Yr Wyddfa (or Snowdon as we English call it) is one of the most visited mountain peaks in the UK. Being the highest mountain in Wales (and higher than anything in England) is guaranteed to bring in the crowds, but the rack-and-pinion railway that runs from Llanberis to the summit also boosts the number of visitors. Yr Wyddfa is not the place to seek solitude, but going up via the south Ridge is the best bet to have a quiet day.
My mate Paul had a spare day and fancied a Welsh hill-walking day. But what to suggest? Paul had never been up Yr Wyddfa, but I wondered if the magic of a truly wonderful mountain would be spoiled by the crowds at the top. One solution would be to walk the mountain in bad visibility – that way Paul wouldn’t see the crowds. Or much else for that matter! So, here are some of the views that Paul didn’t see on our Snowdon day.
The plan was to walk to the summit via the South Ridge, starting at Nantgwynant. This is also the start point of the Watkin Path, and as this is the more obvious route, it’s the way that most punters take. The South Ridge is something different, though. Height is gained gradually, and the path is good underfoot, whereas the Watkin Path has steep loose scree to deal with. The highlight of the South Ridge route is undoubtedly the crossing of Bwlch Main (“The Thin Pass”)
The “Thin Pass is well named – it has big drops on either side, but it’s never too thin, and rarely presents a problem even for those who hate airy ridges. The Rhyd Ddu Path joins the South Ridge just before the bwlch, and from there it’s a steady plod to the summit, passing the junction of the Watkin Path on the way.
The views are outstanding, but not the day that Paul and I went up. We branched off the Watkin early, heading up into Cwm Llan on the way to the South Ridge. Bwlch Main was atmospheric in the swirling mist, and the summit was as busy as usual despite the conditions.
Having summited, we decided to go down the Watkin Path for the return. The upper section of the Watkin is horribly loose, and slogging up that way is my idea of hell – going down isn’t so bad though, and we made good time on the descent. The mist finally broke at Bwlch y Saethau (“Pass of the Arrows”) giving views to the lakes of Glaslyn and Llyn Llydaw.
At the bwlch I stopped to demonstrate the wonders of modern technology, showing Paul my Mapping GPS. The device was obviously having a bad day, putting our position 700 metres away above Glaslyn, a sobering thought for those who rely solely on electronic devices for navigation. From the bwlch it was a steady yomp back down to Nantgwynant. This time I broke my pub jinx, with the Royal Goat at Beddgelert well and truly open!
Text and images © Paul Shorrock – Images tagged (PS) © Paul Scourfield