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What Training Do You Need To Climb Snowdon?

Updated: Apr 8

Snowdon is the tallest mountain in Wales and takes, on average, 7 hours to walk up and down it's steep slopes.


Most people are physically capable of summiting Snowdon without any specialist training. However, it is a testing challenge so the fitter you are the easier it is. Train for mountain hikes by doing endurance, strength and cardiovascular exercises:

  • long walks

  • lunges/ squats/ step-ups

  • Running/ HIIT

Star jumps is a good form of exercise for climbing mountains like Snowdon
Training for Snowdon


Can I climb Snowdon without any training at all?

Most adults with no precluding health issues are physically capable of walking up Snowdon without any training. Most people complete the walk up and down in less than 8 hours although people with less than average fitness may take longer and find the more difficult Snowdon routes really challenging.


We have taken a lot of people up Snowdon over the years so please feel free to contact us to discuss.


Although many people walk up Snowdon without any training, improvements to your cardio (cardiovascular performance) and endurance will increase your chances of success.


Benefits of training for mountain walking

Prior training will result in...

  • more chance of successfully summiting (& getting back down)

  • a more enjoyable day

  • an easier climb

  • being capable of more challenging routes

  • feeling less 'out of breath' & spending less time 'catching your breath'

  • more time to enjoy the view, take photos and chat

  • less muscle soreness

  • completing the walk faster

  • mental health benefits


How far in advance of the climbing date should I start my training?

Any training you do before the walk will make a difference. As little as one or two practice walks will help and the less fit you are, the more training will help and the easier you will find it.


Three weeks of training prior to your Snowdon walk, plus a week of recovery, will make a huge difference to most people.


If you are above average fitness and already workout, then doing mountain-specific training three or more weeks before will help.


3 week training plan for climbing mountains with exercise, sets and reps


I've never climbed a mountain before; is Snowdon a good one to start with?

Mount Snowdon, as it is sometimes called, is the 'first' mountain for many people. The six footpaths of varying difficulty give the climber a level of flexibility not usually found on other mountains. There is even a Snowdon Mountain railway to the summit.


The Llanberis Path or Pyg Track in good weather in the summer months would be a good choice for first-timers. Always check the weather forecast before you set off. The Mountain Weather Information Service (MWIS) has really accurate and informative forecasts.


Crib Goch would be a bad choice for a first mountain. The knife edge ridge is a serious proposition, even in perfect conditions. Mountain Rescue state that it is “extremely dangerous and should not be attempted by novice walkers”.


You might want to consider engaging the services of a qualified guide if this is your first mountain. They will advise you about what you can wear up Snowdon before the walk and keep you safe during the walk. It will also allow you to experience one of the quieter routes such as the Snowdon Ranger path.


If this is your first mountain, take a look at our ultimate guide on Climbing Snowdon for Beginners


Hiker on Snowdon's Llanberis Path
A novice hiker on Snowdon, their first mountain

Why is climbing mountains considered difficult?

Climbing Snowdon is difficult because of the increased and unique demands placed on your body. You are likely to experience being 'out of breath', increased heart rate, sweating, sore legs and sore feet. These demands are like symptoms which can be reduced and managed with better;

  • endurance (sore legs & sore feet)

  • cardio ('out of breath', increased heart rate, sweating)

  • leg strength (sore legs)


What are the best ways to train before climbing Snowdon?

Exercises which improve the body's capacity to deal with the physical challenges of climbing a mountain will improve your chances of success and make it easier.


This follows a cornerstone of modern exercise science: the SAID (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) principle. The SAID principle states that a certain type of training produces adaptations specific to the activity performed.


Unfortunately, most people don't live close enough to mountains to use them on a regular basis for training purposes but you can recreate the 'Imposed Demands' by doing the exercises that target the demands you experience walking up a mountain. These demands are:

  • endurance

  • cardio

  • leg strength

Outlined below are the demands placed on your body and the training you can do to increase your capacity to cope with those demands.


