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Three classic Snowdonia scrambles in one day

Three classic Snowdonia scrambles in one day

Postby Pointless Parasite » Tue Feb 20, 2024 8:17 pm

Hewitts included on this walk: Carnedd Llewelyn, Crib Goch, Glyder Fach, Glyder Fawr, Snowdon - Yr Wyddfa, Tryfan, Yr Elen

Date walked: 09/10/2023

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I was back in the UK over autumn before I started my new job in Lyon and took advantage of a month off to tick off a few local mountains. I had never climbed Snowdon before, and after seeing news reports of the large crowds after the covid lockdowns I had decided it was not a mountain for me. But I realised I was being silly and snobbish. You can't criticise the mountain for being popular or expecting other people to stay away so you can have the thing to yourself. Besides, after climbing two of the UK country highpoints (Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike), I was halfway to completing a very small peak bagging list. Plus, Snowdon is one of only three 'P1000' summits in the UK (along with Ben Nevis and Cairn Eige) and four in the British Isles (the other is Carrauntoohil in Ireland). So there was actually plenty of justification for climbing it.

Seeing a weather window of a couple of days in early October, I booked a night at Pen-y-Pass YHA, then a second night at Idwal cottage YHA. I took the train to Bangor, then caught the bus to Pen-y-Pass. My plan was to climb Snowdon, ideally by the Crib Goch route, then return to the Pen-y-Pass YHA, before traversing over the Glyders and possibly Tryffan, if I had the time. The next day, I planned to climb Carnedd Llewelyn and descend down to Bethesda and catch the bus back to Bangor.

While checking in at the youth hostel, I was introduced to young American guy named Jeff who was planning on climbing Snowdon, also via Crib Goch. I suggested we team up, providing he didn't mind an early start. Since I needed to get to Idwal Cottage the same day, I needed to start at 7.30 at the latest, then I could be back at Pen-y-Pass in time for lunch.

At 7.30 the next morning, bang on time, here's Jeff ready to go. First impressions were not very encouraging though. He was not exactly dressed for a day out on the mountains, especially not Crib Goch. Just a very thin synthetic hoodie, no backpack, and worst of all, he was wearing sandals. I was almost lost for words. He explained that he had other footwear, but the sandals had better grip. I'm not the kind of person that lectures others on gear choices, but I was seriously concerned and felt like I was taking responsibility for him.

Still, once we set off, it was quickly apparent that Jeff was at least fit and was easily able to keep up with my pace. We soon reached the point where the Pyg and Crib Goch paths diverge and began the climb up to the summit ridge.

The start of the climb up Crib Goch

We started off in the fog, but by the time we started climbing, we were up above the clouds. This cloud inversion lasted all morning. Strange. When I first climbed Ben Nevis, back in 2017, I was treated to a perfect cloud inversion above 700 m that lasted all day. Must be a thing with UK country high points :lol:

The initial scrambling is easy grade I stuff and not too exposed. The route is not always obvious, but this makes it more interesting. Sometimes you can take a more direct route with a few more difficult moves. The good news was that Jeff was managing perfectly well with the scrambling in his sandals. The main problem would be the lack of protection from loose rocks, but that isn't much of an issue on Crib Goch where the rock is very stable.

Looking back down, Moel Siabod in the distance


As we reached the summit ridge, we met another couple of climbers, a girl named Gemma and a bloke I never caught the name of. I'd assumed they were partners but discovered later they'd only just met lower down on Crib Goch. So we set off on the famous knife-edge ridge as a team of four.

Crib Goch summit ridge

In terms of technical difficulty, the summit ridge is virtually the easiest part of the route, but the sense of exposure is greatly increased. After the horrors of Piz Bernina and Dufourspitze earlier in the year, I'd become almost immune to exposure and was able to enjoy the ridge.


Looking back over the summit ridge


At the end of the summit ridge, the next section involves descending via 'the pinnacles'. This section left Walk With Wallace visibly trembling with fear in his YouTube video of the route, although I don't think it's as bad as it looks. You can turn the first pinnacle (seen above the two climbers in the photo below) to the left, then descend down to the second pinnacle.

