Route: the Pyg Track
Time: 2-3 hours (going up)
If you’re tired of woodland walks and gentle, undulating trails it might be time to move things up a gear. Mountains can be hugely rewarding offering unparalleled views over wild and isolated terrain. However, be warned, you’ll need to be physically fit and well kitted out for this hike with kids – the Snowdon Pyg Track.
At 1085 metres tall this rock giant is the highest mountain in Wales (and England). Located near the Welsh village of Llanberis, in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park, Snowdon offers a range of tracks and trails up to the summit, each with their own advantages and vistas.
There are longer ascents up this famous mountain. In fact the Pyg Track, at just 5.5km/3.4 miles long, is the shortest of the routes up. Don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s the easiest though. Although the path is well maintained and pretty straightforward to follow, it does involve some very steep, rocky sections. If, like us, you’re taking your little one up in a carrier then be prepared for a slow slog and some aching muscles and joints the next day.
Furthermore, the steep, rocky sections will require you to use your hands in places to scramble up. So, if you’re in anyway worried by a lack of fitness or experience, consider taking one of the other easier trails up, such as the Miner’s Track. However, should you consider yourself up for the challenge you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views of any of the available routes up. It’s certainly not a time to forget your camera!
Starting at Pen Y Pass car park (if you can get a space!), the Pyg track is located towards the back, right hand side, behind the café, where you’ll find the clearly visible stone monument and entrance gate. Once you’re beyond the tarmac path you’ll meet the first flight of rock steps that will ultimately lead you to the summit. These can be pretty relentless, particularly if you’ve got the added weight of a child carrier so, as my toddler would say: “poli, poli” (‘slowly, slowly’ in Swahili). Similarly, if you’re walking with older children and teens there may well be sections where they’ll need a little assistance so take your time.
As you ascend up the first section of these rocky steps your view will be dominated by the iconic Crib Goch. Crib Goch (translated to Red Ridge in English) is a grade 1 knife edge scrambling route that can be accessed via the Pyg Track. Because of its grade 1 category many, less experienced people have deemed it achievable only to discover that, once you’re on it, picking a route or line can be hard. Furthermore, the exposure up there is serious. And I mean serious!
Look out for my future post on this but imagine a shoulder width ridge with sheer drops either side. If you know what you’re doing it’s no wonder many refer to it as ‘Grin Goch’. Consequently, it should only be attempted by people who have the relevant mountain experience, so not one you want to be thinking about if you have the kids with you (unless they’re exceptionally talented and experienced that is!). Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to take my two on their first foray up there, but that’ll be a fair few years off yet.
So, avoiding the right hand path to Crib Goch you’ll head straight on and over the style to continue the Pyg Track. On this section you’ll be looking down to your left onto Llyn Llydaw. You’ll also get some well-needed respite here as the path levels off and loses much of its rocky ruggedness for a little while. As the ascent starts to build again and the rocky sections reappear, there are some nice areas just off to the left of the path where you’ll find boulders to enjoy a well earned rest break overlooking the lake.
Soon after, you’ll arrive at the point where the Pyg and Miner’s Track intersect to jointly take you all the way to top. This section snakes and becomes a little more difficult again with loose scree, rocky sections and the opportunity to lose yourself on one of the various forks in the path that have been created over the years. Take care, particularly in bad weather or poor visibility, as many accidents have occurred on this stretch.
Turning right you’ll reach the zigzag up to Bwlch Glas ridge (another common accident spot). Once you reach the left turn you’ll only have a very short distance left to the summit. In busy periods this can become congested with some Black Friday type behaviour making it a challenge to get your keepsake photo of the brass plate that marks the top. Going up outside of the summer months is usually far more pleasurable.
Overall, the Pyg Track is an achievable hike to tick off and enjoy with your kids. It’s certainly no breeze though and many who have underestimated it (even without kids) have turned around or, worse still, got into trouble. Check the forecast, make sure you have good quality boots, clothing and gear and ensure that you and whoever you’re taking is physically up to the task. Oh, and don’t forget your camera!