Nant Gwynant

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  • Location: Nant Gwynant to Pen y Pass.
  • Distance: 9 miles
  • Approx time: 5-6 hours
  • Description of this walk: A high rise ridge walk taking you high up into the clouds.

This sky high trail will take you in view of Snowdon's summit, but offers a different route and a bit more of challenge than the hike up to Wales' highest tea bar.

The start of the walk

The walk starts off on the Watkin Path, then passes below Snowdon before making for the peak of Y Lliwedd, then past Llyn Llydaw towards the Pen y Pass mountain centre where Nikki Wallis, our guide on this walk, can usually be found.

Nikki is a Snowdonia National Park warden and a mountain rescue team member. She is also a founder of Mountains And Diabetes, a charity which helps diabetes sufferers like her get the best of the great outdoors.

The route starts just 57 metres above sea level, leaving about 850m (2,700ft) of ascent still to cover, and when you combine that with the distance, it's a lot of ground and not for the faint hearted.

Sir Edward Watkin

Watkin's name is all over this part of the mountain, and with good reason. Sir Edward Watkin was a Victorian entrepreneur who retired to a chalet in the area in the late 1800s.

He created the first dedicated public footpath in Britain - one of the first steps in opening the countryside to walkers and was a pioneer of making places like Snowdon open for everyone to enjoy.

The path here is well-established and was originally used by people going to work at the quarry.

It's easy to follow and very popular, but it's such a big place, no matter how busy it looks in the car park, you'll soon feel like you have the whole place to yourself.

William Gladstone

Some way up there is a plaque which commemorates the occasion when Prime Minister William Gladstone opened the footpath as a public right of way and more than 2,000 people turned up to hear him speak.

Snowdon is one of the wettest places in Britain, with an annual rainfall of over 4,500 mm, that's 180 inches. It has its own unique climate so it can be sunny on one side of the mountain and pouring down on the other.

A bit further along you come across the old slate quarry, where huge piles of slate can still be seen, as well as the remains of the buildings that would have been used by the quarry workers.

Mountain rescue

As part of the mountain rescue team Nikki has been called upon to help people who have encountered problems on the mountain, even though the path is actually easy to follow.

Problems on the route include: changing conditions, greasy rock, cloud levels descending and, of course, people underestimating the conditions.

Preparation is key, so have a healthy respect when you head up here and carry a whistle at all times as mobile reception can be non existent at times.

Stunning views

There are very few stretches of this walk that fail to deliver stunning views, either to the peaks surrounding the route, but out to sea too.

For example you get a great view of Yr Aran to your right (as the path clings to your left), but remember at 747 metres it's 141 metres short of the peak this walk is heading for.

The view of Llyn Llydaw is spectacular. You get it at the point where those heading for Snowdon itself turn left, while Derek and Nikki headed off to the right and Y Lliwedd.

The lake stretches out beneath the ridge as you stand amid the horseshoe of the Snowdon mountains. From here it's the final stretch up towards the summit of the pass, but when the weather sets in fast - it's not an easy climb.

Beaten by the weather

If you do manage to beat the weather, you'll be rewarded with truly outstanding views and an awe-inspiring drop, but for Derek and Nikki, it was a losing battle against the clouds and the mist.

Unfortunately for Derek the weather really did take a turn for the worse, and although they were so close to the summit, with the wind and the wet, it was better to be safe than sorry so they headed back down.

This is not a place to take chances with the weather; no view is to die for and you can always come back another time.

Don't be scared of these big mountains - just be sensible, plan ahead and be prepared for all weather conditions.

Article written by Weatherman Walking Series Producer - Julian Carey.

This walk was first shown on BBC One Wales as part of Weatherman Walking, Series 2 in 2008.


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