Snowdon Horseshoe – 10684

  • County: Gwynedd
  • Nearest Town(s): Llanberis
  • National Park: Snowdonia
  • Difficulty: Medium/ Hard
  • Time: 6 hours
  • Height: 1085 m

Where To Park

There are many routes to tackle Snowdon and the easiest, but longest, is the Llanberis path. To take this route, park in one of the Llanberis pay and display car parks – the walk is well signposted from the centre of the town.

The more commonly tackled approach routes are the Miners path (second easiest), the Pyg Track and the Crib Goch ridge, which peels off the Pyg track. The best parking spot for all of these is at Pen Y Pass, a pay and display car park at the start of the Miners and Pyg track. Be aware that this car park fills up exceptionally quickly – we tried at 08:30 mid week, not even in a school holiday, and were the first car to get turned away.

If the car park is full there is a Sherpa bus that runs from Nant Peris car park. The car park is back down the Llanberis pass and just outside the town itself. It could, however, be easily missed if admiring the view, not that I did, honest, cough. Parking is cheaper down at Nant Peris, but you do have to pay to get the bus back up to Pen Y Pass (£2 each way), so it can get expensive if there is a group of you.

The bus runs regularly at weekends, but during the week only once an hour. Even then it was 40 minutes later than scheduled, which was a great start to the day!

The Walk

Once the trials and tribulations of the welsh bus service had been overcome it was time for the easier challenge of the Snowdon Horseshoe. Following our ascent of Tryfan via the north face scramble, we decided that we definitely fancied a go at the famous, or infamous, Snowdon Horseshoe. Starting on the Pyg track then detouring via Crib Goch ridge taking in two trig pillars, some scrambling, and around 6 hours of walking, it seemed perfect.

In our usual fashion and as dictated by the changeable Welsh weather we left home in every layer possible. Three steps into the Pyg track and whilst still below the clouds this proved to be somewhat sweaty. Cue stopping after only 100m of walking and stripping off, only to be passed by every silver haired rambler who we had passed only minutes before. Once back on track with backpacks fuller but arms all the barer we continued up the Pyg track. The going is rocky underfoot in these early sections, but it is relatively easy to make good progress.

There is a stunning view down the Llanberis pass out towards Llyn Peris, great for a photo opportunity.

Llanberis pass view

The path continues up for around 30 minutes before there is a small path that deviates off to the right.  You will know you are there as this is the first point you get a view of Llyn Llydaw. If you take the left fork you can continue on the Pyg track to the top, but we had decided the challenge of Crib Goch would be more fun.

When you take the right fork you immediately start the steeper ascent up to the ridgeline. I am reliably informed that in good weather you can see the Crib Goch ridge looming above you, but as seems only too common with our trig bagging exploits, the clouds had dropped and masked the ridge.

Crib Goch

As you start the ascent there is a small National Trust stone labelling Crib Goch and on a couple of the stiles there are also small red markers. These markers may however be green, or blue, or purple with massive yellow spots for all I know being somewhat irritatingly colourblind. They do at least have Crib Goch written on them regardless of the colour.

Views from Snowdon

The path is well defined in the initial sections and climbs quickly round to the right hand side of the ridge. Eventually the going gets a little more vertical, but the handholds are great and footholds large. The climb to the ridge is a lot of fun, if over a little too quickly, but with cloud cover it is very hard to tell how much has been or is to come.

Ascent to Crib Goch Ridge

Crib Goch has a reputation as a knife edge ridge, and gets its grade one scramble status due to the high level of exposure. There are many reviews on the walk along the ridge from those far more qualified than I. All I can add is that the ridge is a lot of fun and there are really good footholds all the way along. If you are sensible with your foot placement and don’t go up in strong winds there is no reason that anyone fit and healthy couldn’t take this route. The key to the route is to follow the polished rock – it is pretty obvious as it is lighter than the rest of the rock and gives a simple indication of where the path goes.

Following the ridge through the wind and the cloud we were still surprisingly hot, the scrambling keeping us very warm. On the odd occasions we found to stop, drink and snack we cooled very quickly and were very glad of the many layers we had previously stripped off.

