The end of the summer term saw me in poor shape, tired and frazzled by hospital letters, so as soon as I could, I ran for the hills. In defiance of all things illness-related, I’d planned a run up Snowdon with my eleven-year-old, but a last minute cancellation meant that I was the only adult going, so I’d have my seven-year-old with me. He’s not ready to run that far, so we decided to walk up instead.
Cue the Miners’ Track.
This was absolutely, completely brilliant; perhaps one of my favourite walks of all time. Honestly, if you’re fit and in the mood, do it. It’s gorgeous.
Here are a couple of guides:
We checked the routes, packed my summer kit list and as usual, spent the first ten minutes of the walk staring at all the people who seemed to be carrying practically nothing. HOW DO THEY DO THIS? I’m never totally sure where the balance lies; it’s true that my knees crunch like wet gravel under my kitchen-sink load, but it’s also true that some people go up insanely ill-prepared. Some things (fig rolls) may be a judgement call but maps are essential.
(True story: the previous day we’d been warming up on the Llanberis path when a woman approached and said, ‘We’re looking for Snowdon, can you tell me, are we actually on it yet — or which one is it?‘ She swung her arm around, indicating most of the horizon. I told her where she was but now, a week later, I’m wondering if she’s still up there, waiting for someone to show her the way back down? I can’t think about it.)
So anyway, for anyone who fancies the Miners’ Path, I’d recommend grabbing all things sensible, then heading over to Pen y Pass (pre 9am for the car park, or if you’re late you can park at the bottom of the hill and walk up the footpath to the café).
This is an EPIC walk for kids.
By which I mean huge and adventurous for younger kids, or really cool and manageable for bigger kids.
The guides say it’s about 6 or 7km each way (12-13km total) but by the time we’d parked down the road (2km) and faffed and zigzagged more than it says, then piddled about in the lake and pottered on the summit, we’d done about 19-20km over the whole day. Bear in mind that little legs tend to have to go further because the shortest routes may include huge steps, so little legs have to go around some of the bigger rocks that adult legs may scramble over. Over a long distance, this will add significant mileage to your little one’s walk.
I’d probably recommend the summit walk for 8 years and over – but we took a 7y/o, so there you go.
(Some people carried babies. The back ache! The nappies! The overheated, angry baby! I never took a baby up Snowdon, although I did take one on a dive boat once. Live and learn.)
The guides tell you everything you need to know, but there are two particularly brilliant things about this walk.
First up, the view is striking during the early section which is really, really easy. It’s a grit path gently sloping up to the west, hugging the lower flanks of the mountain. To the south, the land drops away giving a gorgeous view, giving a lovely buzz for very little effort in the beginning. It gets everyone off to a nice start.
Then there are the lakes: before you get a chance to feel tired, you pass Llyn Teyrn, a cute little lake with old miners’ houses beside it, and then head around the corner to the striking Llyn Llydaw, which stretches west/southwest towards the summit.
This part is an easy walk for seven-year-olds, which means if you don’t get any further, you’ve still reached the lake, can have a paddle and picnic, and can look at the miners’ buildings on Llyn Llydaw’s north shore. Our youngest hadn’t slept well and was really tired even when we started out, but coming around the corner and seeing the lake gave him a lift.
If you’re OK to go further, you can then walk up the steepening, but still easy, path to the west, which brings you to a third lake, Glaslyn, and this is GORGEOUS. Crystal clear, with the Yr Wyddfa summit rising up behind. It’s got a lovely rock and grit beach over on the west side, and loads of people were enjoying a picnic and a paddle when we arrived.
