I have to admit that I have a soft spot for the YHA, in my early backpacking days I spent many convivial, interesting and educational nights in some stunning buildings in amazing locations. Places like Crocodylus Village in Northern Queensland and Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand proved to me that hostelling didn’t have to be a grim experience characterised by dirty, dribbling showers and stern faced killjoy management. When I finally started towards my career in the outdoors I funded much of Mountain Leader training working at the Lose Hill Hall YHA in Castleton where my many and varied roles included walks leader, toilet cleaner, breakfast chef and barman! It also afforded me the opportunity to visit some of the other hostels in the UK and stay for free 🙂 The first time I visited Pen-Y-Pass it was looking a little forlorn but it has since been revamped as part of a programme of substantial investment by the Association and when I stayed there a couple of weeks ago I was suitably impressed.
The hostel has a mountaineering pedigree and the walls of the building are covered in photos and historical tales. George Mallory stayed in the hotel (that became the hostel) whilst training for his assault on Everest. Other notables who have connections to the site include mountaineering pioneer Geoffrey Winthrop Young, the noted historian GM Trevelyan and author Aldous Huxley. On a wild night with the wind lashing the rain against the window panes, the history and conditions make for a very atmospheric experience.
The hostel is huge, it has been expanded massively and now utilises all the buildings on the opposite side of the road from the Pen-Y-Pass carpark. Reception is bright and airy and there is plenty of communal space including a TV lounge, games room, sitting room and dining room for those choosing not to self cater….there was even a Christmas tree! The bar was well stocked and as well as the standard YHA offering there were a couple of belting beers from the local Conwy Brewery, I highly recommend the Welsh Pride. The weather forecast was displayed on the counter (and when I was there sadly awful) and the reception offered a range of maps and advice for walking in the local area.
After many years of dorm rooms and snoring strangers I now must confess to favouring a room to myself. The Association had had a “Black Friday” event and that, in addition to my membership, meant an en-suite room with two sets of bunks to myself for £16! The showers and toilet were clean and there was tons of hot water which given the conditions I’d encountered on Moel Siabod was more than welcome. Gone are the days of making your own beds, mine was ready made with crisp, comfortable linen and once I’d cranked up the radiator the room was warm and snug in spite of the howling winds outside. Other facilities include a superb self catering kitchen where I knocked up chilli beans and pots of porridge (not at the same time) and a high quality drying room which was utilised by pretty much everyone unfortunate to step outside over the time I was there!
Steve and the rest of the staff made me feel ever so welcome and as far as budget option ideally located for Snowdon, the Glyders and the Moelwyn I can’t think of anywhere better! Highly recommended.