Endurance training

It takes most people around 7 hours to complete Snowdon so endurance is essential. You will have sore legs and sore feet towards the end of the walk. The more endurance you have, the less you will experience soreness, and it's onset will be delayed.


Long walks

A series of walks of increasing length in the weeks and months before is the best way to build the endurance required. It will also give you the opportunity to test out your kit, food and drink that you will use on the day.


Gradually increase the time you are walking, with the aim of your final walk being around 6-7 hours or 10 miles/ 16km.


To really get the most out of these walks:

  • wear your walking boots

  • incorporate hills or stairs and uneven terrain


Cardio training

Walking up a mountain tests your cardiovascular fitness, and you will notice this when you feel 'out of breath'.


The best ways of improving cardio specific to mountain climbing are...


Fartlek

The term 'Fartlek' is Swedish for 'speed play' and involves a series of bursts of speed with recovery in between and is an incredible way to improve cardio.


This will look like walking fast (or running) for a set time, such as 1 minute or between objects such as trees or lampposts, then walking slower (or even stopping) to recover. This is repeated numerous times.


Take the stairs

Man running up stairs
Stairs engage the same muscles as climbing mountains

As far as your body is concerned, walking up stairs is basically the same as walking up a mountain. It incorporates the same muscles and has the same effect on cardio, so it is a great way to improve mountain fitness.


Try increasing the number of flights of stairs you ascend and descend in one go without stopping and to make it really difficult, try skipping a step and doing double steps or even triple steps on the way up. This is a great way to improve leg strength.


You can even incorporate Fartlek training into your stair walking.


Running

This is probably the best and most efficient way to train for all of the demands of mountain walking.


Just a few short runs before your walk will make big improvements to your cardiorespiratory fitness, meaning you will be less 'out of breath' on the walk and allow you more time to stop and enjoy the incredible scenery of Snowdonia National Park.


HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)

High-Intensity Interval Training is a form of cardio training characterised by very intense bursts of energy followed by a slower or short recovery period. This is repeated several times.


This is best combined with the Leg Strength Training exercises listed below to improve muscular strength and cardiovascular performance simultaneously.


Leg strength training

All of the footpaths up Snowdon are steep, rugged mountain tracks strewn with large rocks and boulders that you have to step up, step down and step over with the additional weight of a rucksack.


This stretches and loads your leg muscles and glutes differently from walking on flat ground or even up the stairs.


For this reason, doing some exercises which mimic the movements and loads experienced in mountain walking will prepare your legs for the challenge ahead and make them less sore.


All of these exercises have the benefits of:

  • Building muscular endurance and strength in the quads, glutes, and hamstrings

  • Can be performed at a high intensity for cardio benefits

  • Improving core strength and balance


Lunges

Lunges are a great way to build leg strength for hiking

Stand upright. This is your starting position.

  1. Step forward with your right foot around 60cm or so. Keep your torso upright. Do not allow your knee to go forward beyond your toes as this will put undue stress on the knee joint.

  2. Using mainly the heel of your right foot, push up and go back to the starting position.

  3. Repeat the movement with your left leg.

  4. Repeat the movement.


Squats

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.

  1. Flex your knees and hips, sitting back with your hips.

  2. Continue down to full depth if you can, then reverse the motion until you return to the starting position. As you squat, keep your head and chest up and back straight and push your knees out.


Step ups

Step ups mimic stepping on boulders which are found on mountains

Stand up straight. This is your starting position.

  1. Place the right foot on an elevated platform. Step on the platform and place the foot of the left leg on the platform as well.

  2. Step down with the left leg, reversing the motion to the original standing position.

  3. Repeat with the right leg for the desired repetitions or time and then perform with the left leg.


How fit do you need to be to climb Snowdon?

You will need to be able to walk at a moderate pace for around 7 hours in order to walk up the Llanberis Path, Snowdon's easiest route.


The more difficult routes such as the Watkin Path and South Ridge, are possible for people with average fitness but will be really tough.


People with less than average cardiovascular fitness will find the steep sections more challenging and will move slower thus increasing the time spent walking.