The Pinnacles

Then climb the "giant's stairway" feature on the right. I'd seen photos of this and thought 'God that looks exposed', but I can't really remember it being that bad. Nobody else in the group had any problems with it and we were soon over the final pinnacle and down to the col at the end of the Crib Goch ridge. At this point Jeff left a message for his parents to tell them he'd completed the route safely.

The final bit of scrambling on Crib Goch

The next part of the route involved traversing over the Hewitt summit of Crib y Ddysgl.



There is a bypass path, but the best thing is to stick to the crest of the ridge where there's plenty of fun scrambling.



We then descended to the south and reached the point where the Pyg and Llanberis paths meet. At this point, we said farewell to the other guy who wasn't going all the way to the summit of Snowdon and left him to descend the Pyg track while we continued on up to the top. The number of other walkers now increased markedly. There were many groups on the mountain, including a few on charity climbs.

The summit was busy, but not crowded. No need to queue for a selfie next to the trig point, although I could have done without the topless guy treating everyone to his music through a boombox :(

Ugly mug (in sensible boots) on the summit



After a coffee at the railway station/visitors centre and a wander around the summit area, we set off back down via the Pyg track. Despite being a weekday in October, there were a lot of other people climbing Snowdon. We kept getting asked 'how much further is it?' despite the summit being clearly visible. Another overeight walker exclaimed "Oi what's this? I can hardly breath and this guy's wearing sandals!". I didn't want to further rub it in by telling him that we'd just done a much more difficult route.

Hillwalking in 2023: It's all about selfies and drones

Brocken spectre

Glyder Fawr:

After a coffee at the YHA, I picked up the food I'd left and said farewell to Jeff and Gemma to set off on part deux of the day: a traverse over Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach to reach Idwal Cottage on the other side.

I didn't get off to a good start. I'd hoped to buy a map of the area but didn't have the time the previous day as the train was delayed and I only just caught the bus. Pen-y-Pass YHA were sold out as well. They lent me a used 1:25,000 map, but I needed to return it after I came back from Snowdon. The only thing I had was a section of the map stored on the cache of my tablet. This is never a good idea as the cache can often clear itself without warning and take the map with it. This is exactly what happened here, leaving me with a blank screen in a featureless landscape below the cloud inversion. I was literally going around in circles just above Pen-y-Pass :(

I used my compass and the crude map on my Garmin GPS to get myself back on track, and eventually got up above the clouds. There's supposed to be a path from the YHA up to Glyder Fawr, but it's very faint and very boggy low down. Higher up, I just made a bee-line for the top.


I eventually reached the summit plateau of Glyder Fawr. There are a few granite outcrops and I climbed them all, looking for the true high point.


Next up was Glyder Fach. I kept going off-route to scramble up other outcrops. Anything that looked interesting, I climbed it. I reached the famous cantilever stone near the summit of Glyder Fach and tried to take a photo using the self-timer on my camera. I set it off and tried to run to the top before it took the photo but immediately slipped and fell over a big slab. Thankfully there was nobody there to see it. In fact the whole area was extremely quiet compared to Snowdon.

Looking towards Glyder Fach

I still had plenty of time and light left, so climbing Tryffan was still possible. But I needed to descend Glyder Fach first.


This turned out to be a lot more interesting than I'd expected. I rather casually downclimbed the first scrambly section on sight with no clear plan of where I was going. The climbing was quite easy, no more than grade I, but I was unsure if I was on the right route. I found myself downclimbing a steep gully with a few sections of limb-breaking exposure. I was worried I was getting myself into a 'five-fingered gully situation' by descending further and further down into a trap until I became stuck. Thankfully I managed to safely get to the bottom of the gully without incident.

Later, I determined that I had likely descended 'Bristly Ridge', via 'Sinister Gully', which is regarded as a classic scramble (though usually going up, not descending).

