The lure of a snow covered peak is undeniably strong – especially with the thought of crunching through alpine-like snow with blue skies stretching as far as the eyes can see!
But, here in Snowdonia, North Wales, we are also subject to strong winds and rain in winter months, with bitterly cold temperatures at times. But sometimes the Snowdonia peaks WILL see their fair share of snow – and it’s a popular time to walk in the hills, for the extra excitement and drama that the snowy mountains offer us.
Here are some useful planning considerations for walking on Snowdon in winter months – especially when snow is lying on the mountain.
1. Find an up to date mountain weather forecast. Know what to expect on your day out: rainfall, snow showers, strong winds, clear skies, low visibility? Remember the summits of mountains will experience very different weather to the valley below. Winds above 30mph start to push you about a bit.
Other places to check for local information, updates, mountain or road conditions:
2. Is there snow and/or ice on the mountain? What height is the snowline and does your planned route take you into it? What extra warm or technical kit might you need? Bookmark this link and keep checking…
3. Review your (and your team’s?) experience in winter weather and snowy conditions – do you feel confident and happy with your planning and decisions? Do you need any further advice?
4. Review your own kit and equipment. Do you have access to winter walking boots, crampons and an axe, for example? Are you confident in their use? In certain conditions, these items will make it easier and more secure for you to travel. A common misconception is that ‘regular’ footwear/trainers will be ok on snow covered paths. For paths on Snowdon, for example, where a lot of people walk, the snow becomes ‘compacted’ and quite squashed and icy. This can cause quite a lot of difficulty for walkers, especially when descending. It can feel very insecure trying to find traction on a slippery path if the soles of your footwear are very smooth. Rigid boots with a deep tread on the sole increase security on snow covered ground and, in certain conditions, a pair of well-fitted crampons will aid this process. Find out more about winter boots and crampons for walking from the British Mountaineering Council and a general Kit List for mountain walking (add thicker gloves and extra warm layers for colder months!)
5. Are you happy following a map to keep check of where you are on the mountain? Can you use a compass to check which way you should go, should it be very cloudy (or ‘whiteout’ conditions at the summit?) ‘Whiteout’ is where the snow on the ground and cloud around you makes everything look white and it’s hard to distinguish where you’re going! Which direction would you need to go from Snowdon summit, for example, to find your chosen way down?
6. On busy days, parking at Pen y Pass car park is near impossible after 0800 (or earlier sometimes). More parking is available in Nant Peris (LL55 4UF) or Llanberis (LL55 4TT) and using the local bus service to drop you off at Pen y Pass:
7. What time does it get dark? Plan to start and finish your day early. If you’re heading for the summit, be walking by 9.30am latest. Your walk can take you apx 7 hours minimum (depending on route taken and your walking speed). Carry a headtorch in your rucksack in winter months, just in case you’re delayed off the hill for any reason.
8. Be ready to adjust your plans as you travel to Snowdon – the conditions and weather may be different to what you expected (sometimes better, sometimes worse!) Always have alternative plans and turn back on the mountain if you’re not sure. It is never easier the higher you go!
9. Does someone ‘at home’ know where you are and what your plans are? Do you (and they) know what time you’ll be off the mountain and safe? Many rescue callouts to Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team are due to family/friends worrying about walkers who have not ‘come off the mountain’, only to find the walkers are having a drink in the local pub! Let your ‘contact at home’ know when you’re safe off the mountain.
10. Snowdon Mountain Railway and the summit visitor centre café building is closed during the winter months. There are NO trains running and NO facilities at the summit. For more information, please visit their website.
For further information, you can always contact us for up to date information and advice on weather and conditions, kit to take, route planning and more…
The main point of getting out into the mountains is to enjoy your day and benefit from it – so take some time to plan and prepare for a happy day out!
#LoveWinter – 2 day Winter Mountains adventure in Scotland 17 – 18 February 2019 – £160 per person
And for anyone keen to improve their general hill and mountain skills for more personal walking adventures, see our 2 day Hill & Mountain Skills Scheme courses in Snowdonia.