantly changing in these photos. We chose a partly cloudy day. When it’s sunny, you could walk around in a light shirt. When the clouds descend and the wind picks up, you need a hat and gloves. No joke. You really have to dress for a wider range of weather conditions and rockier paths than what we’re used to.