Pen y Pass: parking here will cost you £10, if you can find a place

Pen y Pass: parking here will cost you £10, if you can find a place

Up to 700,000 people slog up the main paths to Wales’s highest mountain every year, and the limited car parks in the area are bursting at the seams.

Snowdon is a honeypot for both hillwalkers and climbers, as is the whole area around Llanberis and only slightly less so the Ogwen Valley, base for excursions up Tryfan, the Carneddau, Glyderau and countless climbs on the valley’s crags.

Leaving your vehicle in the wrong place can result in a nasty surprise when you return from your walk or climb: a parking ticket and the expense that goes with it. And if you’re lucky enough to grab one of the few spaces on the Pen y Pass car park before your dose of thrills on Crib Goch, you’ll pay £10 for the privilege.

The thorny issue of car parking in northern Snowdonia has been put under the microscope by the British Mountaineering Council’s access and conservation officer for Wales Elfyn Jones. He points out that the Green Key initiative, which was meant to tackle some of the traffic problems of the area, hasn’t really worked out.

Touted as a means of cutting emissions and visitors’ carbon footprints, Jones points out that driving 200 miles and then getting a bus for the final five to the start of the walk or climb doesn’t make much green sense. Then there was the problem of potentially building extra car parking in the area’s towns which would have spent most weekdays empty, as would the buses meant to take outdoor enthusiasts to their mountain Meccas.

All of which leaves much of Snowdonia gridlocked at weekends. 8,000 people vie for just over 1,000 car-park places, and the narrow roads on the verges of which the overspillers park are also the main routes of communication between towns and villages.

Jones’s analysis on the British Mountaineering Council’s website has some useful dos and don’ts. Don’t for instance stick your car or minibus on the carriageway designated as clearway in the Llanberis Pass if you want to avoid a fixed ticket.

If youre heading up Tryfan, dont park where there are double white lines in the centre of the road

If you're heading up Tryfan, don't park where there are double white lines in the centre of the road

Equally, don’t park your vehicle where there are double white lines on the A5 through the Ogwen  Valley (or anywhere else where there are double whites down the middle of the road) – it’s against the Highway Code, against the law and will, again, land you with a ticket from the North Wales Police.

Anything that obstructs the highway or pavements will also get you into legal trouble, including bad bends or narrow sections of road.

Full details of where not to leave your car are on the BMC site.

There are many pay-and-display car parks in the villages and dotted around the national park that are cheaper – usually £4 a day – than the gold-plated site at Pen y Pass. Again, the details are in Jones’s report.

Buses from Llanberis, Bethesda and Capel Curig up the pass are a reasonable £1 each way, with up to 30 services a day on peak days. The Ogwen Valley service is nowhere near as good, and tardy walkers and climbers coming off the mountains could have to result to sticking their thumb out to get back to their vehicles.

Elfyn Jones also says the BMC Cymru is looking at making representations to the Snowdonia National Park Authority and has hopes that climbers’ and walkers’ views will be considered before any further plans are implemented. The BMC also has obligations not to promote unfettered car use willy-nilly if it is to be taken seriously as an organisation that takes its environmental obligations seriously.

The stark conclusion is that hillwalkers and climbers might have to spend more time on the buses in the future.

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