I have just discovered that this article which I wrote almost four years ago has never been published so I am at last taking the opportunity to put this right. I was visiting North Wales and was trying to find a walk which would allow me to capture some new landscapes. A review of my walking books proved fruitless until I came across a walk towards Snowdon, Wales highest mountain, which I had intended completing for some time but never got round to it. Although this route could have taken me to the top of Snowdon that was not the intention as my priority for the day was to use a different route than I had used previously and to view the landscape from a different perspective.
There are six paths up Snowdon and this time I was going to follow the Pyg Track – the most rugged and challenging, to its junction with the Miners Track and then take that track back down. Nobody knows for sure why this path is called the Pyg Track. It’s possible that it was named after the pass it leads through, Bwlch y Moch (translated Pigs’ Pass) as the path is sometimes spelt ‘Pig Track’. Or, maybe because it was used to carry ‘pyg’ (black tar) to the copper mines on Snowdon. Another possible explanation is that the path was named after the nearby Pen y Gwryd Hotel, popular amongst the early mountain walkers. The team who conquered Everest in 1953 stayed at this hotel while training on Snowdon. When the team returned from the Himalaya a reunion was held at the hotel, accompanied by Edmund Hillary himself.
As you can see from the first image it was a beautiful day and just perfect conditions to make the best of the location. As you progress along the track the views just keep getting better and better. First, at 1430 feet above sea level, Llyn Llydaw, a sterile glacial lake of Snowdon in its eastern valley Cwm Dyli, comes into view. It has an industrial air about it, and it has the Miners’ track crossing its eastern end by a causeway that was built in 1853 to serve the Brittania Copper Mine. Before this, a raft was used to carry horses and wagons full of copper across the lake. So that the causeway could be built, the water level had to be lowered by 12ft, and during that process, a prehistoric oak dug-out canoe, measuring 10ft by 2ft, was discovered – proof that man has roamed this mountain for thousands of years.
Shortly before arriving at the intersection of the Pyg and Miners Tracks you have a fantastic view of Snowdon in front of you. At an elevation of 3,560 feet above sea level and the highest point in the British Isles outside the Scottish Highlands it has been described as “probably the busiest mountain in Britain.” The rocks that form Snowdon were produced by volcanoes and the massif has been extensively sculpted by glaciation forming its pyramidal peak.
The junction of the tracks is usefully marked with a large stone pillar. Before descending from here you can look down on Glaslyn – Blue Lake which is found at approximately 2,000 ft above sea level in a cwm on the eastern flanks of Snowdon. Glaslyn the highest and remotest of the larger glacial lakes is the source of the Afon Glaslyn, the major river of Gwynedd, which runs east to Llyn Llydaw, in the background, before turning south-west to reach the sea at Porthmadog.
Heading down the Miners Track I reach Glaslyn and walking around the edge allows me the opportunity to see a wonderful reflection of Y Lliwedd, a mountain, connected to Snowdon. Its summit lies 2,946 ft above sea level and is the southern enclosing arm of the magnificent Snowdon Horseshoe.
The track from here back to the start is very straightforward skirting round Llyn Llydaw, passing by the ruins of the Brittania Copper Mine, crossing the causeway and finally by Llyn Teryn with the ruins of the miner’s barracks nestling by its side eventually reaching Pen-y-Pass and a welcome rest. Although the route of this walk was a spur of the moment decision it certainly proved to be a good choice and very enjoyable. I hope you found it just as enjoyable too even if it was a four-year wait.