Atop Crib Goch

After the ridge the pathway dips slightly, then flattens before another climb back up to trig point number one. Garnedd Ugain (S1618) has unfortunately seen better days, though still obvious as a trig pillar it is missing the cap and a large chunk of the top of the pillar.  Unlike Snowdon, Gardnedd Ugain is quiet pleasant and in hindsight not a bad spot for a picnic.

Gardnedd Ugain Trig point - TP3319

From this pillar follow the obvious path off to the left, sticking to the now flat ridgeline.  The path dips here and meets up with the Pyg and Miners track. This is where the hordes of people once again appear.

Snowdon Trig Point

The last ascent into the Snowdon summit has a good path, mostly consisting of large steps.  The railway can be seen down to the right, but we were not lucky enough to see any trains at the time we summited. The final few steps up to the pillar are very busy and despite it being midweek and well before the school holidays there was still a steady stream of people waiting for the standard photo.

Snowdon Trig Point

TP6043 Snowdon Summit bagged we stopped for a quick bite to eat perched on a rock having staring competitions with the greedy seagulls. We had been fairly well prepared for the walk, but thought we might take the opportunity to grab a little more water from the Snowdon shop. However, after asking if we could fill our own bottles anywhere we were unequivocally told that we could not and would have to buy bottled water.  

I can’t help feeling that in this day and age that the cafe would want to reduce their overall waste. The single use plastics that they generate at the top of this beautiful mountain could definitely be reduced. Alas this was not the case. So, not fancying the huge queue and an even larger price tag, we decided to push on with what we had packed.

View from the Pillar

Unfrotunately for us there wastn’t much of a view as you can see in the grey picture above. Luckily Google images is full of examples of the beautiful views across Snowdonia. Maybe if you try it you may have more luck with a photo or two but be warned that you will have to fight even more crowds for the privilege.

Past the Pillar

We headed past the cafe mob, the train crowd and the general meanderers following the sign posted Watkins path. This path immediately cuts back down the face of the hill, back under the summit, or so it feels. When we visited the National Trust were busy fixing the path. It looked like there had been a wee bit of a rock slide. The path was awkward, but not quite a full scramble. Most of this section can best be described as scree.

Lliwedd

We kept following the fairly obvious path until we came to a point where the Watkins splits off at 90 °. Take care as there are a couple areas where it would appear the path splits off, but when it really did split it was super obvious. When the Watkins heads off right the Horseshoe path starts its climb up to the West Peak of Lliwedd.

There is some great scrambling up to the peak and even better across the top, however by this point we didn’t exactly desire the further exertion. The contour lines on the map don’t do justice to how far down you come off the Snowdon summit before starting to climb again.  

As with earlier the best advice we could give is follow the polished rock, oh and the cairns everywhere.  Whether these are truly cairns or just dumping piles ready for path repairs we weren’t sure, but they indicate that you are on the right path.

View down the Watkins path

The Descent

Once you come over the top of the ridge the path drops quickly down to the left of the mountain. The path was mostly well stepped and very obvious, leading directly to the Miners track. The Miners track offers a very flat and well graded finish all the way back to the car park.  It is also a great spot to do some stereotype watching and playing i-Spy. Look out for such classics as the Hello Kitty handbag and the oh too white Addidas trainers.     

The Miners path takes you all the way home. Coming into the Pen-y-pass car park the YHA looms above it to give you an idea you are getting close.  We made it back and collapsed by the bus stop only to wait for a perfectly punctual bus. By punctual I mean only 20 minutes late this time.

View from the Snowdon Horseshoe

Verdict

The Snowdon Horseshoe has a reputation for a great days walking in the beautiful Welsh countryside. It takes around 6 hours and can be lethal in wet or very windy conditions. We were lucky enough to have a dry day with only light wind. The cloud cover, however, ensured only the greyest of photos would be shared.  Even with the cloud we had a great day, we both really enjoyed the challenge.

We will recommend this one to anyone sitting still long enough if they mention anything with a tenuous link to Wales. We even have a new cuddly chum Dafydd the Dragon to remember our time in Snowdonia.

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