Snowdon sideways

My last post was Snowdon from the back way, this day was about approaching it from the side. A little-used ascent route, not surprisingly because it was horrible (more later), then the great Crib Goch north and east ridges and the horseshoe route to Snowdon summit.

The route I found in the book starts at Blaen-y-Nant, half way up Llanberis pass at a lay-by. The book calls it the Cwm Glas horseshoe. It approaches the knife-edge Crib Goch north ridge by avoiding the sheer cliffs of Dinas Mot via a weakness in its north-west flank. After the much quieter north ridge, it follows the classic horseshoe route along Crib Goch’s very popular east ridge, along to Garnedd Ugain and to Snowdon summit. The return is back to Garnedd Ugain and down the Cyrn Las ridge.

Afon Nant Peris
Near the start of the walk, where you cross the river, looking down the valley. Llechog is the peak on the left.

It started well enough but after only about half a mile the instructions started to get a little vague. The scenery is fantastic though, with various craggy outcrops surrounding the cwm and waterfalls coming down everywhere.

In Cwm Glas
In Cwm Glas near the start. Cyrn Las on the right of the waterfall.
Llanberis pass and Esgair Felen
Looking over to the minor peak of Esgair Felen with the Llanberis pass below.

I identified the correct line of weakness to get up to the ridge behind Dinas Mot and started the “easy scrambling in the rocky stream bed”. To be fair the book does say you need a dry spell for this. The stream bed was a torrent and I wasn’t prepared to get totally soaked. I did my best up the bank to it’s side but this involved vertical heather and slimy rocks. Everything was dripping water. Not nice at all.

The ascent route out of Cwm Glas
The ascent out of the cwm goes up the waterfall as best you can.
Looking down Llanberis
The view back, to Llanberis and it’s twin lakes. The ascent either goes up the waterfall direct (not in this weather) or through the steep heather on the far side (not much fun) before crossing over.

After the steep waterfalls section the route opened into a wide bowl with easy walking but soon steepened again into 45 degree grass and heather. I was cursing the book and wondering what I was doing there until eventually the grass gave way to scree and shattered rock. It started to look more promising and the ridge ahead looked very exciting.

The view back to Llanberis
From above the waterfalls and before the ridge, looking to Llanberis north-eastwards
Llyn Cwmffynnon and Pen-y-Pass
Summits of Glyders Fawr (leftmost) and Fach (the Castle of the Winds clearly visible), Moel Siabod in the distance on the right, and the road leading to Pen-y-Pass car park.
Moel Siabod
Moel Siabod in the distance, Pen-y-Pass car park in the middle ground.

The ridge, which is Crib Goch’s north ridge, narrows to the proverbial knife edge with great views of the more famous horseshoe route along the east ridge. It joins that route at its start so the best section of the horseshoe is now ahead of you.

Crib Goch north ridge
The start of the good bit. Just after the steep grass and heather the ridge becomes more pronounced and rockier before becoming a knife-edge further up.
Crib Goch north ridge
Further up the ridge as it narrows
Glyder Fach
Glyder Fach summit
Moel Siabod
Moel Siabod and Llyn Lydaw

The scrambling along Crib Goch and Garnedd Ugain is among the best easy scrambling south of Scotland.

The start of the Crib Goch traverse
The start of the classic traverse along Crib Goch east ridge




I had been alone until I joined this route but now there were others around but still not too busy. Once off Garnedd Ugain and joining the popular path up from Llanberis it was all change. It was like there was a stadium concert on and I’d joined the crowd. Hundreds of people walking in both directions. All you could do was join the throng and go at their pace. No chance of the hot chocolate I’d been hoping for in the summit cafe, I couldn’t even get inside.

I’d been in the clouds for some time now and there was little chance of a view. My next choice was how to get back down again. The ascent had eroded my trust in the book and I didn’t fancy the Cyrn Las ridge in descent, not having done it before. So I decided on the Pyg Track back to Pen-y-pass car park and the road back.

It was still pretty crowded. I’ve never seen so many people in the mountains before. Only once the miner’s track split away did the crowds disappear. There are still some excellent views to be had on this section.

Crowds on the Miners Track
Crowds on the Miners Track down from Snowdon

The cafe at the car park was, fortunately, less crowded and I got a hot pasty and my overdue hot chocolate before the walk back down the road.

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