I’m fortunate enough to live close enough to Snowdonia National Park to be able to visit it as a regular area for walking and training. I first headed up Snowdon early on in my self improvement journey and it was this, the lesser known Rhyd Ddu path, I decided to take. Much of my progress I now measure against how quickly I can head up this route.
Pronounced ‘rheed-thee’, this path is among the quieter of the six main paths up Snowdon. Often overlooked yet I’m at a loss to explain why. Much more accessible with both car park and train station, excellent views with a nice approach to get you warmed up for the climb. Although the Pyg and Miners paths are somewhat quicker and used for those taking on the three peaks challenges the crowds alone at the wrong time of day can unfortunately detract from the experience. I tend to head up this path yet take the South Ridge path (another lesser used path) heading back down to give a little variety.
Setting off from the Welsh Highland Railway station for Beddgelert village (the name of which this path used to be known by) we have well over a kilometer of well defined track to warm up those legs and take in the views. We soon reach a point where the Rhyd Ddu path heads off left. If you continue straight on past this point you’ll find yourself on the South Ridge walk, the way we’ll be coming back down later.
From here we start our climb up, yet the path continues to be kind giving you a gradual incline before the going starts to get a little more tough around the point of Rhoes Boeth, an old flat marker point which shows signs of buildings now lost to history.
We now head onwards and upwards towards the the real meat of our walk, Llechog and the steep climb from there to Bwlch Main. As you emerge on to the ridge line of Llechog you will hopefully have a clear day in which to see one of the best views of Snowdon and it’s peak, something none of the other routes up Snowdon offer. Don’t forget to turn around and admire how far you’ve climbed at this point either, there are still some classic country views to take in behind you.
It’s also at this point you may become a little more exposed to the weather. A skill most hikers tend to get is being aware of the direction of the wind and clouds. So far the approach is very much sheltered from most directions other then west. As you hit this ridge line you’ll get a better idea of if you need to take a moment to layer up… although you’re about to get a fair bit warmer with the tough climb up to Bwlch Main!
On most mountain walks there’s a point where you just need to get your head down and walk, and this is one of them! A very steep incline will see you climb a little under 200 meters in around a single kilometer. Take your time, take small steps and regular breaks if you need to. This sharp climb is the biggest hurdle between you and the summit. It’s also about here where the path from the South Ridge joins back again, and the route we’ll take heading down later on.
With that tough part over we just have the final leg to the summit, Bwlch Main is a short ridge walk, treacherous in wintry conditions but it’s quite safe in usual peak seasons and as such it’s a good introduction to ridge walks for the novice walker. A wide well defined and well used path it’s easy to follow, with a gradual incline either side to soothe any worries for those with less of a head for heights. Very much the opposite of the less forgiving Crib Goch! A very short slightly more technical stretch towards the end soon opens up once again and we make the final push to the summit and cake!
Once you’ve basked in your well deserved glory for making it to the summit of Snowdon you can make the choice of how to return. Following the same path back down is of course the natural route to take, but given how I prefer circular routes I normally head back down the South Ridge walk. This branches off to the left just after the ridge walk of Bwlch Main. It’s a steep descent, with one tricky part that requires a little time to negotiate about halfway down. All the way you have yet more wonderful views, including looking across to the Watkin Path some distance to your left.
The descent is indeed steep, but gets the hard work out of the way early. As you hit Bwlch Cwm Llan you make a sharp right on to flat surfaces and through an old slate quarry. The sound of walking on slate in the mountains is something that always sticks in my mind. We just need to follow the path at this point, heading back to the start of Rhyd Ddu path, the stone marker signalling your approach to the station and the end of your walk.
Not without it’s challenges, yet one of the most accessible and peaceful ways up this magnificent mountain the Rhyd Ddu path will always remind me of my early days in my self improvement. On that first visit here I remember stopping to catch my breath very early on in the initial climb as a much older lady strode past me almost radiating fitness and well-being! After a friendly ‘Good morning!’ between us and a resolute mumbling of ‘That’s how I want to be at that age…’ to myself it marked yet another driving and inspiring moment for me to become better then I am!
Route Name: Snowdon by the Ryd Ddu Path (South Ridge return)
Start / Finish: Postcode for car park – LL54 6TN
Distance: Approx 12km
Time: Allow 6 – 7 hours