On the lower reaches of the Watkin path

Walking up Snowdon in a heatwave (Ranger, Watkin, other routes)

This year, when we went up to Snowdonia, there was a heatwave. Thirty degrees of cloudless, unremitting, crazy-visibility, scorching, pink-skinned, Monday-to-Friday, blazing sunshine.

It was… incredible. And challenging. But mostly incredible! In all our years of walking, I’ve never seen it this hot up there, so I thought maybe I’d share the experience 😊

We’ve reached a lot of summits only to find grey fug up to the end of our noses, and had to navigate cautiously between drop-offs by clinging to the centre of every path and cross-checking phone nav to paper maps (thank you, OS maps) every step of the way. It’s a completely different experience when you can see where you’re going and, basically, everywhere around!

There are pros AND cons.

Pros 

    • Lovely (and safer) to see where you’re going
    • Nice to be warm rather than shivering / soaking / rattling cold in screeching winds
    • Packs weigh less when they’re dry
    • Paths are usually less slippery when dry (and certainly than when torrential rain has turned it into a waterfall)

But the BEST thing is,

    • having a steaming heatwave in the middle of your Snowdonia hike makes swimming warmer.

Cons

Potential for

    • dehydration
    • sunburn
    • heat exhaustion / heatstroke (avoid)

This year, in the sunshine, we decided to do a couple of summits because we wanted to get a good view —

    1. Yr Wyddfa (because we’ve seen it on so many grey days, would be lovely to do it in conditions when we could enjoy a summit view and
    2. Tryfan, because the scary bit of Tryfan (apart from the crazy drop offs and crags) is finding your way down in the fog and I’ve always been nervous of taking three kids up on my own, but this week we had five — FIVE — fog-free days! (I’ll blog about this one later.)

And we also swam in a handful of lakes, for the cools (Llyn Bochlwyd, Llyn Idwal, Llyn Ogwen, Llyn Cwellyn, and others).

This is what it was like on Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon)

Looking down on the Ranger Path from Bwlch Glas

Notes on Yr Wyddfa in the sunshine 

If you fancy walking up Snowdon in the sunshine, please note that at the moment (8/22), the summit cafĂ© is shut — it’s due to reopen in 2023. So there’s only a cool drink at the top of the mountain if you carry it up. The railway also isn’t open at the summit — there’s work going on up there.

To reach the Snowdon summit, we could’ve gone any way really because conditions were ideal, but we’d just had Covid and were still feeling rough, so we opted for the smooth and easy Ranger Path, because

(i) it’s on the west side, so we could get up late and there would still be parking in the shade by 10am, for just ÂŁ6 (2022 price), and enjoy a lovely quiet walk.

Pen-y-Pass on the east side (start of Miners and Pyg paths) is pre-booked parking only these days (also ÂŁ18) and it’s fully booked weeks in advance by all the excited tourists. Sure, you can still park down the road in the valley and wander up the footpath, no problem, but this makes it longer and the west side of the mountain is SO much more forgiving.

(ii) Ranger path is the easiest (arguably) but really, it is. It’s also pretty and quiet and all-round lovely.

9 miles all in (www.strava.com)

(iii) there are little streams in the lowlands. Walk up the initial zigzag and round the corner, and you’re into an undulating path interspersed with gurgling streams. Most of these are deep enough to run clear over the stones and you can dunk a sunhat / paddle your feet / sit in the flow and COOL OFF. At 30 degrees, hiking, this is VERY welcome. You can also top up water bottles here. What, just a mile in? Yup. At 30 degC, by one mile, we’d already emptied one.

(iv) at the end of the walk, right next to the car park, there’s the beautiful Llyn Cwellyn — follow a 50m path through the little wood and enjoy a magical, cooling swim in a lake where tiny fish will nibble your toes, and dragonflies will buzz around above you.
It’s not my favourite swim (I like the higher lakes) — but it’s SOOOOOOO lovely for those hot, tired feet!

