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Snowdon horseshoe and the subject of vertigo

Snowdon horseshoe and the subject of vertigo


Postby steviesea » Thu Apr 04, 2019 11:20 pm

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

Date walked: 25/03/2019

Time taken: 7

Distance: 12 km

Ascent: 1181m

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I know that vertigo is possibly not the correct term to use but if not, I'm not really sure what is. In my case it started on a clifftop path in Cornwall about 25 years ago when as the path got thinner and the slope towards the cliff got steeper I was worrying that 1 slip here and that'd be it when BOOM, suddenly panic set in and next thing I knew I was face down, dragging myself uphill through heather and gorse literally trying to be absorbed into the ground in sheer terror.
Fast forward to about 6 years ago and a trip to Wales reignited a love of the mountains from childhood holidays to Wales and Scotland and although in those days we didn't actually climb any hills, I wanted to start doing so.
I've gradually got more confident and more at ease on the mountains (I've never felt that I'm scared of heights, just scared of the drops... and scared of plummeting down to death)and last year did Beinn Alligin including the horns. But here's the thing with me: I had no problem with the horns, but beforehand when gaining the trig point on Tom na Gruagaich and being met with that awesome view I was gripping hold of the trig white knuckled and had to take some deep breaths and get control back.
More on this later.
Feeling quite proud after Alligin (and what a walk that is) I decided that after always wanting to do the SH but hadn't because of being too scared of Crib Goch, I was now bloody well going to....
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First target ahead

A pleasant man made path winds up from the car park to the foot of the east ridge so no probs there although it was worryingly windy with a chill that soon had me reaching for gloves, but once the the ridge ascent was started the gloves were soon back in the pack and surprisingly the wind died.
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First sight of Snowdon

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and with Y Lliwedd

At first the scramble is very easy , picking a way through to the start of a much steeper section. I had spoken to a young couple back in the car park and after a short almost vertical part, when reaching a respite, they appeared from the left looking slightly flustered. We asked each other if we were on the right track to which shoulders were shrugged with nervous smiles. I'd remembered reading that you pick your own route for the scramble up to the knife edge so cracked on where I'd decided was the best route. About 10 mins later after a real struggle using knees etc a guy had caught up with me so I asked if this was the correct way. He said he reckoned it was although it seemed a lot steeper than he remembered. The angle soon eased and it was a nice clamber up towards the ridge proper so we chatted and he asked what route was I taking. I said I was hoping to do the horseshoe as long as I didn't bottle it on the arete. He reassured me reminding that you could walk slightly to the left using the knife edge as a handrail. I asked if he'd seen the young couple and he said that sadly they had turned back presumably to continue on the pyg track.
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Topping out onto ridge proper

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I'm loving the look of this already I told him, please don't worry about me I'm gonna be fine, you crack on and enjoy your day, so he went on ahead of me but I know he slowed his pace, keeping an eye out because I'd said earlier about the worry of becoming cragfast.
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My mentor leading the way

There was no fear, just exhilaration and I kept to the top of the ridge and went straight over the pinnacles though heavy concentration was required especially on the narrow parts so no photo's taken there.
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Pinnacles

Once down the last pinnacle I stopped for a snack and my friend said he was going to crack on now we were safely over Crib Goch (we never did swap names) so i wished him luck and thanked him for looking out for me.
Not once had I felt a wobble so far, so on the ascent of Crib y Ddysgl I took all available scrambling over the tops rather than the lower optional paths,
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Looking back to Crib Goch. Several tiny specs are walkers.

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Across to this afternoons ridge

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Looking back again

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The view from near Crib y Ddysgl summit

From there it was a straightforward walk down to the junction with the other paths, then up the wide end section of the Llanberris (tourist) path up to the summit of Yr Wyddfa
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Snowdon summit

Although there was quite a few people around, it was nothing like as crowded as last year when myself and (son) Lee ascended via the Watkin path. Although I'm not a fan of cafe's and the like on our mountains I admit that the thought of a nice strong builders tea was overwhelming so I was gutted to realise it was shut. I then realised that the train wasn't running which explained why there was relatively few people about. There's a kind of porch area to the locked doors and I was fffffuming to see it full of cans,plaggy bags and all sorts of sh!te :evil: :thumbdown:
I carried on a little further to find a nice sheltered flat spot to eat some peanuts,clementines and boost bar.2 boost bars :roll:
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Flat safe and completely non vertiginous

