Snowdon Horseshoe

On Saturday 30th May 2015 I set out on what was going to be the most rewarding walk I had done to date.
As part of my training for the 10 Peak Challenge I had arranged to go to Snowdonia for two days of proper walking and having climbed Snowdon via Llanberis, Miners and the Pyg track it seemed fitting to attempt Crib Goch, specially as in Scotland we will be tackling the CMD arête.

What a fine day, looking down Pen y Pass
from the Pyg Track

So on a very fine morning I set off on my own on my very first solo mountaineering adventure. I arrived at Pen y Pass at 10 and because it was set to be a lovely day the place was already heaving. No parking so I set off back down the hill where I found a suitable spot to ditch the car (which saved me the extortionate £10 parking fee!). Saying that, I would have happily paid the £10 if it meant that I didn’t have to walk that extra mile at the end of the day!

My first glimpse of Crib Goch from the Pyg
Track

I felt great walking up to the car park and then up the Pyg Track. The training had definitely paid off as I overtook person after person without even getting out of breath or breaking into a sweat. I was feeling good and despite being a bit apprehensive about tackling Crib Goch on my own I was secretly looking forward to it.

Crib Goch all steam ahead

I set of behind a guided group of teenagers as well as a small group of experienced walkers (they made sure we all knew how many summits they had conquered) and two old men. The first warning of what is to come was the sign. Caution!! At this point I still wasn’t sure what to expect. Everything I had read said only experienced people should tackle it. Would I be experienced enough? Was I fit enough? Had I conquered my fear of heights?

Am I ready for it?

The thing with Crib Goch is that there isn’t really a path. I had read I should ascend from the East side so trusting that the people ahead knew where they were going I followed them. To start off with there was a sort of zig zag which made its way to the Eastern side before leaving us at the bottom of a large rock face which is where the hands in scrambling began. I guestimate that there is a good few hundred metres that require scrambling up. I was a little bit apprehensive about this part as I’ve never scrambled before.

Scrambling

Scrambling

Where is the path?

I suppose there is no right or wrong, you just need to go up. The guide ahead was chatting to the teenagers about looking ahead and trial an error. Everybody was queueing behind them waiting to follow in their step, yet to me, slightly to the right of them seemed a perfectly good area to scramble up so up I went, surprisingly easily and surprisingly fast and before I knew it I had left everyone behind. In fact, I didn’t see them again.

Looking back at my starting point

Did I just get up that?

Various reports I read in advance suggested that there really is only 70 metres of s scrambling proper. Let me tell you, it felt a hell of a lot more than 70 metres. As a matter of fact, I found it was a scramble the whole way up, as even when the proper scrambling was over I still needed to use my hands for the last 100 metres or so.

One last push

One final look back before the ridge

Finally I reached the top with no fellow walkers left in sight below me and only one small group towards the end of the ridge.

The ridge

The Ridge

Wow! What a view! I did however make the mistake of looking down at this point to take a photo of the ridge. I should never, never have done that! Instantly I started to quiver and all balance I had deserted me. I don’t think I can put into words quite how scared I was at this point. Yes, I was still definitely scared of heights. And worse, there was no way out. I didn’t think I was capable of descending what I had just climbed and therefore I only had one option: straight ahead. Walking on the ridge wasn’t an option, so I tried to do what I had read, walking slightly below and using it as a hand rail. However, that didn’t seem to work for me either, so I went for a slightly unorthodox method. I had both feet and both hands on the ridge, as if walking on all four. The ridge was over in a matter of no time and before I knew it I was stood at the summit (923 metres). Having overtaken the group ahead of me I had no one to take a photo so I continued on the remaining 100 odd metres of ridge that was left. Somehow this section seemed easier than the previous 150 metres I had just traversed. What an exhilarating feeling to have done it!

