Climbing Snowdon: The Watkin Path

The Watkin Path is the toughest of the standard routes up Snowdon.  There may be other routes known to climbers considered more challenging, such as the haul up Crib Goch, but of those normal routes straight to the top, the Watkin is the one.  It also has the greatest ascent from start to finish:  3,330 feet, or 1,015 m in French.

It has been several years since I climbed the Watkin, so I have no photographs of my own for this own.  I had it easy:  my wife climbed with me in spite of a bout of flu, but we wanted to climb it before moving on and so we did.

The walk start at the ‘back of the mountain’ on the south side in the valley of the Nant Gwynant, at Bethania, between the two long lakes of the valley.  There is a convenient car park (with few cars when we were there, but if it were full I cannot think where else you might stop).  A short walk in leads first through lovely woodland, then it begins to mean business as you walk up a dry valley carved into the mountainside; here a theme of the walk appears as this is a side of Snowdon heavily quarried for slate.  There is a large monument here marking a speech by Gladstone:  what days they were when people would travel to a remote valley to hear a political speech, unless he just spoke to quarrymen off their shift.

The incline of a slate tramway crosses the path, while the path itself winds first beside the Cwm Llan river, then splits from a path across the flank of the mountain (which goes to Rhyd Ddu as it happens), crosses the stream and begins to climb in earnest, and when the path begins to climb, it does not stop.

The path has a haul up to the craggy ridge of Y Lliwedd (though not to its summit) before following the ridge north-west directly toward Snowdon’s summit.

One high section of this climb I distinctly; remember clambering with my hands and finding the foothold for us both on a narrow, very steep section, with the slate breaking away as we trod on it or held.  The weather was closing in too at that point.  Somehow in spite of weather and influenza we reached the ridge and the climb was still not over as we worked our way up to the summit.

I am told that this upper section has since had work done to it to make it less of s death-trap.

It was late in the season and late in the day for a climb and for once, I think the only time, the summit was empty.

Waterfall on the Cwm Llan River

We were unable to go back the same way after that break-away section and my wife’s state of health but we found instead an easier downward route, along Bwlch Main – a ridge on the other side of the quarried valley, down to the flank track from Rhyd Ddu, whence back to the Cwm Llan, and a feeling of a job well done.

I may have to revisit, this time with a camera, to see what has been done to the route.  It was fascinating as a side of the mountain not so frequently seen, and to encounter just one other walker, and that on the Bwlch Main path, is unique in my experience of Snowdon.


The best maps for Snowdon are of course the Ordnance Survey maps; the ‘Explorer’ at 1:25 000 and the ‘Landranger’ at 1:50 000:

Route map

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