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Snowdon Horseshoe with Main Wall Prelude

Snowdon Horseshoe with Main Wall Prelude


Postby dav2930 » Sun Apr 30, 2017 12:26 am

Hewitts included on this walk: Crib Goch, Crib y Ddysgl, Snowdon - Yr Wyddfa, Y Lliwedd

Date walked: 25/04/2017

Time taken: 6.7

Distance: 12 km

Ascent: 1217m

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This was my first visit to Snowdonia in about ten years, and Karl's first visit ever. Back in the day I used to walk and climb there quite a lot, so this trip brought back many fond memories for me. For Karl it was a new experience and the satisfaction of a nagging curiosity.

Our plan was for a mix of walking/scrambling and, if the weather allowed, climbing. On the walking side the Snowdon Horseshoe was a priority, especially so for Karl, for whom Snowdon itself would complete his ascents of the highest points of all four countries of the UK. On the climbing side, Main Wall on Cyrn Las was at the top of our to-do list. But since this climb starts at 550m and faces north-east, it was perhaps somewhat optimistic to hope it would be in climbable condition this early in the year. As it turned out our timing was fortunate.

It was a gloriously warm and sunny afternoon when we arrived at the campsite in Nant Peris on Saturday 22nd April.

P1020600.JPG
Tents pitched on site at Nant Peris, Crib Goch and Crib y Ddysgl in background


After pitching the tents we drove up the Llanberis Pass to see how the crags looked; there were some streaks of water glinting in the sun here and there but on the whole the rock looked encouragingly dry. We decided to try our luck on Main Wall next day as the forecast was for dry weather continuing through Sunday but possibly not beyond that.


23rd April 2017
Main Wall, 140m HS
On Cyrn Las (Diffws Ddu) in Cwm Glas

During the night it had rained a little but in the morning any stony ground had dried, and though some clag was still clinging to the peaks, there was enough blue sky around to suggest that it might clear off. So we got prepared and made the short drive to Ynys Ettws for the walk into Cwm Glas.


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It was chilly to begin but we soon warmed up as we walked uphill and the sun came out.

P1020602.JPG
Entering Cwm Glas, Cyrn Las centre


As we approached Cyrn Las we could begin to make out some details of the route taken by Main Wall, zig-zagging up the left side of the very steep central buttress.

Main Wall route.jpg
The route of Main Wall (red line) and the scrambling approach to it (yellow line).


When we were level with a reddish scree slope on the right we crossed the stream and followed a vague path up the scree to the bottom of a diagonal groove. We left the rucksacks there, geared up and scrambled up the groove to a grassy ledge. We walked rightwards along this until another scramble led up to a smaller ledge at the start of the climb. A sling round a big, spiky block made a good belay. At this point the crag was in the sun and it was very warm, which was encouraging. Now it was time to get to grips with the climb itself.

From the belay a few easy moves up to the right gained a leftward-slanting line of weakness, not so well protected and with a precarious feel to it, but yielding without much difficulty to a careful approach. It soon eased off onto a grassy ledge. At the back of this a steep little corner leads up to an overhang, under which a very exposed step out right is facilitated by excellent holds going round the edge and up to a couple of big spikes which serve as an awkward, hanging belay.

The second pitch is one of two warranting a technical grade of 4b, and is generally considered the crux of the climb. A delicate traverse out to the right along a sloping ramp-line which curves up to meet a wet chimney. Up this for a few feet then back left along another rising ramp-line until it ends at an arête above the void. The belay is supposed to be a piton but this has long gone and is now down to a couple of nuts or cams. Although the climb is graded only Hard Severe, the situation is serious and the level of exposure...spooky! In the event of a bad turn in the weather, escape would be difficult. The crag was now in shadow, the wind was blowing and it felt rather cold.

P1020605.JPG
The upper ramp of pitch 2


P1020606.JPG
From the stance above pich 2, looking up the central part of Cyrn Las - suggestive of an Easter Island statue. The ramp-line of pitch 3 is visible above the lower wall.


Pitch 3 follows yet another ramp-line leading up and right into the most formidable part of the crag.

