Climbing Snowdon is challenging especially in the winter. You need to give careful consideration to the weather and the gear you take should reflect this.
You should wear clothes that keep you warm and dry. Layering is key to maintain a comfortable temperature and some items such as waterproof clothing are essential. Specialist equipment such as ice axe and crampons are sometimes necessary if there is ground snow or ice.
How cold does Snowdon get in winter?
Winter temperatures can plummet below -20°C and wind speeds can hit 150mph. The average winter temperature is 5°C but with the wind chill the 'feels like' temperature is much colder.
How is the weather different on Snowdon?
Mountain weather is affected by two phenomena; The 'Lapse Rate' and the 'Funnel Effect'. Both of these can make the temperature much colder than expected.
The 'Lapse Rate' causes a 1°C drop in temperature for every 100m of elevation. Therefore, at 1085m Snowdon summit is around 10°C colder than sea level and the car park.
The 'Funnel Effect' increases windspeed as the moving air is squeezed between the wedge shaped mountain and the tropopause (atmosphere). This is accentuated on the exposed summit, ridges and saddles (Bwlch).
Best ways to layer clothing for Snowdon in Winter
One of the primary considerations in winter is maintaining a good temperature.
It is clear that you can get too cold if you don't have the proper equipment especially in winter. Overheating and sweating is also problematic as you will quickly get cold.
For this reason layering (and energy output) are key. Lets look at the different layers you will need for winter walking. Items in square brackets [ ] are not necessary all the time.
What winter clothing essentials should I wear?
Needs to wick moisture away from the body so a dry layer of air can be maintained next to skin.
Thick fancy walking socks
Provides most of the warmth by reducing heat loss form the body. Items that are breathable and quick drying are perfect. Several lighter layers are more versatile than one heavy layer.
Quick drying trousers
Liner gloves/ thin gloves
SOFT SHELL/ WIND SHELL
A windproof and water resistant layer. This is usually the outer layer on dry days.
Mid weiMid-weightght insulated jacket
[Heavy insulated jacket]
OUTER SHELL/ HARD SHELL
Keeps out the wind and water but is breathable and allows perspiration to escape outwards.
These are items that help you move across snow and ice. When you use ice axes and crampons depends on the snow type and hardness as well as slope angle, size and run out.
Included are gaiters to stop snow entering your boots and a helmet to protect your noggin from hard and pointy objects.
4 season boots
Ski goggles/ sunglasses
You may want to book onto a winter skills course to learn more.
What equipment and accessories should I bring?
In addition to the essential clothing you should take the following items.
Head torch & spare batteries
Food (a packed lunch and lots of high-calorie snacks)
Water (1.5 - 2 litres)
First aid kit (Blister plasters and painkillers are recommended)
Rucksack liner (or bin bag to keep your things dry)
Fully charged mobile phone
Waterproof phone case
Map & Compass
Toilet paper & a bag to dispose of it in
Blizzard bag/ Storm shelter
Warm drink in insulated flask
[Sunglasses] (the sun has a high UV level when reflected off the snow so make sure they are close fitting
What to wear for different winter conditions on Snowdon
The vast majority of winter days in Snowdonia National Park are mild and damp. However, if you time it right you will climb Snowdon on a cold, calm day with blue skies and sunshine. Perfect!
The equipment you will need for the all conditions is mostly the same but with some small adjustments your walk will be more enjoyable and it more likely you will reach the summit.
Snow and ice transforms the mountains into an incredible winter wonderland. Snowy ground conditions increase the danger and introduce new hazards.
For more information about this take a look at our article What are the dangers of climbing Snowdon?
A key consideration is that wide paths, including the Llanberis Path, which are easy to follow in summer conditions disappear under snow and make it more challenging to find the route.
Check out our page on all of the paths up Snowdon to learn more.
You may want to consider booking onto a Navigation Course to follow route without paths.