Bristly Ridge

I was still making good time, so I decided to go for Tryffan. More fun low grade scrambling on superb granite awaited. I kept going off route and finding myself on more difficult ground but it didn't really matter. I quickly gained the summit and met a German-accented climber who had come up from the North side. I asked him about the best way down and he patiently described the route, although it was difficult for me to remember all the details. After setting off, I realised I was following a young lady down, but after some initial scrambling she turned off to the left, down a rather uninteresting looking path. I was still having fun scrambling, so looked for another way down. I downclimbed a gully with a large chockstone, then after a few more easy scrambling sections found the famous cannon rock. I then lost the path lower down and ended up in a horrible bushwhacking downclimb through thick heather.




Finally I made it back down onto the road and checked in at Idwal Cottage.

Carnedd Llewelyn

The next day I felt good, so decided to stick to my original plan and traverse over Carnedd Llewelyn. The first problem was finding the way up. There is a path marked on OS maps near a bridge, just across the road from Idwal Cottege. I'd set off quite early and was navigating using a headtorch. I found the beginning of the path, but then soon lost it. I spent considerable time searching around, and eventually gave up and climbed off piste, making a direct line to the craggy ground above. Eventually I located a faint path and followed this to the first summit of the day, Pen yr Ole Wen.


Then it was a simple case of following the high ground NE to Carnedd Dafydd.


The ridge continues East to Carnedd Llewelyn, over a few minor tops.



By the time I reached the summit of Carnedd Llewelyn it had turned seriously windy. I took shelter in the cairn for a few minutes, then crossed the summit plateau to reach the NW ridge linking it with the final summit of the trip, Yr Elen.




From Yr Elen, I had a clear view of the way down to Bethesda. I wasn't looking forward to the large area of bogs at the bottom though :(



The bogs weren't that bad and I was able to pick my way through the worst of them without incident. The last thing I wanted was 'bog boot' for the long journey back home :lol:

I finally made it down to Bethesda and caught the bus back to Bangor. Job done. I'd ticked 10 Hewitts off the list, one of which is a country high point and 'p1000' and two others (Carnedd Llewelyn and Glyder Fawr) are 'p600' summits. The weather had been perfect and I'd managed three classic scrambles as well. Not a bad round of peak bagging for such a cheapo trip. I even got a full refund on my train ticket due to the delays 8). But my main lasting impression was how much I enjoyed Snowdonia. The crowds were very concentrated on certain paths on Snowdon, while the rest was almost deserted. And despite being boggy in places, the rock was absolutely top quality.
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Pointless Parasite
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Re: Three classic Snowdonia scrambles in one day

Postby WildAboutWalking » Wed Feb 21, 2024 6:49 pm

Excellent stuff - reminds me of the many good days that I had on the hill when I lived in Snowdonia back in the 1980's and 90's. Thanks for posting. :)
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Re: Three classic Snowdonia scrambles in one day

Postby dav2930 » Sun Feb 25, 2024 9:27 am

Sounds like you're as bad as me when it comes to cafe stops on walks! Except last time I did the Snowdon Horseshoe the summit cafe was closed due to snow and high winds (in April!) - very disappointing :lol: .

Great to have scrambled Crib Goch, Bristly Ridge and Tryfan North Ridge in the same day, and to have continued over the Carneddau the next day. Some superb inversion shots from Crib Goch there, and indeed great shots in general.

Just one little correction: the rock on Tryfan (as on Snowdon) is rhyolite, not granite. :wink:
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Re: Three classic Snowdonia scrambles in one day

Postby litljortindan » Mon Feb 26, 2024 6:33 pm

Some fantastic inversion photos there and an adventurous sounding trip all round. Always looking for ways to cut down weight but not sure about sandals.
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Re: Three classic Snowdonia scrambles in one day

Postby Verylatestarter » Sun Mar 03, 2024 7:39 pm

Thanks for posting such a good report. It's such a great hill but the idea of the crowds always put me off despite it being much nearer than Scotland. You don't get many boomboxes. topless idiots, drones and selfies on Beinn Dearg.

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