Scrambling the Snowdon Horseshoe is one of the great mountain days out in the UK. Exciting enough, but never as technically difficult as the likes of the Cuillin Ridge, it’s a brilliant introduction to scrambling the mountain ridges.
With the exception of a couple of parts of Scotland, the scrambling available in Snowdonia is generally the best in the whole of the UK. That in turn, has its roots in the geological history of Snowdonia. Ancient volcanic activity, millions of years of erosion and finally glaciation have created sharp rocky peaks and ridges. This really is a paradise for scramblers.
We offer a whole range of scrambling courses and guided scrambles in Snowdonia. These range from courses for the complete novice to those wanting to learn rope work skills for scrambling in the UK to mountaineering in the Alps.
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We also run scrambling courses in the Lake District and on the west coast of Scotland.
Scrambling the Snowdon Horseshoe
Scrambling the Snowdon Horseshoe could be one of your most exhilarating mountain experiences. Usually done anti-clockwise from Pen y Pass, the Horseshoe traverses the Crib Goch ridge, then Garnedd Ugain. From here it continues to the summit of Snowdon. You then descend some way, before re-ascending to scramble the twin summits of Y Lliwedd before making the final descent back to Pen y Pass.
Starting the Snowdon Horseshoe
The usual start for scrambling the Snowdon Horseshoe is from Pen y Pass. From here, as you look up, Crib Goch is the obvious main summit that is visible. Quite a few walkers assume this is Snowdon and keep their eyes on it and head that way. There are signs at Pen y Pass warning of this common mistake. An easy walk up one of Snowdon’s paths will become a scary scramble when you find yourself unexpectedly on Crib Goch!
To start with, from Pen y Pass you follow the main PyG track along with hundreds of others towards Snowdon. Soon the path crosses the ridge of the horseshoe shape at Bwlch y Moch and Snowdon’s lakes first come into view. At this point you strike off to the right towards the Crib Goch – the ‘red ridge’ in Welsh. At first this is just a steep broken path, but before long you find yourself at the foot of a short, steep wall. It appears to be guarding the foot of Crib Goch. There are several ways to climb this, but it is one of steeper and more technical sections and it stops a fair few people in their tracks.
The ‘Knife Edge’ of Crib Goch
Easier scrambling leads to the summit of Crib Goch, and then the fun of the Snowdon Horseshoe really starts. First comes the exposed narrow ridge of Crib Goch. People often describe it as being a “knife-edge”, with isn’t completely the case, but it certainly is very exposed. There is a very steep slope on one side and an even steeper cliff on the other! The best way to tackle it is simply to walk upright along the crest. However, for many this is too daunting. It’s a common sight to see people on all fours moving cautiously along, but this actually makes it more difficult.
Then come the pinnacles, with a few sections of climbing both up and down. The gaps between the pinnacles are very atmospheric places and make great photographs. But before long, the Crib Goch ridge is over. A wide open, flat grassy areas marks the end and is a good place to pause.
The scrambling isn’t over, however. You now continue along the ridge of Garnedd Ugain which has a few interesting scrambling steps in it. Finally, it flattens out and the trig point on the top comes into view. From here way walking, first down, then back up leads to the summit of Snowdon.
The Watkin Path and Y Lliwedd
Having summited Snowdon, the next stage of the Snowdon Horseshoe scramble is to descend the Watkin Path. This is the steepest of the regular paths up Snowdon and although popular, is not as busy as the other routes. You must take care here though – until path improvements are made this is a very badly eroded and dangerous section where it’s easy to trip.
Once down at the col between Snowdon and Y Lliwedd, good quality scrambling resumes as you make your way up and over the twin peaks of Y Lliwedd. There are stunning views down to the lakes below.
At the end of Y Lliwedd, the scrambling is almost all over. There is just the descent back to the Miners’ Track and then an easy walk back to Pen y Pass.
If you’ve made it this far, you can be justifiably proud of your day’s achievement. It’s time to head off to the pub for a celebratory drink.