Watch the Weather
The varied landscape and changeable maritime climate of Wales are what make it a fantastic place for outdoor adventures. It has over 1,680 miles (2,700 km) of coastline and is largely mountainous, with its higher peaks in the north and central areas.
In Snowdonia in the north, five of the peaks are over 1,000 m (3,300 ft). The highest of these is Snowdon, at 1,085 m (3,560 ft). The 14 Welsh mountains (15 if including Garnedd Uchaf ) over 3,000 feet (910 m) high are known collectively as the Welsh 3000s and are located in a small area in the north-west.
The highest peak outside the 3000s is Aran Fawddwy, at 905 m (2,969 ft), in the south of Snowdonia. The Brecon Beacons are in the south (highest point Pen y Fan, at 886 m (2,907 ft)), and are joined by the Cambrian Mountains in Mid Wales. The highest point being Pumlumon at 752 m (2,467 ft).
In winter be prepared for winter conditions because the likelihood is that rain will fall as sleet or snow when the temperature falls below 5 °C and snow tends to be lying Snowdon’s summit for an average of 30 days a year. Snow falls several times each winter in inland areas.
Outdoor adventures in winter can be challenging and require good preparation. Find out more about how to prepare for winter conditions here. If you think conditions are beyond your ability then register on a winter skills course or go on a guided walk – this way you will gain the skills and guidance you need to explore Wales in winter comfortably and safely!
Brushing up on your first aid skills is time well spent! St John Cymru Wales run FREE First Aid Awareness Courses in Wales.
Good to know
Wales has activities for all abilities, but before you set off it is important
a) be honest with yourself about you and your
b) check the latest weather and ground conditions.
Take advice and only attempt an activity if the conditions are within you and your companions capabilities.
There are some areas where people are more likely to get into difficulty than others, so here’s a ‘heads up’ with specific regional info on how to stay safe whilst exploring Wales.
Snowdonia’s landscape is unique. The nine mountain ranges cover approximately 52% of the Park and include many peaks that are over 3,000 feet (915m). Apart from the beauty and charm of its high mountains, Snowdonia is a delightfully varied landscape of steep river gorges, waterfalls and green valleys.
Snowdonia in winter is a magical place to visit but even a little snow or ice on the ground can make the mountains very different places. View the latest weather forecast for Snowdonia.
The Snowdonia National Park Wardens provide twitter updates on the weather conditions in the mountains of Snowdonia via @snowdonweather.
- Llanberis Path – Clogwyn coch
In summer the Llanberis Path offers the easiest path for walkers to climb up and down Snowdon. Being close to the railway track, navigation is relatively easy but do remember that it still involves nearly 10miles of walking up and down on a rough path with almost 1000m of ascent (and descent!).
In bad weather the railway and café are frequently closed (they are never open in winter in any case) therefore it’s always best to turn back rather than press on in the hope of getting shelter or hoping the train is available to get you down.
In winter and under snowy conditions, walkers should never think of this as an easy path; although it looks innocuous there are a significant number of serious incidents including fatalities in this area every winter. The section above Clogwyn Station becomes banked out with snow and hard ice – ice axes, crampons and the knowledge and skills to use them are absolutely essential here in winter. Do not descend this path or the railway in winter unless properly equipped. The Snowdon Ranger Path to the village of Rhyd Ddu is a safer alternative as an emergency descent.
- Crib Goch
The obvious pointed peak visible from the car park at Pen y Pass is not Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa but is in fact Crib Goch; one of the country’s most popular ridges. If you are walking up Snowdon via the Pyg Track take care to stay on the path and not turn right thinking you are heading for the summit – this mistake can lead you into serious difficulties. Crib Goch is definitely not a walk – it’s a proper mountain scramble (in-between a steep walk and a rock climb which will require you to use your hands) and will require you to undertake unroped rock climbing above big drops. If you are not an experienced scrambler then Crib Goch is not for you!
After some very steep sections, there is still some 500m of narrow knife edge ridge to be overcome with vertical drops of hundreds of meters on both sides. Once on the ridge, the consequences of a slip are very obvious and very serious and there is no easy way off. The exposure to high winds here can be fierce. In winter, with any snow or ice on the ground, this is a very serious mountaineering route to be undertaken only by experienced climbers equipped with ice axes and crampons and possibly climbing ropes.
- Upper Pyg/Miner’s Track Intersection and the Zig-Zags
The upper part of the Miners and Pyg Track join together in an area of loose rock, scree and eroded stony slopes. The path can be difficult to follow in foggy or misty conditions and walkers descending frequently get lost here – don’t descend too directly or too soon or get drawn into the broken rock and old mine remains and stay high until you get to a prominent standing stone, some 3m high that marks the junction of the Miners and Pyg Track. A map and compass and knowing how to use them could literally be a lifesaver here!
In winter, the upper part of these paths can hold compacted snow and ice when the rest of the mountain is clear of snow. Slips and falls are very common here in these conditions. Check the Snowdon Warden’s weather report (@snowdonweather) before setting off and only attempt this route if the conditions are within you and your companion capabilities. The consequences of a slip at the top of the zig-zags are very serious; Mountain Rescuers are called to this area on a regular basis.
- Upper Part of Watkin Path/East Ridge
The final kilometre of the Watkin Path before the summit is very steep and eroded. Although some path repair works have been carried out here, the path can still be difficult to follow and is very uneven and in places very loose and slippery. Walkers descending from the summit of Snowdon frequently try to descend directly from the summit down the East Ridge towards the peak of Lliwedd on what appear to be eroded paths but are in fact only sheep trails that peter out above some very big nasty drop. The Watkin Path can sometimes be seen, enticingly close directly below, but this direct route is very dangerous at all times of the year and falls here are sadly frequent with tragic outcomes. The safer and correct way to descend is to initially head away from the summit in a southerly direction until a standing stone is reached and only then turning left (east) back down the Watkin Path.
- North Ridge of Tryfan
This is a classic Snowdonia “scramble” (in-between a steep walk and a rock climb which will require you to use your hands). There is no defined path and climbers going up this route have to find their own way and scramble through a maze of rocky cliffs and outcrops, following occasional boot marks on the rocks. The higher one gets the steeper and tougher it gets and the drops get bigger……!
People frequently try to veer off the ridge to avoid the steep rocky sections but the gullies either side are notorious blackspots and Mountain Rescue call outs to accidents and stuck walkers are common. There is no easy way off the ridge and descending into any of the gullies or slopes on either side will only lead to nastier and more dangerous ground. The rocks are particularly slippery when wet or raining. The lack of a defined path makes navigating very difficult in poor weather or darkness.
- Descent from above Twll Du/Devil’s Kitchen
The main paths descending from the summits of Glyder Fawr and Y Garn follow a narrow ramp down through the cliffs of Twll du/The Devil’s Kitchen into Cwm Idwal and can be very difficult to find in misty conditions or in darkness. People frequently get into difficulties trying to locate this path as it disappears towards a large cliff. From the small lake above the cliffs (Llyn y Cwn), head north east down a shallow gully, passing a large stone cairn (big pile of stones) to a low wall with a wooden stile. The path then descends, (turn sharp left and not straight on, as there is a huge drop there), hugging the base of the cliffs on the left until it goes more directly downwards on a constructed stepped path into Cwm Idwal.