COLD WEATHER EQUIPMENT
Because we are an island with a maritime climate this is the default setting in Snowdonia.
The risk of hypothermia is a serious problem and increases significantly if you are wet. If you add wind to this mix then it is almost guaranteed without for the ill prepared. For this reason it's important to keep dry.
Rainy weather equipment
Waterproof jacket and trousers These should always be taken into the mountains. Be aware of the difference between "water resistant" (i.e. might keep you dry for 5 mins as you walk to the shop) and "waterproof" (i.e. designed to keep you dry in heavy rain hour after hour).
Spare gloves You might need up to 6 pairs as they won't stay dry for long. They are lightweight and a real morale booster when you put a dry pair on. Oh and they keep your hands warm.
Storm shelter. These are used in an emergency but are also a great place to get out of the wind and rain whilst you have your lunch.
Walking boots Keep your feet dry and stop you slipping around on wet rock and loose scree such as at the top of the Watkin Path.
Windy weather forecast
This is especially common in autumn.
Windchill can be significant on Snowdon especially at the peak.
Waterproofs Have the dual benefit of being windproof so I often wear them on a windy day even if it's not raining.
Tubular neck wear Buff is the popular brand name of this item of clothing and keep the wind off your neck and if you have long hair like me they are perfect for keeping your hair out of your face.
Dry, cold weather
Hell is hot, so heaven must be a cold, dry, crisp winters day with a blue sky here in Snowdonia. This is caused by high pressure settling over the UK and is the best walking and climbing weather.
Down jacket (This is like a warm hug on a cold day. Pound for pound goose down is the warmest material known to man. It's long, lofty tendril structure traps warm air reducing heat loss. For this reason it is best to put your down jacket on whilst you are still warm ie. as soon as you stop. Natural down has the disadvantage of loosing up to 80% of it's heat retaining capabilities when wet whereas synthetic insulation retains most of it's warmth even when it's wet.)
Warm drink in insulated flask (Most importantly take a flask of hot tea, coffee or soup. Walk to the top, or half way will do but the top does have the best views, sit down and enjoy scenery whilst slurping on your favourite hot drink.)
Is there anything else I need?
We've got a handy video outlining the mountain essential kit you'll need when there isn't snow, so check it out!
Can I wear my ski wear to climb Snowdon?
Skiwear can be a good choice if you already own it but it does have some major drawbacks.
Skiwear is designed for skiing in cold dry weather or snow.
Ski wear is 'water resistant' to keep you dry when it is snowing and not 'water proof' to keep you dry in the rain.
Ski gloves, ski goggles, neck tube and balaclava work for climbing Snowdon.
Will I get warmer during the hike?
Body temperature rises as you exert yourself and walking uphill will make you feel hot after just a few minutes. In addition you are likely to sweat. Once you stop moving the sweat will make you get cold faster so clothes, such as sports t-shirts, which wick away the moisture are perfect.
Do you need crampons for Snowdon in winter?
Crampons facilitate safer travel across snow covered slopes. The need for crampons increases as the slope size increases and steepens. The longer the run out and the harder the snow or ice also increases their usefulness. If there is no ground snow or ice, which occurs in winter, then you won't need crampons.
Is Snowdon Mountain Railway open in winter
Snowdon Mountain Railway usually resumes service in early April with the last trains running until the end of October. For safety reasons, trains do not run in bad weather during the summer months.
Should I take more than one pair of socks?
Taking layers off at this time of year and especially exposing skin makes you very cold very quickly. If your boots are already wet then changing socks will probably not help.
Is it different to summer hill walking?
In the right conditions you can walk to the summit in a t shirt in the summer (as long as you have extra warm layers and waterproofs in your bag) but this is not the case in winter. The weather is more extreme, it gets dark earlier and the hazards are amplified. You will need more gear.
Winter is a great time of the year for walking up Snowdon. Remember to check the forecast, take extra clothing and consider booking onto one of our guided walks.