Y Lliwedd via Watkin Path

Date walked: 18/11/2018

Time taken: 5.8 hours

Distance: 12.8km

Ascent: 934m

The forecast was for fabulous weather so a day not to be missed after the recent rains and clag. I met up with Mark and decided that a high day was in order, west was forecast to be best so the Snowdon area was chosen. Not wanting crowds, and having done a circuit from the south earlier in the year, I fancied another experience of the wonderful Y Lliwedd. So a simple, short route was planned using the Watkin Path for ascent to Bwlch Ciliau, across Lliwedd, and back down past the disused mine.

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We were away from the large lay-by at Bethania, opposite the National Park car park, at 8.45 so were ahead of the masses as we would see later. As we set off up the lane leading to the start of the track proper, Lliwedd and friends were cloud-capped but the shifting clouds were moving fast and wouldn't last. A fine sight. It was surprisingly cold, and windier than expected. There is actually a newer section of the path at the start, going through the woods from the road and avoiding the lane.

starting off, Lliwedd and Wenallt cloud capped

It is easy going for the first 3km with ascent of 300m to a disused quarry, which the track was built to serve of course. The track is wide, snaking past fine waterfalls and a disused incline before reaching the plateau of lower Cwm Llan. Here a path branches to the west, heading for Yr Aran which I took last time, or you can go directly to Bwlch Cwm Llan and up to Snowdon via the Allt Maenderyn ridge and Bwlch Main, a grand route also done last time. You may have these routes to yourself. A little further along the track is Gladstone Rock and its plaque commemorating a speech on Justice for Wales given by prime minister William Gladstone in 1892, at which he also announced the opening of the newly-built Watkin Path to Snowdon. Just past this, on the right, there is a huge sloping slab that would give a good climb with sticky shoes. We thought that this would have been a better class of rock for Gladstone than the one chosen!

the waterfalls and disused incline

The path itself starts after the quarry workings and is well built all the way to Bwlch Ciliau. It sneakily weaves its way around rock outcrops such that the path ahead can't be seen at times, and is a delight. The rocky surrounds are outstanding as you climb higher above the floor of the cwm, for us sun-drenched and one of those sights best waiting for good weather. The ants on the summit of Snowdon could be seen clearly. We were out of the east wind here and needed to strip off to base layers, marvellous! Just below the Bwlch we stopped for 20 minutes for second breakfast, in a marvellous spot. Windproofs back on for the expected cold and wind at the Bwlch, but when we got there it was surprisingly still with just an occasional small gust. By the way, for the pronunciation of Bwlch I read that it approximates the sound made as if you are about to vomit. Sorry to any Welsh readers! A great word to say, anyway. What a fantastic view back to the south and west, Yr Aran looking particularly fine with the Nantlle Ridge and the sea beyond.

looking back at Yr Aran

And of course, hidden up to now, but at the Bwlch you can suddenly look down to Llyn Llydaw, across to Crib Goch and on to the Glyders. There were a few clouds down in the cwm, along with a fogbow, utterly fantastic. The shadow of Lliwedd was etched sharply cross the Llyn.

looking over the lip at Bwlch Ciliau

Llyn Llydaw and Glyders

We could have gone up to Snowdon and back down for our circuit, but the sight of Lliwedd was more compelling so it was off that way. It is a grand scramble up to West Peak, the difficult part was seeing the terrain ahead as the low, glaring sun was directly in our faces - and hence no photos of the scramble! There are many ways up the 200m of ascent and there is well-trodden obvious ground to follow if required, but for the most part we chose to stay close to the cliff edge. There is a small descent then ascent to the slightly lower East Peak where again the highest point is on the edge of the drop.

scramble ahead, blinded even with shades, but no complaints!

Crib Goch and Garnedd Ugain

Lliwedd shadow and fogbow

Snowdon from Lliwedd West Peak

looking to East Peak, Moel Siabod in the distance

summit of East Peak

West Peak and Snowdon

Llyn Llydaw and Glyders, again

There is a path just below the ridge edge on the next 1km and 200m of descent to where the path descends toward Pen y Pass, but there is more adventure and mild scrambling to be had by keeping to the edge of the drop. Over on Crib Goch we could see many folk, it was crowded. There was a large group of about 20, or perhaps it was a traffic jam, just before the first pinnacle.

zoom of Crib Goch

looking back to Lliwedd

We didn't take the path to Pen y Pass, instead stopping for a long lunch break in windless conditions before heading east along the lovely undulating terrain toward Gallt y Wenallt. There is a faint path and we were surprised to find the ground had drained well so not much in the way of soft stuff. After 1km, and before Wenallt summit, we turned to the southwest along a descending terrace to the disused mine below Lliwedd.

heading east, looking back

west to the sea

bumpy terrain to Wenallt

at the mine, looking back to the initial descent

From there, there is an old mine track in reasonable condition that leads back to the mine track near the waterfalls passed on the ascent. This is a great return route from near Wenallt, it being a gradual and seemingly effortless walk on the 5km and 550m of descent back to the car. Strangely, there was some wind as we descended. We hardly saw anyone on our route all day, and no-one after having descended Lliwedd.

sun-highlighted terrain looking back from the mine track

last view of the sea

There was large overspill of parking back at the start, and many folk had parked on the side of the road outside of the lay-bys south of Pen-y Gwryd. Unfortunately, some folk would have had a nasty surprise back at their cars there, 50 or so had been issued with parking tickets, presumably because they were partly on the road.

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Pub: Clachaig
Mountain: Ben Lui
Place: Glencoe
Ideal day out: scramble, ridge, snow
Ambition: Move to Scotland!

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