Walk up Snowdon

All the Walking routes up Snowdon

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The Watkin Path

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Opened in 1892 as a donkey track, the Watkin Path was never truly finished.  Of all the official ascents it starts nearest to sea level and so has more ascent than any other direct route, but the Llanberis Path starts off only 50m higher and involves a little more distance. Swings and roundabouts really.

One of the most scenic of all the routes up, starting off through some ancient woodland before passing a spectacular waterfall and ultimately ascending to Bwlch Ciliau and Yr Wyddfa. A pleasure to walk for most of it’s distance, the final eroded scree chute up to the summit rather detracts from the path’s overall appeal. However, no other path can boast a Prime Minister, commandos and a Carry on Film among it’s myriad claims to fame.

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Height Gained 1,000mDistance 6kmTime 2 hrs 59 minDownload GPX

OS Map Required Explorer 017BMC MapLandranger 115

Difficulties Scree at top is an accident blackspot..

Start / End - Nant Gwynant - Snowdon Summit

Facilities Cafe, parking WC.

Public Transport Sherpa Buses.

The Route You’ll not fail to notice the many waterfalls of the river, which had today merged into one mighty torrent due to a very wet November that was continuing into December, so to speak. Despite the rain, the path is good, with no boggy sections; but plenty of water flowing along it. When you reach the falls there’s a gate in the path that some may recognise as a scene from Carry on up the Khyber.

The path starts at the road junction in Bethania. There is a café literally a hundred yards towards Beddgelert, but today they were closed for a private function – some comfort for a cold, thirsty and wet walker. The track can be followed, but the new path is to the left and through the forest. This is not on the OS map, but Harveys have got it right. It is a pleasant start to the walk, but you are soon on the rocky man made path climbing up into Cwm Llan.

It remains steady as it ascends to the old quarries, built to accommodate horse drawn carriages apparently by Sir Edward Watkin who built the path, for tourists. There is plenty to see in the Cwm, including the old ruins of Plas Cwm Llan just above he major waterfalls. There are bullet holes on the side of this building as it had a function for commandos during WW2.  You also walk past the Gladstone Rock to get here, which commemorates the opening of the path in 1892 by the 83 year old Liberal prime minister, William Gladstone.

From the mine, the path now snakes its way upwards. It is difficult to see where the path goes when you look up the slope, but the path is always very easy to follow and should pose no problems. You get to look down into the upper reaches of Cwm Llan and Cwm Tregalan and across to the South Ridge and Bwlch Main. You arrive at Bwlch Ciliau below Y Lliwedd quicker than you’d imagine. Probably as there is still a good 300m yet to climb and that it is the hardest section. If you’re lucky, you’ll now have views stretching across Glaslyn and Llyn Llydaw towards Crib Goch, and of course Yr Wyddfa almost overhead.

Now the next section has little to endear me to. Initially you are on a pleasantly narrow path above Cwm Llan, but soon this is to be replaced by an indistinct path up a sheer scree slope. It is an exceptionally loose route, and may well be one to be avoided if you are not confident of your skills or it is very poor weather. Today was the turn of very poor weather, and this made the scree wet and prone to slippage. Even large rocks were moving and there was scarcely any place to feel secure.

It is difficult to explain where the path goes, and the map is next to useless. It’s where reading the ground ahead comes into its own. The best advice you can get on here is not to go far to the right towards the summit, and keep to the left, as the path joins the south ridge somewhat off to the south east of the top. You also need to be prepared to stop and think where you go next.  It is a blackspot for accidents, with one person having died here in 2006 and a few injured, so don’t underestimate it.

The final scree path is very steep, but takes you to a large flat area where you can rest upon solid ground again, and is marked by a large upright stone. Once any Elvis-legs are gone, it is but a mere pull up towards Hafod Eryri, along the steps and to the summit.

Now visit the summit.