That's when, for no apparent reason I started to get the feelings of vertigo :wtf: :? I was thinking get a grip you're sat down for christ's sake, its flat with absolutely no danger. I thought back to last year when a couple of days after traversing the horns of Alligin with no problems I suddenly had an attack of vertigo....... on Beinn a'Chrulaiste,; thee most inoffensive hill imaginable. I'd also on several occasions when driving back after a mountain walk found myself gripped to the steering wheel like it was a jackpot winning lottery ticket when driving near edges with drops ( the road at the south side of Loch Leven when driving back to Caolasnacon campsite was 1) or even just bends in the road :shock:
I wonder whether it's because the feelings had been supressed in order to conquer the climbs, and then they'd surfaced later :?:
Maybe the concentration keeps it at bay and then as soon as you let your guard down.... :?:
Is it just me that's affected by such madness or is it a known thing :?:
Anyway after a bite to eat and a drink I moved on to meet the stone that marks the left turn off for the Watkin path. Once I'd stood up and was on the move again I was fine. As stated by Petr Dakota in his excellent report, the steep descent/ascent on the Watkin used to be very slippery gravel and scree but they have started to build a stone stepped path which was a huge improvement from last time. ( by the way; many thanks to Petr because it was reading his report whilst researching the horseshoe that finally spurred me on to attempt it )
A pleasant walk then leads you towards the impressive cliffs of Y Lliwedd
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Approaching the next scramble, up the imposing Y Lliwedd

It was an easy but enjoyable scramble all the way to the summit which, although there's no set route I naturally passed a fair number of cairns along the way. I found the summit, and in fact most of the cliffs from then on extremely vertiginous but at the same time alluring and fascinating. Yes I kept getting "the feeling" but at no time did I get the panic attack that I so dread and, to be fair, the cliffs are apparently the highest in England and Wales so I'd say expected/excusable :wink:
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Summit view with precipitous drop in front

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Across to the east peak

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From east peak, all the previous summits behind.

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Omfg !!!

The worst moment was looking down a huge cleft ( having already taken the above photo :lol: ) remembering looking down the Eag Dubh on Beinn Alligin with no probs, when it struck me that this 1 seemed way higher and steeper (tho not sure whether it actually is) and the tapering shape of the cliffs seemed to draw me in. I slowly and deliberately turned around and stepped away a few paces, took a few deep breaths until I regained composure. I'm hoping that this proves that I can control the fear and so, preventing any panic setting in. It certainly didn't stop me from staying close to the edge during the descent so as not to miss the best views; which were still spectacular.
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Now that's peak shaped !

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It's then just a good old rough mountain path descent until meeting up with the Miners track which is a boring gravel track (well that part is anyway) but at least you can finish quickly on tired feet.
So! I did it! I have to admit to feeling quite proud of myself whilst trudging the last part of the Miners track. But I'm none the wiser in the antics of vertigo; I crested the top of Crib Goch with no fear, which is something I never would have believed, but then got jelly legs,clenchy buttocks and butterfly belly whilst sitting down :wtf: :lol: I dunno,
I suppose this all leads to 1 question;
what dya reckon about Liathach? ..........
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Re: Snowdon horseshoe and the subject of vertigo

Postby jmarkb » Fri Apr 05, 2019 8:54 am

Great report! Well done for persisting with scrambly routes with this condition, whose proper name is visual height intolerance. It must be hard not knowing when it is going to get you.

In my experience, Liathach is not significantly harder or more exposed than the direct route on Crib Goch which you did.
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Re: Snowdon horseshoe and the subject of vertigo

Postby Sack the Juggler » Fri Apr 05, 2019 9:25 am

Glorious pictures, and a wonderful telling of the walk / climb, you had me on the edge of my seat.. well until I got vertigo and backed away from the edge like. :shock:

We did the CMD arete last year, and I loved it, but it was mostly in the clouds and only when the wind swept them away did you see the potential "consequences". As you say, its not the heights that scare you, but the drops. :D
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Re: Snowdon horseshoe and the subject of vertigo

Postby martin.h » Fri Apr 05, 2019 9:56 am

Great report and lovely photo's, I can relate to this, I have similar apprehension on tricky routes, nice and steady is the key :wink:

You'll enjoy Liathach, we had a cracking day on it in 2015. Crib Goch and the Horns are similar so you should be ok, choose a day with decent weather, keep to the pinnacles and, if you can, keep the camera handy, the views are superb :D

Cheers.
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Re: Snowdon horseshoe and the subject of vertigo

Postby Sgurr » Fri Apr 05, 2019 12:38 pm

Am in the middle of reading a book Between the Sunset and the Sea where among chapters called Science, Height, Light, Weather there is one called Danger. Yes, you've guessed it, Snowdon via Crib Goch. Admittedly he makes it far more dangerous than it should be by starting too late in poor weather and camping near the summit. I enjoyed yours more. It is equally well written and much more like our experience where I managed to quell my vertigo as a colleague of my husband came with us. (I have told this story before) He wore a linen jacket and trainers and his wife had kept saying "Darling the doctor said...." "Pooh to the doctor." He insisted on doing the whole circuit, and at the end we discovered to our fury that the doctor had said he needed a triple heart bypass op.