P1020608.JPG
At the top of pitch 3


Pitch 4, second of the two 4b pitches, is the most outrageously exposed of all. We both found it at least as difficult as pitch 2, if not more so. In the middle of the vertical wall on the left is a spike at the top of an awkward crack. Getting stood on this, with an awful lot of empty space beneath your feet, feels precarious. A downward-pointing spike offers a useful undercut hold but proves alarmingly loose. A good hand-jam in a wide crack just above provides greater security. Step up the vertical wall, then some better holds lead around an arête which seems suspended in space. Just as you think it must get easier you step around the corner to find yourself on a slightly impending wall which has to be negotiated on mediocre holds to reach the next belay stance. A fantastic pitch!

P1020610.JPG
Enjoying the exposure at the top of pitch 4


Pitch 5 is pure enjoyment. Up an easy open chimney to begin, a large flake on the left deposits you on an disconcertingly blank looking slab which steepens towards the top. You can't help wondering if you've strayed onto a harder climb. But when you look carefully you can see sequences of beautifully incut holds and thin cracks which swallow wires for protection. First leftwards, then right, then back left to the very edge overlooking Great Gully. Over the scary-looking overlap, holds around the corner, up to the apex of the slab then shuffle down behind it to belay. Superb.

P1020612.JPG
Overlooking Great Gully on pitch 5


Only one pitch left now - a relatively easy, cracked slab, then scrambling to the top of the crag.

On the ample, grassy ledges at the top we coiled up the ropes with a sense of satisfaction at having completed this great climb which, though modest in standard, still demands respect even today.

That night the weather changed and the tents were battered by persistent, heavy rain. Next morning the clag was down so we decided to postpone the Snowdon Horseshoe until the Tuesday. We drove to Tremadog to sample the retro-British fayre at Eric's Caffi and were served by the man himself, as his staff had yet to turn up.


25th April
Snowdon Horseshoe
12 km
1217m
6hrs 40mins

The morning of Tuesday 25th was a bit of a shock in three respects. First, the peaks were cloud-free. Second, it was perishingly cold. Third, there was a dusting of snow not only on the mountains but even on the tents! :shock:

We rued the fact that we hadn't brought our ice axes, crampons or even Micro Spikes. However, we judged that the snow would be thin and soft enough for us to get away with doing the Snowdon Horseshoe...hopefully! The two main areas of concern were the traverse of Crib Goch and the descent from Snowdon to Bwlch Saethau, which crosses a very steep and exposed slope. Much would depend on the consistency of the snow and how much of it was lying at crucial points. At any rate, we thought it would be worth giving it a go as it looked like the views would be spectacular.


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So we drove up the Pass and paid the £10 parking charge at Pen-y-Pass :wtf: . By 8.30am we were heading up the Pyg Track. It was cold and very windy.

Crib Goch had quite a dusting of snow on it. From this distance it was hard to tell what difference in difficulty the snow would make to the scramble up the east ridge. But it was the gusty wind that was nagging at my sense of prudence.

P1020620.JPG
Start of the P.Y.G. Track, heading for Crib Goch


At Bwlch y Moch we caught up with some walkers who were continuing up the Pyg Track to Snowdon. When we branched off up the Crib Goch path they stopped and looked up at us. 'Been up there before have you?', one of them asked. I said yes, speaking only for myself. 'What's it like?' asked the same chap, to whom I replied that it was a bit airy. We continued on our way, following a good path.

P1020624.JPG
Y Liwedd from above Bwlch y Moch


So far the snow was no problem and the wind managable, but the real scrambling doesn't start until much higher up.

P1020626.JPG
The Glyderau from the scramble up Crib Goch


The snow had filled in a lot of the foot-holds and covered the ledges, so care was needed, but a lot of spiky, dry rock was also exposed, so there was no shortage of hand-holds. There was one short section which was steeper and trickier than the rest. Above this the angle eased off, but the slabby, snow-dusted rock still required care. On reaching the start of the crest we were pleased to see a minimal amount of snow. Also, quite remarkably, the wind seemed to have dropped.

P1020631.JPG
Start of the crest of Crib Goch


P1020632.JPG
Down Cwm Glas to Llyn Padarn


P1020633.JPG
Back down east ridge of Crib Goch to Llyn Llydaw


The sun was shining, the rock was dry and the wind was behaving itself. All our niggling doubts about the wisdom of our venture began to melt away.