Best gym exercises to climb Snowdon

If your gym has a Stairmaster machine, this will improve your climbing fitness as it is the gym activity which mimics mountain climbing most closely. Alternatively, a treadmill on maximum incline will help as will walking up stairs.


Weighted variations of the leg strength exercises outlined above will be really beneficial. Additional exercises targeting leg muscles and core stability, such as Bulgarian split squats and single-leg pistol squats, can be incorporated into a training programme.


Get a date in your diary with Walk Snowdonia - aim to train by then!

What better fitness motivation is there than climbing Snowdon?



Join one of our inexpensive Group Walks up an easier or more difficult footpath and give yourself a tangible and specific goal to work towards.


You can also hire your very own Private Mountain Guide to take you to the highest point in Wales.

Two people on a Snowdon Guided Walk

FAQs about mountain climb training

How many calories do you burn walking up Snowdon?

Most people burn around 2000 calories completing Snowdon.


As with other forms of exercise, this is impacted by body weight, muscle mass, birth gender, age, fitness level and intensity.


Walking up one of the more difficult routes, such as the Watkin path, with a heavy rucksack will burn more calories than others.


The Watkin Path starts at the Pont Bethania car park, which is closer to sea level than the other car parks and the steep scree section at the top makes this route one of the most intense.


Should I break in my walking boots before I climb up Snowdon?

Going on a few practice walks before you attempt Snowdon is a great way to improve your fitness and test out your equipment.


'Breaking in' walking boots will ensure they are comfortable and reduce the chance of them giving you blisters.


Investing in a pair of proper hiking socks will also help. At Walk Snowdonia, we provide a comprehensive kit list to those participating in our guided walks.


How many steps does it take to reach the summit?

It takes between 22,000 to 30,000 steps to reach the summit of Snowdon and get back down. The summit cairn is only an average of 13,000 steps from the car park.

The number of steps is affected by the length of the route and the stride length of the individual.


The Pyg Track, starting at Pen y Pass car park, is the shortest route, so it takes around 22,000 steps (there and back).


At the other end of the scale, the Llanberis Path is the longest route and takes up to 30,000 steps to complete.


Should I train outdoors or indoors to prepare for the climb?

It doesn't matter too much where you train as the effect on your body will be roughly the same.


Long hikes are best done outdoors because they take many hours, and the views are better. Walking or running in the countryside has the benefit of varied and uneven terrain, which you will certainly experience on Snowdon.


The other forms of training can occur in either indoor or outdoor environments.


Is there an age limit for climbing Snowdon?

There are no restrictions for hiking in Snowdon. Every year young children and people in their eighties make the trek to the top. A few people in their nineties are known to have successfully conquered the peak.


In 2021 the then 90-year-old Cliff Wilkinson made it to the summit of Snowdon and then hit the gym two days later. Hero!


We accept children of 13 years and over on our Group Walks when they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.


There is no upper age limit on our Group Walks, but if you are worried about your fitness we are more than happy to answer your questions so, please don't hesitate to get in touch.


Is running a good way to train for hiking?

Running is one of the best ways to train for hiking in the mountains. The benefits of increased cardiovascular performance, stronger leg muscles and enhanced stamina are all exactly what is required.


Trail running in the countryside, especially up and down hills, is perfect training for mountain hiking.


Should I train with or without a weighted backpack?

Most of your training can be done without a weighted backpack.

You will probably take a rucksack on long training walks anyway, and it is a good idea to test out the clothing and equipment before the walk.


Some of the leg training exercises (see above) can be made more difficult by increasing the load. You can do this with weights or, alternatively, a rucksack stuffed with water bottles, books or tins of beans is a great way to progressively increase the load and get stronger.


Can I train to climb Snowdon without paying for a gym membership?

Absolutely! Some of the best training you can do to climb Snowdon can be done outside or at home. Long walks, walking up stairs, HIIT and leg strengthening bodyweight exercises are fantastic training methods of training and don't require a gym membership.


Eager to get your hiking boots on? Check out other useful resources to get you started:


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