Sympathise with your vertigo. It wouldn't let me go until I became a granny, and having safely passed on my genes Mother Nature gave me permission to throw myself over a cliff should I wish, which dispelled a lot of it, though it comes back in strange places, like your seated picnic. I don't know if I could keep it under if I went solo. It's like locking the door at night and not being scared of burglars, I somehow mentally delegate the keeping safe bit to R. I don't suppose you can do that everywhere, though it was good to have a "mentor" here. he probably didn't think he was in that role at all.
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Re: Snowdon horseshoe and the subject of vertigo

Postby Sgurr » Fri Apr 05, 2019 1:12 pm

P.S. I forgot to say that the Author of the above book, Simon Ingram, has a self professed fear of heights, so you might like it.
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Re: Snowdon horseshoe and the subject of vertigo

Postby petenelliewalking » Fri Apr 05, 2019 9:01 pm

Firstly, well done on doing it. Glad you enjoyed it.
You're not the only one who gets the wobbles at strange times. I'm frightened of heights on man made objects but not on mountains! After going across Crib Goch, with no problems, I went in for a coffee in the cafe. I sat there looking at the view... then I became aware of the sloping ceiling and became convinced the cafe was going to slide down into Cwm Clogwyn... I very nearly passed out! I was nearly sick on the London Eye, too.
Have done Mullach an Rathain on Liathach, fabulous mountain. Don't miss out on Beinn Eighe though... the shining quartzite makes it visually stunning.
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Re: Snowdon horseshoe and the subject of vertigo

Postby Mal Grey » Sat Apr 06, 2019 8:22 am

An excellent account, complete with great photos, that both describe this fabulous day out in the hills, and give an insight into the challenges that folk can face.

I can't think of anything on Liathach that is actually harder than going directly over the Crib Goch pinnacles, though there are a few such challenges and the ridge bit is longer, so overall its slightly more serious. I guess its sort of a cross between CG and the Horns of Alligin, so you've trained well!

Funny that others mention buildings making them wobbly when hills don't. I get this, I am happy wandering along ridges and climbing up steep scrambles, but I do no like going near the edge of tall buildings even though they have a parapet and hills don't! The worst is being on a tall tower and looking up at the usual mast/flag pole above, makes me go dizzy.
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Re: Snowdon horseshoe and the subject of vertigo

Postby steviesea » Sat Apr 06, 2019 9:58 pm

jmarkb wrote:Great report! Well done for persisting with scrambly routes with this condition, whose proper name is visual height intolerance. It must be hard not knowing when it is going to get you.

In my experience, Liathach is not significantly harder or more exposed than the direct route on Crib Goch which you did.

Thanks jmarkb. Strangely I think I'm probably at my most comfortable when scrambling (well, grade 1 at least) Certainly ascending. Maybe this fits in with the visual height intolerance, in that visually the rock is very close and concentration on holds etc distracts from the drops. Also being hands on gives a feeling of more stability.
I'll be googling VHI after my replies as there maybe some helpful info so thanks again.
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Re: Snowdon horseshoe and the subject of vertigo

Postby steviesea » Sat Apr 06, 2019 10:12 pm

Sack the Juggler wrote:Glorious pictures, and a wonderful telling of the walk / climb, you had me on the edge of my seat.. well until I got vertigo and backed away from the edge like. :shock:

We did the CMD arete last year, and I loved it, but it was mostly in the clouds and only when the wind swept them away did you see the potential "consequences". As you say, its not the heights that scare you, but the drops. :D


Thanks for your kind comments juggler. I don't remember receiving any such praise whilst at school :lol:
The CMD is definitely 1 on my love to do list 8) although it looks a hell of a big day distance+ascent/descent wise for my capabilities. That's on top of dealing with the drops| :wink: Never say never though.
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Re: Snowdon horseshoe and the subject of vertigo

Postby steviesea » Sat Apr 06, 2019 10:31 pm

martin.h wrote:Great report and lovely photo's, I can relate to this, I have similar apprehension on tricky routes, nice and steady is the key :wink:

You'll enjoy Liathach, we had a cracking day on it in 2015. Crib Goch and the Horns are similar so you should be ok, choose a day with decent weather, keep to the pinnacles and, if you can, keep the camera handy, the views are superb :D

Cheers.


Thanks Martin.
You're so right about just keeping it nice and steady. It definitely helps to keep control of the fear, which is a good thing imo because with no fear at all I'd probably lose some of the much needed respect for the mountain.