P1020634.JPG
Karl on Crib Goch


At the far end of the crest come the pinnacles. An easy scrambling route, plain to follow for the most part, weaves between them and climbs up the last one by a diagonal ledge on the north side. After that is the drop to the col and all the difficulties of Crib Goch are over.

P1020637.JPG
Yr Wyddfa and Llyn Glaslyn


The ridge of Crib y Ddysgl also has some sections of scrambling and a narrow, rocky crest at one point, but nothing like Crib Goch. The snow was getting thicker as we got higher, though.

P1020643.JPG
Glyderau and Carneddau from Crib y Ddysgl


The views of Yr Wyddfa were very impressive.

P1020646.JPG
Yr Wyddfa from Crib y Ddysgl


It was an easy and slight descent from the Summit of Crib y Ddysgl (trig point) to the stone pillar marking the point at which the Pyg Track descends from the ridge. Here the route joins the Llanberis Path beside the railway for the short ascent to the top of Snowdon. Great views. Very windy. Very cold.

P1020651.JPG
View east from Snowdon, Llyn Llydaw below


We were hoping the cafe would be open but it was closed. The trains were going only so far up due to the snow. Typical Britain - a dusting of snow and everything grinds to a halt. :roll: So we had to be content with the cheese rolls, chocolate and water we'd brought up with us. Deprivation!

P1020657.JPG
South west ridge of Snowdon with new café, from summit


With cold hands from eating our lunch, we set off down the Watkin Path which, like the other paths up Snowdon, is smartly way-marked with stone indicators. The upper part of the Watkin is steep and badly eroded. Work is being carried out to improve the path, as evidenced by many big bags of stones deposited along it. Fortunately the snow was quite thin and not very slippery. In proper winter conditions an ice axe would definitely be required on this descent as it crosses a very steep and exposed slope.

Eventually Bwlch Saethau is reached and the going gets a lot easier, with the soaring peak of Y Liwedd beckoning ahead.

P1020662.JPG
Y Lliwedd from the Watkin Path


It seemed a long plod up Y Liwedd but the views down its tremendous north face and across Llyn Llydaw are not to be missed. The first of several squally snow showers started.

P1020663.JPG
Llyn Llydaw from Y Lliwedd


P1020666.JPG
East Buttress of Y Lliwedd from summit


On the descent hard pellets of snow were blown into our faces by the strong wind. This was painful. We had of course omitted to bring our ski goggles. :roll: This descent to Lyn Llydaw had more bits of scrambling on it than I'd remembered, but once on the Miner's Track it's very easy going back to the car park, which we reached at 3.10pm.

Not a long walk, then, but a challenging one and every bit as good as I'd remembered it. :D
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dav2930
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Re: Snowdon Horseshoe with Main Wall Prelude

Postby Alteknacker » Sun Apr 30, 2017 11:10 am

What a difference a couple of days can make to the weather! I didn't even realise that there'd been some snowfall this last week.
I camped with my 10 year-old grandson on the island on Llyn Glas on the Friday night (visible on your pic "Down Cwm Glas to Llyn Padarn"), and on the Saturday we did Crib Goch, Carnedd Ugain, and Yr Wyddfa. It was perishing in the wind, but bright and sunny! I took a rope & gear, but in the end we didn't do any climbing. So we just missed an overlap!

The big benefit you had by dint of doing it on Tuesday is that there were a 1000 or so fewer folk there! We started off from Llyn Glas at about 7.30am, and, looking down from the ridge, there were already long long caterpillars of people on the tracks wending their way towards Yr Wyddfa. This group of hills is really characterful (my grandson was absolutely stunned by the environment in Cwm Glas), but it inevitably detracts a bit from the experience when you have to queue at the scrambly bits on Crib Goch, and there are lines of folk stretching almost as far as the eye can see on the tracks.

To our surprise the cafe wasn't open for us either when we arrived at around 9.00am. Pity because they do good food and drink when they're open.