Hikers at the summit, sheltering by the (closed) café, Rhyd Ddu path on the left

Another lovely route in the heat would have been Miners Path — Llyn Llydaw is a good swim (paddle/splash) and Glaslyn a stunning one (my favourite! Although Bochlwyd’s a close second), or Watkin path (more difficult route higher up for the scramblers, but also fabulous streams and waterfalls at the lower end). Llanberis path has a cafĂ© halfway up (again not sure if this is open currently, you would need to check in advance) but this is a long, hot, dry route and the cafĂ© — even if open — would have queues; I wouldn’t. PyG is I think mostly dry if memory serves, but it is short and makes a nice circle route with the wetter, cooler Miners. Rhyd Ddu, my personal bĂȘte noire, boot-buggering bleddy ridge walk, I just don’t get on with it (it is extremely pretty, quite straightforward, and would have looked stunning on a clear day with perfect viz, ignore me — there’s less swimming or cooling off but a relatively easy ascent and no doubt fabulous views — it also combines well with Ranger path, up one, down the other).

SOME of our water bottles and drinks — we drank it all and came back fully hydrated

Tips

(See also previous posts for kit lists, links to Walk up Snowdon / Mud and Routes, and so on.)

Take several water bottles, EACH. We took a couple of litres each AND some spares, plus a handful of Capri Sun pouches as treats, and halfway up met a big guy shouting,

“This is the first time I’ve ever drunk 3 litres on the way up!”

Water is heavy. Don’t let this stop you.

Share the first water bottle, to have one fully empty rather than two half empty. You can then have a refilled stream-water bottle in case you want to use this to douse rather than drink. It saves a lot of sweating. Alternatively if you want to drink stream water, you can either use a filtered bottle, or not. Some people think it’s OK to just drink from the streams — check it out, use your discretion. I have the constitution of a bin, and didn’t see anything dead upstream, so I drank the stream water and filled the bottle up again, because I didn’t care. That probably doesn’t mean it’s OK, it might just mean that I’m disgusting.

(WanderingWelshGirl has done a review
of filtered bottles here if you want it.)

Also, sun hat and collar — we didn’t do this and fried our necks…

Food opps depend on your routes — Ranger path is prime picnic opportunity, bring on the oggies, pork pies and cakes! 🎉

Also I recommend walking slowly, mostly because it’s beautiful — enjoy it! Next time it could be foggy, then rainy, then gunmetal grey, then drizzly, then mizzly, then foggy again, then dull, then icy and impassable. Got sunshine? Take it easy and enjoy!

Also, my personal advice — and this one’s tricky because you can’t really tell people what to do — my recommendations is don’t take tiny kids to Snowdon summit in a heatwave.

I get that people want to share this lovely place with their kids, what a shared memory! But it can be really hard on them. We saw a couple of very pink, wobbly children aged between 3 and 5y up being hauled by one arm around the summit without sun hats, screaming and sobbing, by a guy who muttering about throwing them off the mountain. Honestly, imo it’s a deeply shit idea and a distressing sight. Small children are more susceptible to heat/dehydration and sunburn, and it’s a VERY long, steep walk for tiny kids whose bones are still soft. The summit has steps but it’s REALLY steep and hard for that age, and there are drop-offs to either side which mean you can’t let go of a toddler for even a second — there’s no “sitting and relaxing” while they regain a bit of energy; there’s only trying to control exhausted, overheated babies in a dangerous place.

There are GORGEOUS sunny but also dappled/shaded forest walks around e.g. Beddgelert, Aber Falls, Llyn Idwal or Llyn Padarn that little kids could LOVE, and also Avon Cwm Llan in the early lower reaches of Watkin path with woods and mini-waterfalls (see later notes) — lots of other places for the whole family to enjoy.

3.5 miles total, forest route around Avon Cwm Llan to waterfall (lower side of Watkin path). Thank you, www.Strava.com

A note on Watkin path — lower reaches, Avon Cwm Llan

I’ve not walked all the way up Watkin path because it ends in a scramble near the summit and I’ve been walking with young kids, so we’re still to do this one — BUT, we did explore the lower end of Avon Cwm Llan, and there is a STUNNING series of little waterfalls trickling down the lower slopes, into a small wooded area. This is fairy tale pretty, and amazing fun for the kids who can sit in the waterfalls and gullies with the beautiful mountain water rushing over them.

On a sunny day, expect to share this little path with lots of families with young kids, and hear them squealing and laughing. See if you can spot the middle-aged bloke who tries to slide down from pool to pool on his arse — so funny, I love that man! It’s brilliant fun.

(Don’t do the arse-sliding thing if you value your tail bone, SO SO SO many rocks.)

(Hell yeah, when it’s less busy and my kids aren’t watching, I’m going to do it.)

It is, of course, BEAUTIFUL.

 

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