I've already decided (after reading these replies) that when I'm back up in bonny Scotland this year, Liathach is a definite, providing the weather is decent. (wont need much luck there then :lol: ) so cheers for the info :thumbup:
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Re: Snowdon horseshoe and the subject of vertigo

Postby steviesea » Sat Apr 06, 2019 11:00 pm

Sgurr wrote:Am in the middle of reading a book Between the Sunset and the Sea where among chapters called Science, Height, Light, Weather there is one called Danger. Yes, you've guessed it, Snowdon via Crib Goch. Admittedly he makes it far more dangerous than it should be by starting too late in poor weather and camping near the summit. I enjoyed yours more. It is equally well written and much more like our experience where I managed to quell my vertigo as a colleague of my husband came with us. (I have told this story before) He wore a linen jacket and trainers and his wife had kept saying "Darling the doctor said...." "Pooh to the doctor." He insisted on doing the whole circuit, and at the end we discovered to our fury that the doctor had said he needed a triple heart bypass op.

Sympathise with your vertigo. It wouldn't let me go until I became a granny, and having safely passed on my genes Mother Nature gave me permission to throw myself over a cliff should I wish, which dispelled a lot of it, though it comes back in strange places, like your seated picnic. I don't know if I could keep it under if I went solo. It's like locking the door at night and not being scared of burglars, I somehow mentally delegate the keeping safe bit to R. I don't suppose you can do that everywhere, though it was good to have a "mentor" here. he probably didn't think he was in that role at all.


Thanks Sgurr, although I'm certainly not worthy of such high praise.
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at your story about your husbands colleague :shock:
I can understand your anger when finding out , but then again, finding out during the event could have set you off or at the very least made it harder to quell.
Thanks for the info about the book. It does sound like it would be of interest to me and I'll be researching it with a view to buying after these replies so thankyou :)
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Re: Snowdon horseshoe and the subject of vertigo

Postby steviesea » Sat Apr 06, 2019 11:18 pm

petenelliewalking wrote:Firstly, well done on doing it. Glad you enjoyed it.
You're not the only one who gets the wobbles at strange times. I'm frightened of heights on man made objects but not on mountains! After going across Crib Goch, with no problems, I went in for a coffee in the cafe. I sat there looking at the view... then I became aware of the sloping ceiling and became convinced the cafe was going to slide down into Cwm Clogwyn... I very nearly passed out! I was nearly sick on the London Eye, too.
Have done Mullach an Rathain on Liathach, fabulous mountain. Don't miss out on Beinn Eighe though... the shining quartzite makes it visually stunning.


Cheers petenellie.
What with me getting the wobbles whilst sitting down, and you expecting a roller coaster ride in the cafe, just shows how irrational the vertigo or VHI can be. The fact that you were nearly sick on the London eye and yet have conquered Mullach an Rathain is a mystery isn't it Mind you, it's better that way round as giving the London eye a miss compared with Torridon is a no brainer :D
Thanks for the nod towards Beinn Eighe although it's definitely already on the list :thumbup:
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Re: Snowdon horseshoe and the subject of vertigo

Postby steviesea » Sat Apr 06, 2019 11:49 pm

Mal Grey wrote:An excellent account, complete with great photos, that both describe this fabulous day out in the hills, and give an insight into the challenges that folk can face.

I can't think of anything on Liathach that is actually harder than going directly over the Crib Goch pinnacles, though there are a few such challenges and the ridge bit is longer, so overall its slightly more serious. I guess its sort of a cross between CG and the Horns of Alligin, so you've trained well!

Funny that others mention buildings making them wobbly when hills don't. I get this, I am happy wandering along ridges and climbing up steep scrambles, but I do no like going near the edge of tall buildings even though they have a parapet and hills don't! The worst is being on a tall tower and looking up at the usual mast/flag pole above, makes me go dizzy.


Thanks Mal
Cheers for the info on Liathach and the pinnacles. Having read up on it I had thought that by giving it due respect and as Martin.h has said, taking it nice and steady, it would be doable, and advice from you and others who have actually been and done both seems to back that up and is much appreciated.
Thinking about the flagpole situation (even thinking about it made me woozy) reminded me of a thrill ride I once saw on TV where a huge pole with seats around it was placed on top of an already extremely high skyscraper and then the seats were blasted up to the top of the pole, held there for a while before plummeting back down to the bottom again :shock: :sick:
They certainly know how to tap into peoples fears :lol:
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Re: Snowdon horseshoe and the subject of vertigo

Postby johnkaysleftleg » Sun Apr 07, 2019 12:14 pm

Excellent report, very well written and illustrated with fine pics. I've never been over Crib Goch, I tell myself it's because I always walk with a dog but it might be possible it's because I'm a bit of a coward :lol:
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