Mountaineering on Snowdon
Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales. It is a pyramidal peak formed by glacial action. That means it closely resembles alpine climbing conditions and makes for a good hiking location. However, mountaineering on Snowdon can be a bit complicated. With 6 official walking paths and plenty of people trekking to the summit, it can be difficult to find the best routes.
In general, Snowdonia National Park is an excellent place to go mountaineering. There are scramble routes ranging from Grade I-III, tricky pitches to climb, and ice walls in the winter. Mountaineering on Snowdon is an excellent way to sharpen your climbing skills while enjoying a beautiful day in the hills too.
Wanting To Go Mountaineering on Snowdon
The Snowdon Massif is one of the most prominent mountain groups in Snowdonia National Park (other notable areas being the Glyderau and Carneddau). In the summer, crowds descend on Llanberis and Pen y Pass to climb Yr Wyddfa. Weather conditions can change rapidly, especially in winter, and the park sees multiple deaths each year. For those wanting to go mountaineering on Snowdon, here are some of the best routes to climb with tips on how to do so safely.
1 . Crib Goch
Crib Goch is a stunning knife-edge scramble that stretches up to Snowdon. It is exposed and narrow but not particularly technical. In the winter, ice can form on the rock which makes this climb more difficult. Officially, this climb is only a Grade I. The toughest part is at the beginning when you have to leave the Miner’s Path and Pyg Track to clamber up a hump of rock known as the “bad step”.
Once you reach the ridge, you will be graced by gorgeous views and a hairline scramble up to Snowdon itself. Crib Goch is easy enough to navigate once you reach the ridge but it’s not to be underestimated. There aren’t many bail-out points, and the vertical drops won’t steady the nerves of newbie climbers either.
This is not a climb to be trifled with. You must be disciplined and prepared to cancel the scramble in bad weather. High winds, damp rock, poor visibility, and ice could all qualify for cancellation. If you’re determined to practice your winter skills while mountaineering on Snowdon, you should rope up and focus on lead climbing and communication.
2 . Snowdon Horseshoe
If you are an intermediate or experienced mountaineer, you may want to push your scrambling ability and attempt a longer route. The Snowdon Horseshoe will give you exactly that. After you have conquered Crib Goch, mounted Garnedd Ugain (1,065 metres), and summited Snowdon, you have a selection of routes to choose from on the descent.
The best one for mountaineering on Snowdon is the Horseshoe. This scramble is 12 km long and covers +1,000 metres of ascent. From the summit station, climbers can follow the Watkin Path up to Bwlch Ciliau. Instead of descending the western flank, hikers should then push on to Y Lliwedd. This is another precipitous scramble route that takes you down the opposite ridge of Crib Goch to Llyn Llydaw where you eventually join the Miners’ track again at the bottom.
After one strenuous scrambling route, the descent can be tough on the knees. Hiking poles are a great way to alleviate this burden and they provide balance for tired climbers. Top-quality hiking boots with a good grip should be worn. If mountaineering on Snowdon in winter, bring crampons just in case the ice becomes too perilous.
3 . Summit Push
There are multiple hiking routes to the top of Snowdon, each offering something different. Of course, as these routes are mostly paved and in good walking condition, they don’t offer much of a challenge for people mountaineering on Snowdon. However, in winter, the adverse conditions up the ante to make it a more demanding experience.
The Llanberis path is too simple for mountaineering, as is the Miner’s track. However, the Rhyd Du Path and the Snowdon Ranger Path are quieter routes which potentially offer a greater excursion for climbers. Mountaineering on Snowdon in winter gives climbers the chance to test out winter clothing and try on winter climbing equipment. The climb won’t be technical, but it will be a good confidence builder.
Snowdon has “accident blackspots”. These are zones of the mountain that get a disproportionately higher accident rate than other areas. The Snowdon Ranger Path has a big accident blackspot on the ridge above Llyn Ffynnon-y-gwas. In conditions of ice and snow, this area can become treacherous, and care should be taken during the traverse.
4 . Technical Routes
Although not common, there are a few rock climbing routes which you can attempt when mountaineering on Snowdon. Along the Llanberis Pass, you’ll find Crackstone Rib, a mid-level crag with some good spots to practice belaying. There’s also the Dinas Cromlech and Flying Buttress route. A steep and exposed climb with a difficult chimney crux near the top. For some of the best rock climbing routes in Snowdonia, check out the slabs at Cwm Idwal instead.
Rock climbing is a tricky business. Finding information on which routes to attempt and how to climb them is a bit like searching for the Holy Grail. For more information on mountaineering on Snowdon, read Scrambles in Snowdonia or North Wales Slate.
Mountaineering on Snowdon is a fantastic way to build your alpine skills. By incorporating additional scrambles, slate climbs, and winter camps throughout the National Park, you will be well on your way to mountaineering prowess. If you feel like pushing yourself further, you could attempt the Three Peaks challenge in winter – now that would be a true mountaineering challenge!
Whatever your choice, there are some exciting routes for beginner and experienced climbers to attempt when mountaineering on Snowdon. Be sure to check the forecast, pack the appropriate gear, and plan your routes so you know what you’re up against. Other than that, enjoy your time in the mountains and get climbing!