At 1085m Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) is the highest mountain in Wales and the busiest mountain in the UK with over half a million successful ascents every year.
You shouldn't climb Snowdon when the risk exceeds your ability. The risks include; weather, route choice, and ground conditions. Your ability includes your experience, clothing & equipment, navigation skills and health & fitness.
Whilst Snowdon has become a popular tourist attraction it is still a mountain and therefore carries inherent risks. There are over 200 Mountain Rescue callouts every year on this mountain alone and people have died attempting it.
It is too dangerous for anybody to climb Snowdon when there is thunder or very high winds forecast. You should always be willing to turn around.
If you follow the advice in this article, climbing Snowdon will be safer.
How dangerous is Snowdon?
All mountains including Snowdon are places of inherent and variable risks that increase in poor conditions. Snowdon has been identified as one of most dangerous places in the UK because every year there are over 200 Mountain Rescue call outs.
The mountains in Snowdonia National Park average 8 deaths a year mainly due to two accident black spots on Snowdon.
There were 10 incidents on one sunny weekend alone in July 2022. In spite of this over half a million people walk up Snowdon every year and of these a large majority are incident free.
The BMC (British Mountaineering Council) states that: "The BMC recognises that climbing and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions."
What are the risks on Snowdon?
The main risks on any mountain are the weather, ground conditions, getting lost and falling.
Dangerous weather on Snowdon.
The main uncontrollable risk is the weather, which will change throughout the day and can change in minutes.
It is important to check the weather forecast before you get to the car park and dress appropriately. It is especially important to consider the temperature and wind speed.
The temperature is 1°C cooler for every 100m of elevation. Snowdon is 1085m above sea level so the summit is around 10°C cooler than the car parks in the valleys.
Wind speed is at least 2-3 times higher at the top of Snowdon. The wedge shape of the mountain acts like a big wind funnel squeezing the air between the surface of the earth and tropopause (upper atmosphere).
This usually makes the 'feels like' temperature 10 - 20°C cooler. This means it can easily feel like minus -15°C at the top when it was plus 15°C in the car park.
These two factors contribute to frequent hypothermia on Snowdon.
Always be willing to turn around and come back another day.
Snowdon Ground Conditions
Snow and ice have claimed many lives over the years. Crib Goch and The Zig Zags on the PYG Track are accident blackspots especially in these conditions.
Avalanches are a risk and ice axes and crampons may be needed in these conditions. Wet rock increases the danger of slipping.
Loose scree, particularly near the top of the Watkin Path and uneven footpaths are a contributing factor (especially for people wearing trainers) to lots of the injuries on Snowdon.
Getting lost on Snowdon
Getting lost is a risk particularly on the quieter routes and especially in poor weather.
This is one of the main reasons for Mountain Rescue callouts. Snowdon is home to dangerous craggy slopes and vertical cliffs so make sure you know the route or how to navigate especially if there is bad weather.
Consider booking onto a Map Reading Course to learn how.
Falling off the mountain
Falling off a mountain including Snowdon will not happen if you stick to a safe footpath such as the Miners Path when it is in good condition and you don't get lost.
Wobbling across Crib Goch on a wet and windy day in trainers would be a recipe for disaster.
When should you definitely not climb Snowdon?
Climbing Snowdon, or any mountain should never be attempted by anybody when very high winds or thunder are forecast.
Last year (2021) two people were struck by lightning in an avoidable incident.
Very high winds make walking arduous and more dangerous. Wind Speeds of over 50 mph are likely to blow you off your feet.
Walk with us
Thankfully, many of the risks are controllable by taking the right equipment (especially footwear), route choice and making good decisions on the day.
For peace of mind and to offset these risks onto experienced mountain professionals consider booking onto one of our Snowdon Walks.
When should you climb Snowdon?
You should attempt Snowdon after you have checked the weather forecast and you are confident you have enough time and have the right kit and can cope with the route and conditions.
If you are unsure consider booking onto one of our inexpensive Group Walks.
How to prepare for Snowdon
Thankfully there are many things you can do to reduce the risk of climbing Snowdon...
Check the weather forecast
You should always check the weather forecast for Snowdon before you set off. Look out for mountain weather hazards, temperature, feels like temperature, wind speed and precipitation.
Check out our blog article "Is Snowdonia open all year round?" for more information about the best time of year for climbing Snowdon.
Plan enough time
People get benighted (stranded on the mountain at night) after setting off too late. This is especially common in the Autumn as the nights draw in. On average it takes 7 hours to get to the top and back down but it can take longer. Make sure you set off with plenty of day light for your route and fitness level, take a torch (that isn't your mobile phone) and be willing to turn around if you are running out of time.
Choose the best route up Snowdon
Choose a footpath that is suitable for your ability. Check out our page on all of the footpaths up Snowdon to choose the right one for you.
The Llanberis Path and the PYG & Miners Track are some of the least difficult, most popular and more substantial footpaths. This makes them safer. In spite of this people can loose their way especially in poor visibility and they become some of the most treacherous routes in winter.
The quietest route is the South Ridge but it is also the most challenging route up Snowdon.
The Snowdon Ranger path is one of easier walking routes and the Rhyd Ddu path is a great Snowdon route but both of these have a section of steep ascent and are easy to get lost on in poor weather.
Have the right equipment
Around 20% of Mountain Rescue Incidents on Snowdon are lower leg injuries. Most of these can be prevented by wearing walking boots.
It would be sensible to take a first aid kit with blister plasters and pain killers.
Wear appropriate clothing
Perhaps the most famous hill walker of all time, Alfred Wainwright said 'There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.'
You should always base your clothing decisions on the weather forecast. As a mountain professional, the clothing I take to the mountains varies massively depending on the weather.
Regardless of the forecast I always take a waterproof jacket and extra warm layer.
For more information about what to take with you up Snowdon please take a look at this video...
Fuel with food
Take plenty of high calorie snacks to keep your energy levels up during the long walk. Don't forget to take plenty of water especially on hot days. We recommend at least 1.5 liters increasing to 3+ liters on a hot day.
Knowing when to stop
Remember that the summit of Snowdon is only half way and it is not the most important goal. The only important thing is that you get down safely.
Remember that Snowdon has been there for 300 million years so there will always be another opportunity so don't be afraid to turn around.
Consult with your doctor first
Whilst most people are physically capable of walking up Snowdon you should always follow the advice of your doctor.
All mountains should be treated with respect and in spite of it's popularity, Snowdon (Mount Snowdon/ Yr Wyddfa) is no different. Make sure you are well prepared and be willing to turn around.
Contact us today, to get more information regarding guided walks!