The Snowdon Horseshoe
The Snowdon Horseshoe is the name given to the horseshoe shaped ring of ridges and peaks on Snowdon’s eastern side, and makes up part of the Snowdon Massif. The peaks included in the Horseshoe are those of Y Lliwedd, Snowdon, Garnedd Ugain and Crib Goch.
Length: 7.26 miles miles
Area: Snowdonia – Snowdon Massif
GPX File: Download
Crib Goch – (923m)
Garnedd Ugain/Crib y Ddysgl – (1,065m)
Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa – (1,085m)
Y Lliwedd – (898m)
Y Lliwedd East Top – (893m)
Lliwedd Back – (818m)
Other POI: Pen-y-pass, Pyg Track, Bwlch y Moch, Bwlch Coch, Glaslyn, Clogwyn y Person, Bwlch Ciliau, Llyn Llydaw, Llyn Teyrn, Miners Track
I hadn’t done this walk for quite a number of years – so long that I couldn’t actually remember half of the route at all (The other half I did as part of the Welsh 3000’s a few months back). Also, despite having completed the traverse twice before, I’d somehow managed to end up with zero photographs. The weather forecast for the weekend was looking good so I thought it was time to rectify that.
The car park I was aiming to park in at Pen-y-pass was full when I arrived and so had to find somewhere else to park. I continued to the bottom of the hill and turned right onto the A498 where I parked on the side of the road. I had just put on my boots and was about to set off walking when a couple of cyclists stopped and informed me that I would get a parking ticket if any of my car wheels was actually on the road. I thanked them and moved the car even further down the road to a small carpark at a viewpoint. This meant a good half an hour walk back to Pen-y-pass but the advice saved me a few quid as on my return later in the day, I noticed parking tickets on the windscreens of several cars parked where I initially was going to.
From Pen-y-pass, the initial walk up the Pyg track gives you an early opportunity to get your legs and heart working, but it doesn’t take long at all to get to the point where a track branches off that leads to the foot of Crib Goch east ridge.
The initial scramble up the east ridge is enjoyable, especially the first section where it’s a lot steeper and the use of hands is necessary. A little further up the ridge, it becomes easier going and those with good balance will have no problem walking. I found that the best route was to simply follow the line of the ridge and ascend as directly as possible.
The crest of the ridge is – in my opinion – not as daunting in reality as it looks in photos and some guides. On the right hand side, you have a sheer drop, but the left hand side is sloped to such a degree that, with a bit of good balance, you can actually walk on the slope. So for those that don’t have a good head for heights, the best strategy is to drop down the slope a couple of feet so you’re almost using the crest as a handrail. The more difficult parts of the ridge come with the pinnacles a little further down the line. There are ways to skirt around these but the most fun is to be had by sticking to the crest and going straight over the top. There’s a slightly worrying move on the second pinnacle, especially if you’re not good with heights, where you need to take a tricky step onto an exposed ledge. I tried to record a mini video whilst I did this but unfortunately it didn’t come out particularly clear.
And my rather shaky mini video from the crest of Crib Goch:
Once the pinnacles of Crib Goch have been dealt with, the walk continues on easier ground until you eventually reach a short but enjoyable scramble up blocks to the ridge of Crib-y-Ddysgl, which then leads to the second summit of the day – Garnedd Ugain (the second highest in Snowdonia). The scramble up to the ridge seemed to be very busy with a queue of walkers ascending in a line. I decided to take a different route to the left of them in order to bypass. The ridge itself isn’t really in the same league as Crib Goch and is fairly easy to walk along if your balance is OK. If you’ve had enough of ridge walking then an easier path bypasses to the right. Both sides of the ridge are nicely sloped so it lacks the exposure of Crib Gochs sheer north cliffs. From the summit of Garnedd Ugain, there are some great views of Snowdon and the swarms of people ascending, and also out across Llyn Llydaw, Glaslyn, and the cliffs of Y Lliwedd.
From here, it’s a simple walk down to the train track, and then a case of just following the path alongside the track up to the summit. There’s a cafe at the top of Snowdon should you wish to spend a small fortune on a bite to eat or a coffee. I didn’t. I personally found the sheer amount of people to be too much (I’ve never really been a people person!) and so I carried on with my venture and skirted around the summit and downhill. Unfortunately I didn’t quite get the route right for this bit and ended up going straight down rather than the more diagonal line that the Watkins path offers. I realised my mistake shortly after, and so bore right until I met up with the correct track. The Watkins path down the side of Snowdon is not the easiest and is certainly a contributor to the sore knees I had at the end of the days walking. Eventually the path levels out and becomes much easier as it follows the ridge towards the impressive looking Y Lliwedd. Just before the ascent of this begins, the Watkins path veers to the right and continues downhill, but another path forks off straight towards Y Lliwedd. It’s obviously this path that one should take if continuing with the horseshoe walk.
Y Lliwedd is actually made up of two peaks. There’s Lliwedd Bach, and then there’s Y Lliwedd East Peak. The best and most enjoyable route up Lliwedd Bach – which is the peak that is hit first when leaving Snowdon – is the direct route, staying as close to the crest as you dare. The climbing is similar to that on Tryfans north ridge and also probably classed as a grade 1 scramble. Once at the summit of the first peak, you can immediately see the second peak which looks impressive. The second peak is not quite as entertaining in it’s ascent and, before you know it, the summit of this is reached too. From here, it’s literally downhill all the way. First the path continues for a while on the south side of the ridge before heading over to the north and down towards Llyn Llydaw. It’s worth noting that at several points, the descent path is quite precarious and care should be taken – especially if conditions are wet. Once at the bottom, the path takes you around Llyn Teyrn and then bears left back towards Pen-y-pass. A fantastic days walk and even better than I remembered.
Completed on 17th October, 2015
Map and Elevation Data:
GPX file for the walk
My photo album from the walk
Snowdon – Wikipedia page
Crib Goch – Wikipedia page
Garnedd Ugain – Wikipedia page
Y Lliwedd – Wikipedia page
Detailed route description from Trekkingbritain.com
Another alternative account of the Snowdon Horseshoe walk