 

Avatar of daveroberts

Author: daveroberts

Some stuff to be put in here later to make me look like i know a lot about this stuff... (Don't forget to delete this bit)..... ;-)

8 Comments

  1. I walked the Watkin path this week, visibility from the ridge was very poor and the path wasn’t visible on the ground. The rain has made numerous false trails. I got to the top by walking/climbing a compass bearing. A scary experience with a thousand foot drop to my right. Don’t believe the guide books, this path is dangerous in anything less than perfect weather!

  2. Thanks Dave.,.. this has made us reconsider our ascent path this weekend!
    Em

  3. I climbed the watkin route just yesterday. I have to say i’ve never seen a more beautiful place in britain, but then it gets past the mines. Do not underestimate, dont approach with careless haste and try to stick to any path for as long as possible. We done this in galeforce winds(Nearly blew me off the side, down a ridge), IN a heavy rain cloud. This, obviously, made it a stupid risk, the climb up the rocks soon became like climbing a waterfall. If you are thinking about this route, plan with the weather in mind. Even in nice weather, i wouldn’t recommend for inexperienced, unprepared, or non-confident people.

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  5. I can still remember climbing to the summit of Snowdon by this route in 1951. I was 16 and doing my usual two-week Youth Hostel tour on my bike. I had seen the path on a map in a hostel and decided to do it as I would be passing that way going from Capel Cerig to (I think) Harlech. Anyway, I dumped my bike over a stone wall in the trees near the end of the road and set off with no map, no compass, no food, just my cycling cape in case it rained. It was a very enjoyable walk until near the top where the path disappeared and I found myself slipping and sliding on scary, steep, loose, slatey slopes. Cycling shoes were not the best footwear. I was glad, eventually, to find some vertical slatey rock to cling to and haul myself up onto more level terrain. The cafe at the train station was not particularly inviting – cold, bare stone and by my standards very expensive. At least I had a better idea of what faced me on the descent and I picked a somewhat less hazardous route. It had been a good day. The next day was good too- swimming in the sea from a sandy beach near Harlech accompanied by a couple of lovely young lady hostellers also on a cycling holiday. Oh to be young again!

  6. Avatar of Luther Blisset

    I climbed the Watkin Path last week. Weather was not too bad at the beginning but then ascended into the clouds and got windy near start of steep scree section. Was quite scarey, there basically is no visible path. Passed by 2 couples up there who did not want to carry on and turned back. We carried on and got to the summit. We headed back down the Watkin Path but got lost a number of times, we couldn’t make it through the steep scree section back lower to the easier part, maps and compasses etc were useless at this point when you can only see a few metres ahead of you and inevitably walk into inappropriate positions on the mountain face (reapeatedly in our case) and have to backtrack with big drops all around. After messing about trying to get down for about 45 minutes we then decided we would have to try to get back to the summit, at this point not even sure if we could do that. I was very relieved to pass through a sort of S shaped bended section near the end of the scree that I had been though at least twice already, then I knew we could get back to the top. Could have easily turned out very bad if weather got worse or we got stuck until dark! At one point I lost my footing on both legs and was literally hanging on to the peak of a rock with my arms until I could get a foothold again… not good! We passed about 6 to 8 groups of people lower down on the Watkin Path that day, plus the 2 couples who turned back near the top, we didn’t see anyone else get to the top that day on the Watkin Path apart from another small group who had got lost on the way up and climbed even higher up to the right on the ridge somehow but did make it to the top! (Not without a few tears).

    Once we reached the summit (for the second time that day), the train station had closed and there didn’t seem to be anyone around, this was quite worring as we hadn’t planned any other routes down! Eventually we did see another couple who advised us to walk down the Llanberis path which we did with a heightened sense of relief for every metre we descended.

    Moral of the story, the Watkin Path is not easy! On a clear day it might have been another story but I would imagine even with being able to see and plan the route better it would still be difficult. I’ve heard of people taking kids up there, you must be mad seriously! I was very happy I did it though, don’t mean to scare people off this route, just be careful and try to get it on a clear day.

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