The Snowdon Horseshoe

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A nation's highest peak is always going to have extra points in the popularity stakes and so it is with Snowdon, or more correctly Yr Wyddfa, the highest mountain in Wales. Apart from winning the height competition, Yr Wyddfa makes a fine day out and there is a good selection of walking routes on this website: the Llanberis Path (Walkingworld Walk 947) runs almost parallel to the mountain railway and can be combined with a one-way train ride. To the east there are the Miner's and Pyg Tracks (Walk 267) and to the west the Rhyd Ddu and Snowdon Ranger paths (Walk 5285).

The most famous way of all though is the Snowdon Horseshoe. This route is aesthetically pleasing, tracing a horseshoe round the mountains high above the lakes of Llyn Llydaw and Glaslyn. It also presents the most challenging route, including a Grade 1 scramble along the ridge of Crib Goch.

It's not that Crib Goch is technically hard. Put the ridge about a metre above ground and most people would romp along it. Put the same problem above a drop of a couple of hundred metres and it starts to look more serious - and so it is. Forget it in windy or rainy weather. In winter go equipped with ice axe, crampons and rope and an ability to climb at Winter Grade I or II. Even on a warm sunny day, Crib Goch can have its moments for those who don't like big drops.

The walk starts at Pen y Pass, initially following the route of the Pyg Track. At Bwlch y Moch the route starts upwards to the Crib Goch Ridge. After a short respite the scrambling continues up the Crib y Ddysgl Ridge of Garnedd Ugain, but there is much less of a sense of exposure now. From Garnedd Ugain the route continues to the summit of Yr Wyddfa.

At the summit you will find the Hafod Eryri Visitor Centre, along with a lot of people. You certainly won't find solitude. Hafod Eryri has attracted a fair degree of controversy, but it's a big improvement on the building it replaces; see Walk 5285 for a few more thoughts about the centre.

From the summit, the horseshoe route continues over Y Lliwedd, where you will find a bit more solitude and some more scrambling if you want it. The route then descends to Llyn Llydaw for any easy return down the Miner's Track.

Most of the route is obvious and easy to follow and there are a few helpful hints in the route description.

The Snowdon Horseshoe is a serious route without doubt. There are places where a fall would almost certainly prove fatal, but having said that, the technical difficulties are not great and for those who wish to stretch their comfort zone it is a wonderful day out. Above all, whatever your skill and confidence level, remember that unroped scrambling is a more hazardous activity than rock-climbing.

Wales - North Wales - Gwynedd - Snowdonia


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