When one thinks of mountains in the UK, generally, the peaks that seem to most readily come to mind are Ben Nevis and Snowdon. Snowdon in particular is pilloried by some for its immense accessibility. Indeed some of the routes and walks on the mountains were designed with accessibility alone in mind. The Miner’s track for example, created to serve the copper mines that once existed, is ostensibly a road and is even paved in parts. Slightly to the North of the summit is the Snowdon mountain railway, which is exactly that – a railway up the mountain.
However, as with all mountains, there are many routes and trails on Snowdon, and for the more active hiker it can be an incredible day out. Perhaps most famous of all of the mountains’ alternative routes is the Snodown Horseshoe, and within that the ridge: Crib Goch.
The general route on the Snowdon horseshoe is to start at the Pen Y Pass car park and hikers will start on the Pyg Track before taking a right fork and beginning the ascent to Crib Goch. Many walkers do not notice the fork in the Pyg track and end up heading to Crib Goch. If you do not intend on climbing the ridge but suddenly find your trail become a lot more vertical: you’ve gone the wrong way.
Crib Goch is a thin, rocky, knife-edged ridge that snakes a path above the Pyg track. The main route on the ridge is classed as a grade 1 scramble and is fairly exposed with significant vertical drops on its north face and slightly more forgiving drops on its south. While the main route is not particularly technical, it can definitely test the nerves (significant drops do tend to look steeper from atop a thin ridge) and the inevitable Welsh wind can create a few hair raising moments. The combination of dizzying heights and cold air that causes your bones to rattle can certainly be mentally challenging.
However, as you walk / clamber / butt-scoot along the ridge, you are rewarded with some incredible views of the surrounding ranges and of Snowdon itself.
If you have a head for heights, are a confident hiker and have done some scrambling, Crib Goch is a must.
It should be noted that Crib Goch is very well known,is marketed by word of mouth quite heavily, and many chose the ridge as their first serious scramble. However, the weather can turn quickly, the route can get busy and the combination of feeling both pressured and nervous can lead to accidents. Sadly while we were on the range two air ambulances were called to air-lift off a hiker that had fallen just west of Crib Goch – while not hugely technical, caution should always be maintained.
Immediately after the ridge, there is another scramble that leads up to Garnedd Ugain, or Crib y Ddysgl, the second highest peak in wales. As with Crib Goch it is possible to pick a route to make it as challenging as you want. As you head up to Garnedd Ugain, the views over the Glyders and Llanberis open up beautifully. With the number of ranges in the area, it really does feel very isolated and as though you are min the middle of nowhere. Pausing for a moment and soaking in the rolling hills stretching out far beyond the horizon is one of the best reasons to hike. For a brief moment, breathing in the fresh, cool, mountain air it is possible to disconnect from all worldly trials.
The route then descends from Garnedd Ugain towards Yr Wyddfa, the Snowdon Massif’s highest point, It is at this point that on busy days, the crowds will suddenly emerge once more. From Garnedd Ugain it is possible to see the Pyg Track and the Llanberis path both dotted with walkers making their way up the mountain and the mountain railway ferrying up more. This visit, the summit was incredibly busy with people queuing to take a photo. My friend and I gave it a miss and instead walked down the scree slope parallel to the Watkin path and that leads to Y Lliwedd. This ridge walk again contains some lovely scrambles and some wonderful views. There are some quite vertical ascents and given it comes towards the end of the horseshoe can be a bit tasking.
From Y Lliwedd the route descends towards Llyn Llydaw, the mountain lake, before joining the miners track which at the tail end of a full day’s hiking and scrambling is actually quite a welcome feeling.
While I have visited Snowdon a number of times and still find it beautiful, this most recent trip left a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth. The crowds at the summit were much bigger than I have ever seen. I do believe in accessibility and am glad that people who appreciate the mountains and nature can share and admire their beauty. However, my sense while walking through the crowds were that there were a lot who didn’t. Fighting my way through cigarette smoke or watching people throw rubbish on the floor left a very bitter taste in my mouth. While I enjoyed the day out immensely and always enjoy Crib Goch, I couldn’t reconcile the experience I was having there with the experiences that others seemed to be having at the more commercial side of the mountain. Although it pains me, it was probably my last visit to Snowdon and definitely my last visit to Yr Wyddfa.