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The Snowdon Horseshoe from Pen-y-pass

Snowdonia/Eryri Walk

Nat Park - Snowdonia - Snowdon Crib Goch

County/Area - Gwynedd

Author - Lou Johnson

Length - 7.5 miles / 12.2 km    Ascent - 3800 feet / 1152 metres

Time - 7 hours 30 minutes    Grade - hard

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Ordnance Survey Explorer OL17Sheet Map1:25kBUY
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Walk Route Description

Photo from the walk - The Snowdon Horseshoe from Pen-y-pass
Click image to visit gallery of 12 images.

The Snowdon Horseshoe is perhaps the greatest ridge walk in Snowdonia (Eryri) and for many the highlight is a traverse of Crib Goch's arete. It is not a walk for those with little experience and if the cloud is down then you need good navigating skills. There have been many articles about Crib Goch and on a bad day it can be lethal. High winds and icy conditions are probably the most dangerous and should be avoided. If the weather is clear and calm then it should present no problems to an agile person who has experience of mountain walking.

This Snowdonia (Eryri) walk begins at Pen-y-pass at the top the Llanberis Pass (grid ref SH647555). The car park fills early in good weather and at weekends so an early start is recommended. Leave the car-park by the northern exit alongside the cafe and follow the Pyg Track as it climbs steadily to Bwlch y Moch. You soon get a superb view of Crib Goch probably with people already clambering up its east ridge. At Bwlch y Moch leave the Pyg Track and take the path that forks right. It is surprising how many people head for Crib Goch thinking its Snowdon so you may be in the company of families with small children at this stage!

The first section of path from Bwlch y Moch has been paved but only until you reach steeper ground. This is where the families realise their mistake and return to the Pyg Track. The slope becomes rockier and the path twists and turns with the occasional short sections of scrambling. The obvious route may appear too difficult but with care you can select an easier route on all sections of this walk. The most difficult scrambling is roughly two-thirds of the way to the top. Once this has been overcome the remainder of the climb is relatively easy and you soon find yourself perched on the rocks at the eastern end of the ridge. This is not the summit, which is located further along the ridge that you can see stretching ahead.

Your choice of route depends on your nerve. There is some feeling of exposure, especially to your right, although this can be avoided by taking a lower line to your left. The best route in good weather is along the crest and providing you take care you will soon arrive at the highest point. From here the ridge descends to the pinnacles. The easiest route is to the left following a lower well worn route marked with cairns. Reaching Bwlch Coch you can say you have completed Crib Goch.

Ahead lies an interesting, but easier, traverse of Crib y Ddysgl. Of similar character to Crib Goch there is one section of scrambling that might cause problems if you don't discover the easy route. Otherwise it is straightforward with superb views all the way to the summit of Garnedd Ugain. Only 20 metres lower than Snowdon, this mountain deserves better acclaim as many people completely ignore it on their way to the top of Snowdon. Descend from Garnedd Ugain in a south-westerly direction to reach the railway. Follow this, and the crowds, to Snowdon's Summit passing the large stone that marks the upper exit of the Pyg Track. (Note - this track can also be used for descent to Pen-y-pass.) Continue on the broad path to the summit cairn where an excellent view of the whole route can be enjoyed.

Leave the summit by the southern ridge following the clear path. It is important that you select your route with care as the descent onto the Watkin path can be confusing with many minor paths across scree that could be treacherous in the wrong conditions. Having satisfied your self that you are on the right path, walk the short distance to a large marker stone. Turn left here, and descend on a fairly loose path across the south face of Snowdon. Again the route can be confusing with some minor paths running parallel to the main route. Reaching Bwlch Ciliau, where the Watkin Path descends right down to Bethania, continue along the ridge and begin the traverse of Y Lliwedd and its minor summits. To you left there is fairly intimidating drop of a thousand feet to Llyn Llydaw so in poor visibility trend right if in doubt.

The views across to Crib Goch are excellent and you will no doubt see a steady procession of people crossing the arete. The onward path across the three Y Lliwedd summits is fairly straightforward and generally the path is clear on the ground. Descending from the final summit of Lliwedd Bach the path reaches a relatively level section of ground before descending more steeply to the shores of Llyn Llydaw. The final section of the path is paved before it joins the Miner's Path. Turn right and join the crowds again for the easy walk back to the start.

Other walks nearby

Walk 2650 Tryfan, the Glyders & Y Garnvery hard8.0 miles
Walk 1088 Glyder Ridge traversehard5.5 miles
Walk 1186 Y Garnmod/hard4.5 miles
Walk 3019 Y Garn & Carnedd y Filiast Ogwen Cottagehard8.5 miles
Walk 3062 Pen yr Ole Wenmoderate5.0 miles
Walk 2417 Glyder Fach, Glyder Fawr and Tryfan from Idwal Cottagemod/hard6.5 miles
Walk 1137 Y Garn (Route 2) from Ogwen Cottagemod/hard4.5 miles
Walk 2680 Circuit of Llyn Idwal easy2.8 miles
Walk 1192 Yr Aranmod/hard6.5 miles
Walk 1103 Snowdon & Cwm Llan horseshoevery hard13.0 miles

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