Hiking the Watkin Path, Mount Snowdon, Wales!
I’d sworn I’d never do it again…ever…the first time I had hiked up the Watkin Path to the summit of Mount Snowdon with my mate Daniel we had been surrounded by clouds, fog and rain, seriously under equipped, and lost, it had been a nightmare! I have a short and somewhat filtered rose tinted memory at times!
But…the Pen-y-Pass car park was full, we had got stuck in traffic around Birmingham and had arrived late. We had fully intended to hike the Pyg Track from the Pen-y-pass car park but the attendant wouldn’t let us in, saying it was full. We drove down to the next car park thinking we would get the next Sherpa bus back and start the walk then…we missed the bus…the next one wasn’t for another hour! Great. So I asked “What shall we do?” the reply “I don’t know!”. My suggestion “Well I know where another route that starts not far away, the Watkin Path, it’s the toughest route, and the last part is a scramble and at times your on your hands and feet, I’ve done it before” we were off!
It was a pretty rare occasion that my partner and I had a day off together and the weather was awesome! Over the past week we had experienced snow, hailstones, and heavy rain, today was different though…I think this is what lead me to having a furry fluffy memory of the route for some reason at this moment!
The walk starts off as a lovely stroll through woodland past a farm on a pretty gentle slope, it then opens out into a field and you turn to the right and walk towards a stream with really pretty water falls, it was a great time of year to do this walk because water levels were still pretty high, there was even a touch of snow still at the very top.
This was awesome, we were on our own, in the middle of Snowdonia, gazing at the water fall snapping away with not a care in the world!
I couldn’t resist the urge to climb out at the top of the waterfall and start taking pics of the water gushing down beneath my feet, it’s an awesome start to a walk, probably the nicest beginning of any of the hiking routes up to the summit.
There are small plunge pools along the route created by the falling water, and in this weather they were an amazing turquoise colour, tempting to jump in…I resisted imagining the heart stopping cold temperature! There was a family playing around in the water when we made our descent though and I did get slightly jealous!
The route then takes you away from the stream and into another field where you really feel like you are in the heart of the mountains. You are surrounded by a horse shoe of mountains and ridges with huge rock formations in the middle of the field, it’s a spectacular setting, and unsurprisingly there were a few people taking a well earned break here.
The walk here is really enjoyable, and pretty flat, we passed people of all ages here taking in the views, walking dogs, taking photos, having picnics, its beautiful. As we carried on, more and more of memories returned to me of when I had last done this route. It must have been almost 10 years ago, and I remembered that for a large part of the hike there were stones which had been laid down to form steps, and I remembered how these steps had taken it out of me. I’ve never been the lightest of guys…big boned and all that, and pretty average fitness, the large steps had really made my thighs burn, oh well, there was no turning back now…I mentioned it to Katalin “Ah yeah, I think the steps of hell are just round here!”.
The steps do get pretty big and steep, but they are not that bad, and no where near as bad as how I had remembered them, there were some people who were having to take a few breaks to catch their breath as we made our way, we stopped probably 3-4 times along the steps so I could take some photos (catch my breath!)
When you pretty much reach the top of the steps you arrive at a kind of ridge just above you, there is a grassy part above you, GO THERE!. Just over the ridge is a beautiful lake, a great place to have a bit of a rest and take some liquid and energy on board before starting the toughest part of the hike.
The path just beneath this ridge is pretty flat for a while, which is a good thing, because the next part of the hike is a scramble and climb up loose scree and rocks and at times is around 45°.
As you approach the scramble section you can see the path all the way to the summit, you can even see the summit with people posing for photographs above you. The path seems clear, however almost as soon as you start on it, it disappears. Stop at the bottom, look for parts which stand out to note your progress up, ledges, distinctive rocks and boulders, aim for parts where you can take a breather and take your time. When I had first taken this scramble on, it was my first, and I think the adrenaline and adventure had numbed the pain! This is definitely the hardest part of the walk, but it is do-able. To give you an idea, the hike in total up and down took us six hours. The ascent three and a half hours, one and a half hours of which was the scramble to the top.
As we reached the top there is a ridge which was lined by a small covering of snow still, the sense of achievement gave me a new lease of life and a second wind!
Turning right and after one last push over a rocky outcrop you are by the café, which was closed, at the summit. Pause for the obligatory summit selfie!! The views at the top are so rewarding, we sat for around 25 minutes at the top. Only seagulls breaking the silence! Awesome!
The route down was an hour less, and given my energy burst started off with no problems at all. The scramble was almost easy, the walk along the ridge enjoyable again, but then the steps began to take their toll on the knees and the calf muscles. By the time we reached the car it felt awesome to sit down!
My memories of the Watkin Path from now will be that it’s tough, it’s a challenge, but it’s worth it! The aches in my calf muscles today are a reminder of the challenge, the pics are a reminder of the beauty!
To get to the start of the Watkin Path turn off the A5 at Capel Curig onto the A4086, follow this and continue onto the A498 instead of turning right towards Llanberis along the A4086. Continue round the large lake Lyn Gwynant and just before you reach Caffi Gwynant and some other buildings on you right, the car park is on your left. It costs a fiver to park all day. The start of the walk is on the opposite side of the road a short distance to the left from the car park, it is clearly signposted. (Postcode LL55 4NR)
The walk starts just above sea level so the ascent is a total of 1015 metres, the longest ascent of any of the paths up Snowdon. The path is 8 miles/13km long. As I said it takes about 6 hours up and down.
On a side note, I brought some new Jack Wolfskin gear prior to doing this walk, more in preparation for our next major trip, Norway. I have to say that I was really impressed with it. It is maybe slightly cheaper that North Face stuff, but right up there with it in terms of quality, and for me, it fit perfectly, and was really comfortable. Some walking trousers can be tight on me especially when having to take on higher steps, these had plenty of room for movement and really fit well. They look like they are built to last as well. Check them out!
So…next up…May 22nd…Norway! Including attempting to hike up to Kjeragbolten…google it…AMAZING!!! If that doesn’t give you wanderlust…I don’t know what will!!
Thanks for reading! Happy Travelling!