Snowdon Via the South Ridge and the Watkin Path Walking

This is one of the longest routes up and down Snowdon and as such gives a challenging day to the highest point in England and Wales. The South Ridge offers a fine exposed walk up an occasionally rocky mountain ridge to get to the impressive narrows of Blwch Main high above Cwm Tregalan and Cwm Clogwyn, before heading to the summit. The route then descends the way it came briefly before traversing across the south face via the Watkin Path. This section is being rebuilt slowly and is not as treacherous as it once was, but still requires the walker to be happy on a steep and occasionally loose path across an exposed face. From Bwlch Y Saethau (Col of the Arrows) the walking returns to well-maintained path which turns sharply down hill at Bwlch Ciliau, where the route descends to Cwm Llan and on past Gladstone Rock.

Summer Evening - Bwlch Main © Nicholas Livesey  © Nicholas Livesey
Summer Evening - Bwlch Main © Nicholas Livesey
Fetching Map

Detailed description

SH6271250588 From the Car Park cross the main road and turn left on the A498 and walk about 30m to the start of the Watkin Path. The route used to start up the 4x4 track, but we have a newer path that leads through the woods just above it. So turn up off the track and follow the path through the woods. You eventually rejoin the main 4x4 track as it bends its way around the terrain to eventually come into a bowl feature with a large incline running down into it and across the track. Carry on through a gate at the far end of the bowl just past the incline where the Afon Cwm Llan stream comes in to right below the path. Carry on up to eventually stop at a new hydro-electric dam at the mouth of Cwm Llan.

SH6213651994 From the dam walk on briefly to where a path heads up and left from the main Watkin Path. Head up here to the old quarry incline/tramway, and turn right to follow this tramway into Cwm Llan. After about 250m a smaller less defined path breaks off from the main tramway and starts to contour its way up towards Bwlch Cwm Llan. As you approach you should see the main path that ascends the short steep section to Bwlch Cwm Llan via a rocky staircase.
Descending Snowdon via Bwlch Main and Cwm Llan  © grice_philip
Descending Snowdon via Bwlch Main and Cwm Llan
© grice_philip, Jul 2013

SH6051552242 From the bwlch turn right and head up the continuation of the staircase until the path opens out onto the ridge line itself. It is then a case of following the path up the ridge and making your way over the short rocky sections before continuing on along a more obvious ridge over two small spot heighted false summits to arrive at spot height 931, just before the narrows of Blwch Main. It is here that the Rhydd-Ddu path joins the South Ridge.
Snowdon South Ridge  © tutbury
Snowdon South Ridge
© tutbury, Aug 2010

SH6052153695 Head on across the narrows - it is worth remembering that this is an exposed area and not the best place to be in high winds. It is never desperate and is often seen as the walker's Crib Goch. At the end of the narrows the ridge carries on up past the prominent finger stone at the top of the Watkin Path. It is worth noting where this is on the way up so you don't walk past it on the descent. From here just carry on up the ridge to the summit cafe and on to the actual summit, which is often within earshot at this stage.

SH6100354375 From the summit backtrack down the route you came up for about 200m to the finger stone at the top of the Watkin Path.

SH6086854189 From the finger stone turn left and follow the exposed and at times loose path down and across the South Face of Snowdon to reach the end of any serious terrain at Bwlch Y Saethau. Col of the Arrows is named after an Arthurian legend which saw King Arthur make a final stand against his treacherous brother and saw him cast Excalibur into Llyn Glas below. From here carry along the flat but slightly undulating path to reach the turn off right for the main Watkin Path just below Bwlch Ciliau.
View of Y Lliwedd and Watkin Path  © maremalin
View of Y Lliwedd and Watkin Path
© maremalin, May 2013

SH6195053666 The path leads all the away down into Cwm Llan where you start to pick up the old quarry workings before the path heads left around a large spur and on to Gladstone Rock. This is a memorial stone from when the then Prime Minister gave a speech to celebrate the opening of this path that was built specifically with leisure walkers in mind by Watkin, who was also responsible for trying to build a channel tunnel in the 1800s.

SH6183152309 Carry on following the main track down to the hydro dam at the mouth of Cwm Llan, and then continue down the way you came up to reach the car park and if you are lucky an open Gwynant Cafe for some well earned tea and cake.

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Further Routes

by Mark Reeves

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