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Place Category: Walking Routes up Snowdon
The Watkin Path originally opened in 1892 as a donkey track and was never truly finished. Of all the official ascents, The Watkin Path starts nearest to sea level and so has more ascent than any other direct route up Snowdon. Whilst the Llanberis Path starts off only 50m higher and involves a little more distance. Swings and roundabouts really.
The Watkin Path is definitely 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 Watkin 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.
The Watkin Path up Snowdon
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 Watkin Path starts at the road junction in Nant Gwynant. There is a café literally a hundred metres 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.
The Watkin Path 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 the 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 Watkin Path 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 Watkin 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.