We all know a walk up Snowdon is awesome, but so is mountain biking up Snowdon, indeed this ride is a true big mountain epic. If timed well you’ll have huge views, lung busting climbs and grin inducing descents that you’ll only be sharing with a smattering of others. Get your timing wrong and you’ll get to see the inside of a very busy cloud. Even worse though is to never venture up there with your bike and miss out on the unique MTB experience that is Mountain Biking up Snowdon.
Big mountain riding is a serious business, even on Snowdon with it’s well worn paths and hordes of walkers it’s easy to suffer a mechanical, or worse an injury, that leaves you high on the mountain as the skies start to darken for the night. If you have the right kit, the spares, the navigational expertise and the big mountain experience then mountain biking up Snowdon is arguably the best big mountain route in the UK, without these skills you’d best hire a guide.
Important note – There is a Snowdon Voluntary Cycling Agreement that you should follow, which basically asks all mountain bikers not to cycle up Snowdon bridleways between 10am and 5pm from May to the end of September.
There are various legal MTB routes up (and back down) Snowdon. For a simple taste of this venue park at Pen-y-pass and follow the Miners track up to Llyn Llydaw, it’s an easy ride on a well maintained track and leads you to a beautiful high mountain lake with views up into the heart of the Snowdon Horseshoe. If the summit is your goal then you’d best head back to Llanberis and plan your route from there.
The majority of riders heading for the summit take the Llanberis path to the top. It’s a well troden path, hugely popular with the walkers, but offers good views and for those with the legs (and lungs) the best chance of an entirely rideable ascent. Once you’ve rested your legs and lungs, taken in the view and climbed the final staircase to the trig point it’s time to head down and this is where your options really open up.
For first timers on the mountain there’s no doubt the best option is back the way you’ve come. Descending the same path you’ve already climbed offers the added safety of knowing what’s coming, and far less chance of a navigational error. The down side with descending the Llanberis Path is that it’s also know as the ‘Motorway’ for very good reason – the traffic on this path can be huge, so a descent by this route needs to be a considerate one, taking genuine care not to pick up too much speed or surprise those on their way up (or more slowly down).
This might sound like a good way to spoil a great descent, but with so much descending to do, and so many breathtaking views to photograph your mates riding through, taking the slow and steady approach on the way down won’t diminish this ride one bit (and you’re calves are likely to thank you for it by the bottom!).
Repeat visitors with a high level of MTB experience and ability may decided to try one of the other descents. Remember that this is big mountain riding and it’s a long way from the safety of a bikepark where there’s a shop for spares and a carpark for the ambulance to pull into. Riding these descents blind takes an expert level of riding and this is not the place to find you’re out of your depth – warning over – so what’s in store?
The Snowdon Ranger Path offers experienced riders a spectacular, and challenging descent. It starts off the summit in the same direction as the Llanberis Path but soon veers off down the mountainside. En route to the bottom expect to encounter boulder gardens, scree, switchbacks, steps, drop offs and sections that even the best rider will walk down. Follow the Ranger Path until approx 400m above (vertically) the Ranger train station and then peel off right, up a long grassy climb, to enter into ‘Telegraph Valley’. This descent in isolation is a great ride, but on this route it is just the icing on the cake. The path is well built but has regular drainage gullies that will catch out the unsuspecting rider, but soon meets farm track, and then the final tarmac descent into Llanberis.
About the Author: Tom grew up in North Wales and spent his childhood and entire adult life exploring the mountains by bike, or when his bike was broken, on foot. Tom is the head guide at Carbon-Monkey and regularly guides MTB groups up the mountain, but also offers MTB skills courses, guided rides throughout Snowdonia and the rest of the UK, as well as multi day bikepacking MTB adventures. For more info please see www.carbon-monkey.co.uk