Snowdon Horseshoe

by Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com Nov/2011
This route has been read 18,469 times
Walking

Perhaps it's only fitting that the highest mountain in Wales boasts the country's greatest all-day scrambly ridge traverse. Indeed there's no better route of its kind in the British Isles south of the Scottish border. The walk has a compelling logic, following narrow ridge crests encircling the massif's huge eastern cwm and linking its four principal summits - three of which are three thousanders. Notable scrambling is encountered on the ascent and traverse of Crib Goch and the continuation ridge Crib y Ddysgl, which leads to Snowdon's second highest peak Garnedd Ugain. Though it's not technically difficult (grade 1 by the line of least resistance) this entire section is relatively serious with some surprising exposure and few easy escape options. With its train station, cafe and crowds the summit of Yr Wyddfa itself is a bit of a let down, but the final traverse over sharp-spined y Lliwedd rounds things off in suitably spectacular style.

+Yr Wyddfa and Garnedd Ugain from Crib Goch, 197 kbYr Wyddfa and Garnedd Ugain from Crib Goch

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Detailed description

1
SH6473055606 Start early to avoid the crowds. Doing the route anti-clockwise means the harder sections are met in ascent. Take the Pyg Track west from Pen-y-pass, crossing outcrop-scattered slopes above Llanberis Pass to reach Bwlch y Moch. At a post turn right onto a less busy path heading for Crib Goch, the rugged peak that dominates the col. Follow this up a broad rocky spur, the ground gradually steepening into the scree and broken crags at the base the of the mountain's East Ridge.

Follow signs of wear up the ridge. The ground is scrappy and can be climbed pretty much anywhere; keep an eye out for stone fall. After a while climb a steep Ďwallí of flakes and then a series of shallow grooves and ledges. The angle soon eases on the upper crest, where sloping slatey rock can be treacherous if wet or icy. The mountainís airy east summit sits at the junction of the East and North Ridges (a quieter alternative ascent route)

2
SH6254755245 A level rock crest leads west over the marginally higher east summit. For its modest grade this is spectacularly narrow and exposed, and instead of balancing along the highest rocks many people stay just on the less precipitous left flank, using the topmost crest as a handrail. Beyond the main summit a slight descent leads to three jagged Pinnacles. A scrappy low path tries to outflank them on the left, but a higher line is more fun. There are various options; maybe avoid the first pinnacle on the left, then take a ledge across the left flank of the second to reach a gap in the ridge beyond, before climbing the third via a slanting weakness up its right side. A short descent then leads to Bwlch Coch, marked by some old fenceposts. With care it's possible to escape either south or north from here.
+Crib Goch, 139 kbCrib Goch
© Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com, Apr 2007


The scrambly Crib y Ddysgl ridge is now obvious ahead, a stairway of little rock walls and easier walking sections. The first rock step is the main difficulty, best done by staying just left of the steepest rock before regaining the arÍte, which is then followed in easy but airy fashion over several false tops to the trig point on the second highest peak in Wales.
3
SH6108355143 An easy stroll around the lip of the cwm brings you to Bwlch Glas, where the railway, the Llanberis Path, the Snowdon Ranger Path and the Pyg Track all converge. Follow the motorway of a path just left of the railway, passing above the Trinity Face to reach the roof of Wales, with its snazzy new cafe boasting the highest toilets south of Scotland (can you contain yourself?). It's usually a relief to leave the hordes on the summit and make hasty tracks.

4
SH6098754377 The direct line to Bwlch y Saethau is steep and unpleasant, so instead start off by descending a short way down the southwest ridge. After just over 100m distance a marker stone indicates the drop-off for the Watkin Path, which makes a descending traverse across the cruddy south face to reach the col. From Bwlch y Saethau follow the ridge or the path just below on its right to reach Bwlch Ciliau, where another cairn indicates the point that the Watkin Path turns down into Cwm Llan. The sharp rock fin of Lliwedd has been looking great for some time but up close it proves to offer only very basic scrambling - though the views over the biggest cliff in Wales are spectacular. The western of the mountain's three peaks is the highest.

5
SH6222453307 Stay with the crest to climb over the east peak, and then the lower hump of Lliwedd Bach. Soon after, the ridge leads to a cairn on the edge of the slope overlooking Llyn Llydaw. The path now heads directly for the lake, a wee bit steep and rough initially but soon easing. Once down in Cwm Dyli cross a stream and follow the lake shore to the Minerís Track.

6
SH6350554517 This leads quickly back to Pen y Pass

+Crib Goch from Crib y Ddysgl, 99 kbCrib Goch from Crib y Ddysgl
© Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com

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