Looking back from Crib Goch
summit

Looking forward from the
summit to what’s to come

At the end of the ridge you come to three rock pinnacles. I wasn’t sure whether I was meant to go over them or around them, and having spotted some people going around them I opted for that option. Getting down and around was much harder than I imagined and the third pinnacle definitely gave a feeling of exposure. When looking at it you got the feeling that you had to clamber up the side with a sheer drop should you get it wrong, whereas as soon as you go on the pinnacle it was again surprisingly easier; the hardest bit being the descent down to the grassy col of Bwlch Coch which joins Crib Goch with Crib y Ddisgl.

The third pinnacle

It was at this stage that I looked back in awe at the magnificent Crib Goch. It was actually quite hard to believe that I had just tackled that and more importantly survived it!

Looking back at Crib Goch. Did I just do
that?

My next target was climbing yet more pinnacles to reach the ridge that would take me to Garnedd Uaine. The scramble from the path up onto the ridge definitely requires a mention even though nobody else seems to have mentioned it in their tales of the walk. Maybe I went the wrong way but for me this was the hardest scramble up an almost vertical wall. I’m wondering whether I should have stayed right instead of going left. Either way, this one really tested me (and I wasn’t the only one as there was a group of young lads that had managed to get stuck unable to go forward or back). I didn’t find there were as many places to hold onto and in order to secure my legs I was having to stretch them much further, or sometimes simply rely on the grip of my boots. After a couple of hairy moments I made on the top before making my way over Crib y Ddysgl to the summit of Garnedd Uaine, the second highest peak in Snowdonia.

My next scrambling challenge, en route
to Garnedd Ugain

The ridge of Crib y Ddysgl

Instead of walking along the ridge I walked a few feet down over what was sort of a path. It allowed for quick progress and in no time I was stood having my photo taken on the summit with a cloudless summit in the background.

Garnedd Ugain summit with Snowdon
in the background

Garnedd Ugaine and Snowdon

Onwards and upwards. A brief walk down to the Llanberis path saw me joining hundreds of walkers up to the summit. I have never seen it that busy! It was so busy in fact that I didn’t even stop, instead continuing straight on in search for the descent that would take me onto the Watkins Path.

A quick look at my journey back

Some people were heading directly down the mountain in the general direction I was going in so I followed them down the arduous scree slope. Turns out they were just freelancing and there was a slightly milder scree path had I continued a couple hundred metres further on. This is the part of the walk that killed me. 20 minutes of descending on very loose stone. Whereas I had felt full of energy at the top of Snowdon, by the time I reached the col known as Bwlch y Saethau I was starting to feel tired so I stopped and refuelled.

A very steep, slippery descent
down from Snowdon via the
Watkin path

On route to Y Lliwedd

Re-energised I set off with my next peak in sight: Y Lliwedd. From a distance it looked like there was a zig zag path making it’s way up, however, when I got there I couldn’t really see it so I just scrambled straight up. Although the scrambling was much less technical than Crib Goch had been earlier I could tell I was starting to get tired. Luckily though, I soon emerged on the summit (yet again having overtaken a number of walkers) where I was able to take in the amazing views of the days adventures. It really did give me a sense of achievement.

Looking back at Snowdon

Y Lliwedd actually has two summits so my climbing wasn’t quite over yet, however, reaching the second seemed pretty effortless and I was soon making my way down the mountain. And this is where I hit a brick wall. All my energy suddenly deserted me and every step seemed like a monumental effort. It didn’t help that it wasn’t a straight forward path. Some sections were slippery whilst others required me to lower myself with my arms and whereas I had made really good progress throughout the day I really slowed down at this stage,

I must have eaten my entire days’ supply of food in this short section trying to get energy from somewhere to keep me going. I finally, after what seemed like forever, made it to the bottom. I was so glad to be on a proper path again where my ankles and knees weren’t being strained into funny angles! As a consequence I managed to pick the pace back up again for the last 2 kilometres back along the Miners Track, and then a further half a mile down the road to where I had ditched my car.

What a feeling of achievement to have done it! It is classed as a hard walk, and it definitely was not easy, however, it was extremely enjoyable and I would not hesitate to do it again. Even better, I couldn’t have asked for better weather and views, it’s just a pity I am not a good photographer.

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