The Main Wall looks pretty amazing, I must say. I noticed it when I did Clogwyn y Person a few years ago, and indeed there were some climbers on it when we descended early Saturday afternoon. But I'm very nervous about North aspect faces being vegetated, and so didn't examine it in any detail. After taking 3 hours ascending Y Lliwedd by the scrambling route, I vowed I would never do a vegetated north face again! Anyway, Main Wall is much too technical for me! Great to have a regular climbing partner though - I wouldn't mind trying some of these more challenging routes - but with protection! Perhaps when I retire...
You must have had quite a bit of adrenaline coursing through your veins after that one! It does amaze me how much detail of the climb you can remember. It makes for a great read. (On anything at all difficult I find I'm so concentrated on avoiding sudden death that I forget all the detail, and even to take any pics :roll: ).

Exhilarating stuff :clap: :clap: :clap:
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Re: Snowdon Horseshoe with Main Wall Prelude

Postby dav2930 » Sun Apr 30, 2017 10:25 pm

Alteknacker wrote:What a difference a couple of days can make to the weather! I camped with my 10 year-old grandson on the island on Llyn Glas on the Friday night (visible on your pic "Down Cwm Glas to Llyn Padarn"), and on the Saturday we did Crib Goch, Carnedd Ugain, and Yr Wyddfa. It was perishing in the wind, but bright and sunny! I took a rope & gear, but in the end we didn't do any climbing. So we just missed an overlap!

The big benefit you had by dint of doing it on Tuesday is that there were a 1000 or so fewer folk there! We started off from Llyn Glas at about 7.30am, and, looking down from the ridge, there were already long long caterpillars of people on the tracks wending their way towards Yr Wyddfa. This group of hills is really characterful (my grandson was absolutely stunned by the environment in Cwm Glas), but it inevitably detracts a bit from the experience when you have to queue at the scrambly bits on Crib Goch, and there are lines of folk stretching almost as far as the eye can see on the tracks.

To our surprise the cafe wasn't open for us either when we arrived at around 9.00am. Pity because they do good food and drink when they're open.

The Main Wall looks pretty amazing, I must say. I noticed it when I did Clogwyn y Person a few years ago, and indeed there were some climbers on it when we descended early Saturday afternoon. But I'm very nervous about North aspect faces being vegetated, and so didn't examine it in any detail. After taking 3 hours ascending Y Lliwedd by the scrambling route, I vowed I would never do a vegetated north face again! Anyway, Main Wall is much too technical for me! Great to have a regular climbing partner though - I wouldn't mind trying some of these more challenging routes - but with protection! Perhaps when I retire...
You must have had quite a bit of adrenaline coursing through your veins after that one! It does amaze me how much detail of the climb you can remember. It makes for a great read. (On anything at all difficult I find I'm so concentrated on avoiding sudden death that I forget all the detail, and even to take any pics :roll: ).

Exhilarating stuff :clap: :clap: :clap:

Thanks for your comments AK :D - looks like we missed being within sight of each other by just a day!

That island in Lyn Glas looks an amazing place to camp - I'll bet your grandson loved that! And well done to him for managing Crib Goch - that's pretty exposed up there 8)

There was certainly a chilly breeze on the Saturday and Sunday - it felt quite cold on MW at times - but Tuesday was like winter again; it was just as well we'd brought some warm layers.

I do seem to remember quite a lot of the detail of the climbs I do - I suppose the process of looking for the holds and protection and working out the sequences helps to imprint them in the memory, at least for a while, which is really all part of concentrating on 'the avoidance of sudden death'. But as you say, when it comes to more technical and committing routes it really does help to have a regular climbing partner - someone as keen as oneself who one knows and can trust. I'm sure you'd love Main Wall as a protected climb with the right partner (it seems you've already got the gear!). Thanks again AK.
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Re: Snowdon Horseshoe with Main Wall Prelude

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Tue May 02, 2017 1:15 pm

Great report and some amazing pics of the Snowden horseshoe, that sprinkling of snow really brings out the texture of the rocks. I've never been a climber (nor ever will be in all honesty) but that did look a very impressive route.
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Re: Snowdon Horseshoe with Main Wall Prelude

Postby dav2930 » Tue May 02, 2017 7:43 pm

johnkaysleftleg wrote:Great report and some amazing pics of the Snowden horseshoe, that sprinkling of snow really brings out the texture of the rocks. I've never been a climber (nor ever will be in all honesty) but that did look a very impressive route.