Then there’s the summit – this is now up the zigzag path, which is not easy as SUCH. It’s steep and a scramble and the path kind of vanishes in parts. At one point, it joins the PyG path, and at the top comes out at Bwlch Glas. Is it fun? Well, yeah, it’s great and fairly easy for fit adults and older kids, but for little ones it’s a proper effort because the steps can be big, as well as very steep. We paced ourselves VERY carefully (lots of drink stops) to give our youngest a chance at doing this without being painfully tired and he was fine, but it did have to be managed. A sprint at the beginning would have seen him overtired halfway up. I’d recommend this for kids over 8 years really but we did see other youngsters coming up and down, and since we’d already done Llanberis path on a previous trip, we knew our 7y/o could manage the distance.
(With 3 kids and only one adult, we never actually aim for the summit — we aim to give everyone a happy walk and if we make the summit, fine – but if someone wants to turn back earlier, we all head back down. It’s worked well for us. You can’t put pressure on a tired child – all you get is an injured child or a child who doesn’t enjoy walking, and what’s the point in that? I can, if need be, carry my child – but it’s hard work and he’s not keen, so that’s for emergencies.)
We hit the zigzag about midday just as a few walkers were starting to descend. Most people were careful and courteous but we did see a couple of walkers almost fall on the scramble descents: it’s worth giving people space to avoid a domino topple. What we did notice was that most people did keep the mountain clean: on the whole walk, we only picked up two pieces of plastic litter. Not bad for a well-trodden path that had a steady scattering of walkers on it through to about 6pm.
Summit and refreshment
The zigzag ends at Bwlch Glas and from there, there’s just a short stomp up to the SSE up some manageable steps to the summit and a break at Hafod Eryri café. Again, for adults and older kids, it would be fun to picnic outdoors at the top, but with a youngster, the comfort of chairs and tables and a big oggie (giant pasty) is not to be missed. And the refreshment is important: we took sandwiches, snacks and fruit up the hill and yet all three kids ALSO ate a whole oggie at the top, and we each drank over a litre of water just on the ascent (it was sunny, we felt half-cooked by Bwlch Glas). Note also, Hafod Eryri isn’t on the mains water supply (you don’t say) so be prepared to buy bottles of mineral water if you haven’t taken enough water for the descent.
(We ate chocolate all the way down and also swallowed half a litre of sugary, fizzy drink on top of a further litre of water. The mountains use up a lot of calories and a lot of fluid: now is not the time to diet. Which is lucky because Pete’s Eats in Llanberis serves a killer minted lamb burger and some ace veggie options.)
Swimming in Glaslyn
This is one of my favourite places in the world. And this particular day, one of my best memories. It’s beautiful. Picture being hot and tired, reaching a blue-green lake beneath the mountain’s summit, and just plunging in? It’s awesome.
So — we decided to go down the same way as we’d come up (lots of people go up the PyG and down Miners’, but I don’t really like the PyG track so much – it’s a steep start for my youngest and it doesn’t hug the lakes – I’d rather do Miners’ both ways). After a km or so of knee crunching in the afternoon heat, we were glad to make it down to the bottom of the zigzag, and to flop down on the shores at Glaslyn, where we decided to dump our gear on the gritty beach and take a break for a swim.
The water is clean and cool — but not biting cold as in April.
Legend has it that the water, tinged blue-green by copper deposits, was previously known as Llyn y Ffynnon Las (Lake of the Green Fountain) and said to be inhabited by the Afanc, a mythological creature who eats people. We didn’t find the Afanc, but then we didn’t find the bottom of the lake, either: it’s really deep in the middle. Maybe that’s why it’s called the bottomless lake.
I sank into it. Felt the water closing over my head, and sensed the depth stretching away below my feet, while the mountain summit loomed dark against the sky.
Eternal depth. Cold, clear and green. I’m in love with a mountain lake. Actual, achy love.
This is a place of real happiness for me. We all loved it. The kind of place that seeps into your bones and makes you feel stronger for the year.
We swam across the lake, and came out feeling cool and refreshed. The rest of the walk was the relatively easy section of track, down past Llyn Llydaw and back home, so we dawdled as the evening sun set on the mountain behind us.
It’s a lovely, lovely place to be.