Recent work commitments for my husband (my walking partner) meant a trip to Liverpool, so I tagged along too and we arranged a short walking trip to Snowdonia.
The Snowdon Horseshoe
We chose to tackle the classic route up Snowdon – the Snowdon Horshoe with the wonderful ridge walk over Crib Goch. We thought that going mid week at the tail-end of winter would mean it would be pretty quiet. Oh we were wrong! We got rather snarled up in traffic leaving Liverpool and when we got to our starting point at Pen y Pass at the back of 11am. we were shocked to see the car park was already full. After 3 or 4 circuits we’re just about to give up and resolve to return earlier the next day when we spotted a group of folks about to leaves so nabbed their empty space. We were booted and kitted up by about noon; a rather late start for what the guide book says is a 6 – 8 hour walk.
It was pretty easy going at first with a gentle walk in along the ‘easy’ track.
Soon the fun began when we left the main track. Our ‘path’ lead us to a jagged rock face and there was no obvious path up it was a matter of choosing a likely looking route.
A one point I became stuck – crag-fast. I was leading a wee bit as I’m more agile than DH. I chose a wee gulley to the left then got so far and couldn’t go any further. There was one last step to a wee ledge, but I couldn’t reach that step!! Then I found I couldn’t get back to where DH was standing! I panicked a wee bit at this point, as my arms and legs were tiring from clinging to the rock face. Eventually with DH providing a hand for my foot I retraced my steps and we found an easier route to the right of this particular crag.
The main ridge is a knife edge arête with lots of exposure and less than 1 metre wide for the most part – sometimes you can sit astride it. For the most part it was a matter of walking about 0.5m below the top and holding on to the very top with one or both hands. The rock on the main ridge is all pretty stable and has plenty of grip, but it was a long, hard scramble using hands and feet.
At the saddle we met the easier paths and the Snowdon Mountain Railway (the trains were not running). The final slog to the top of Snowdon is a walk in the park compared to what we’d just completed. Even though the trains and restaurant were closed, the summit area was busy with people convnerging from (easier) paths in all direction. After the toughness and relative quiet of the ridge we didn’t enjoy this part as much, However after the obligatory summit shots we again wandered off on a less-frequented route to descend. This is less demanding than the ascent, but still very tiring and difficult on the long scree slope. This got increasingly more difficult as we were walking in the fading light. We finally reached the low-level easy path as darkeness fell about 7.30. The final 30mins back to the car were made by torch light.
The ridge behind me is the last easy slog up to the top of Snowdon, which was considerably busier as several paths meet here.
On the second half of the horseshoe. The route drops down this slope to the ridge and goes over the top, Y Llwedd, at the right of the picture. We followed the ridge beyond Y Llwed and dropped down off the ridge towards the lake about where the shadow of the hill creates a line.
The sun drops below the horizon and we’ve still 2000 ft to drop .Best get a move on!
But we don’t go from sunset to darkness – we had a fairly long period of gloaming. The sunset picture was taken at 18.20 and it wasn’t really dark until we were down at the lake. It was a tiring descent as it was tricky and required a lot of concentration on the loose scree. It became progressively harder due to poor light for the hour it took us to reach this wee hut beside the lake at 19.30.
Thankfully we always carry wee Petzel LED headlamps and we used them from this point. With the two of us walking side-by-side it was fairly easy to see on this easier terrain of the ‘tourist’ track.
More photos in my Snowdon set at Flickr Snowdon