Thank you JK :D Never say never - it's only a small step from scrambling to easy climbing! :wink:
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Re: Snowdon Horseshoe with Main Wall Prelude

Postby malky_c » Thu May 04, 2017 10:58 pm

An excellent summer/winter combo in the space of a weekend 8) . Really enjoyed your description and photos of Cyrn Las. It has always looked steep and forbidding, and your description hasn't changed my mind on that! While I always enjoyed reading the Llanberis Pass climbing guide, I don't think I ever did any proper climbs there - Clogwyn y Person arête on the other side of the cwm was about my limit. But there's so much rock up there it's hard not to be impressed. Those corries dropping into the Llanberis Pass are as impressive as Glencoe or perhaps even parts of the Cuillin.

The horseshoe is more familiar territory though - in my teens, my dad and I used to go round it at least once every summer after school (parking was cheaper then, and the guy collecting money back then was an ex-pupil of my dads, so he'd let us park for free if we turned up after 4pm). Have to admit, if I'm ever back in Wales these days, I prefer the circuit of Cwm Glas now, as it's much quieter and still takes in most of the Horseshoe highlights.
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Re: Snowdon Horseshoe with Main Wall Prelude

Postby dav2930 » Fri May 05, 2017 8:57 pm

malky_c wrote:An excellent summer/winter combo in the space of a weekend 8) . Really enjoyed your description and photos of Cyrn Las. It has always looked steep and forbidding, and your description hasn't changed my mind on that! While I always enjoyed reading the Llanberis Pass climbing guide, I don't think I ever did any proper climbs there - Clogwyn y Person arête on the other side of the cwm was about my limit. But there's so much rock up there it's hard not to be impressed. Those corries dropping into the Llanberis Pass are as impressive as Glencoe or perhaps even parts of the Cuillin.

The horseshoe is more familiar territory though - in my teens, my dad and I used to go round it at least once every summer after school (parking was cheaper then, and the guy collecting money back then was an ex-pupil of my dads, so he'd let us park for free if we turned up after 4pm). Have to admit, if I'm ever back in Wales these days, I prefer the circuit of Cwm Glas now, as it's much quieter and still takes in most of the Horseshoe highlights.

Many thanks Malky :D . As you say, there's an awful lot of rock in Llanberis Pass - certainly nearest thing to Glencoe / Cuillin south of the Highlands. The Clogwyn y Person arête looks fantastic; I was looking at it occasionally while belaying Karl on Main Wall and thought it would make a great continuation up onto Crib y Ddysgl - though it would have meant carrying our sacks/boots up with us. Can't believe I've never been up that one!

That's pretty amazing doing Snowdon Horseshoe as a teenager after school! I remember when the parking was a lot cheaper (though not as cheap as your dad got! :lol: ). We were lucky when we did it as there weren't many folk about; we never saw anyone between Bwlch Moch and the railway. I can imagine how crowded it can get though. I like the sound of the Cwm Glas circuit as an alternative - maybe up Clogwyn y Person & down north ridge of Crib Goch? Good excuse for a return visit! Cheers.
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Re: Snowdon Horseshoe with Main Wall Prelude

Postby Riverman » Mon May 08, 2017 8:11 am

Inspiring report. Love the photo of Cwm Glas.

One of my mountain dreams is to do the horseshoe in full, perfect winter conditions. The terrain is so exciting imagine it at 10 below zero with firm snow and ice. There must have been some 'alpine' days in 2010/11 though comparatively few since. One day....
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Re: Snowdon Horseshoe with Main Wall Prelude

Postby dav2930 » Mon May 08, 2017 8:38 pm

Riverman wrote:Inspiring report. Love the photo of Cwm Glas.

One of my mountain dreams is to do the horseshoe in full, perfect winter conditions. The terrain is so exciting imagine it at 10 below zero with firm snow and ice. There must have been some 'alpine' days in 2010/11 though comparatively few since. One day....

Thanks Riverman :D Oh yes! - the horseshoe in the winter conditions you describe would make a fabulous 'alpine' experience, probably up there with Aonach Eagach, Liathach, An Teallach etc. Last winter was about the most disappointing I can remember :roll: . Lucky you though - the Alps themselves are virtually on your doorstep!
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