The Snowdon Horseshoe

Snowdon Horseshoe

The Snowdon Horseshoe needs no introduction to anyone involved with hill walking; it is probably the nation's most famous high level mountain walking challenge. It is a personal favourite of mine and as you will see from my photography taken on this trek it can be a magical experience. The walk starts from a lofty position above the Llanberis Pass which takes away the burden of a long ascent and saves you the time and effort you'll need for exhilarating ridge walking and hands on scrambling to the highest mountain in Wales. The second leg of the horseshoe walk takes you over the much quieter but equally impressive twin peak Y Lliwedd. The Snowdon Horseshoe is no place for anyone who has a fear of heights or exposure. I would recommend this walk only be done in serious weather or winter conditions by those who have good winter skills and the appropriate equipment. Snowdon is a serious mountain with changeable weather conditions at any time of the year. You should always be carrying the right gear and know how to use it, particularly your map and compass. This is an extremely exciting challenge for anyone with a good head for heights. I would highly recommend doing this walk first thing in the morning before sunrise or on a quiet week day so you have the ridges all to yourself. If anyone ever tells you not to climb Snowdon because it is too busy then simply ignore them.

Route Directions

  1. This walk starts at the Pen-y-pass car park situated at the top of the Llanberis Pass on the A4086 road at grid reference SH647557. You can park here, but with increasing prices and difficulty finding a space unless you get there early, a better option may be to park at the larger Park and Ride car park lower down in Nant Paris at grid reference SH607582. From here there is a regular bus service that will take you up to Pen-y-pass.
  2. From the Pen-y-pass car park head west along the sign posted Pyg track. The path ascends a fairly easy gradient for around a kilometre heading in the direction of the pointy Crib Goch, now in view. The views to the right are down through the Llanberis Pass to Llyn Peris and Llyn Padarn.
  3. The Pyg track is thought to get its name from the Pen y Gwryd Hotel at Pen-y-pass, a hotel steeped in mountaineering history. It was the base for Hillary and Tenzing while training for their ascent of Mount Everest.
  4. After a kilometre the path heads up through a much steeper and rocky section before bending left and eventually reaching the wooden stile at Bwlch y Moch.
  5. From Bwlch y Moch on a clear day you get your first glimpse down to Llyn Llydaw with the twin peaks of Y Lliwedd towering above on the other side of the horseshoe. The Snowdon Horseshoe is a result of a glacial hollow by the name of Cwm Dyli, one of many glacial hollows around Snowdon, the ridges of which give the massif its unique starfish shape when viewed from above.
  6. At Bwlch y Moch do not cross the wooden stile and instead turn right and start your ascent of the east ridge path of Crib Goch. There is a warning sign here intended for those who are not aware of the challenging ahead of them.
  7. The path starts fairly easy and zigzags its way up on to Crib Goch's eastern side. After a while the path takes a turn to the right and leads to a chimney where hands-on scrambling is required to reach the rock above.
  8. The rock above here is one of my favourite ascents. The rock provides a fun and exciting mountain adventure playground. There is now a few hundred metres of steep and knobbly rock which you have to scramble up to reach the narrowing ridge crest before eventually topping out on the airy eastern summit of Crib Goch.
  9. The eastern summit is not the highest point on Crib Goch but it is the one place where people take a breather before tackling the knife edge ridge that now leads off to the south west. The views on a good day from here show your entire route ahead and it really is an amazing sight.
  10. This incredible knife edge ridge provides an exhilarating experience you will never forget. If you get jelly legs, as I do, then you can step down slightly to the left and use the top of the ridge as a handrail. Please be patient of people who are less experienced than yourself.
  11. After around a hundred and fifty metres along the knife edge ridge you will realise you are at the highest point of the ridge and the true summit of Crib Goch at 923 metres above sea level. Actually that is a lie; you probably will just cross over it with such immense concentration that you won't even notice it!
  12. Another a hundred metres you will come to the end of the knife edge ridge and reach The Pinnacles. There are three rock pinnacles here and you can either be extremely brave and scramble over them or take the easier route down to the left slightly and around them. This may sound easy but does also still involve some steep hands on scrambling down to a gully where you bypass the first two pinnacles.
  13. Once you pass the first two pinnacles and cross the gully climb up the other side to round the final pinnacle and eventually reach the flat open col of Bwlch Coch. Looking north over the steep cliffs here you get a great view in to the desolate Cwm Uchaf and the tiny Llyn Glas. The views across to Y Lliwedd's twin peaks and Snowdon's pointy summit are also captivating.
  14. Continue in the same direction west along the path and on to the eastern ridge of Garnedd Ugain. There are some fairly hands on scrambles along this ridge too though none as exposed as Crib Goch. Make sure you stick to the top of the ridge and don't start heading to the left. As you get closer to Garnedd Ugain you may hear people ascending a steep path to your right from the Clogwyn y Person scrambling route.
  15. Pass the huge buttress of rock to your right and continue your ascent towards Garnedd Ugain. After a while the path starts to get much easier and you find yourself on top of a wide grassy plateau with a white trig pillar marking its highest point on Garnedd Ugain.
  16. From Garnedd Ugain's summit trig pillar head south west for around three hundred and fifty metres to join up with the busy Llanberis Path. Head left and after just twenty metres you will find yourself at the Finger Stone on Bwlch Glas which marks the top of the Pyg Track and Miners Track.
  17. Continue south ascending the main path with the railway on your right. After just half a kilometre you will reach the summit. The modern Hafod Eryri Summit Shelter is of course the first thing that you will see. The actual summit point is reached by a few steps up to the wide stone cairn behind the building. The summit cairn has a fantastic brass plaque depicting the surrounding mountains.
  18. No matter your opinion is of this busy mountain there is no denying it has some incredible views. From the summit on a really clear day you can see as far as the Isle of Man and even Ireland! The most impressive views are those close by of the rest of Snowdonia and Snowdon itself with its many ridges and glacial cwms.
  19. If you want a real sense of achievement look back across to Crib Goch knowing that you came up the mountain the hard way! Looking south east off the summit you will see the second half of the Horseshoe, the impressive ridge and twin peaks of Y Lliwedd.
  20. From the summit of Snowdon follow a path that leads in a South West direction away from the summit buildings. This path is a combination at this point of the Rhyd Ddu, South Ridge and Watkin Paths. After around two hundred metres you will reach a standing stone that marks the top of the Watkin Path.
  21. Turn left at the standing stone to start the steep scree at the end of the Watkin Path ascent route. Of all the routes up or down Snowdon this steep unstable scree slope is by far the worst. Don't be too surprised if you end up on your backside a few times. Look out for fossils in the rocks here too, I have seen some fascinating fossils while traversng these rocks.
  22. The Watkin Path gets its name from Sir Edward Watkin a Victorian entrepreneur who retired to a chalet in Snowdonia in the late nineteenth century. He created the path from the quarry below and it became the first dedicated public footpath in Britain.
  23. After the long arduous scree slope you will eventually reach the col known as Bwlch y Saethau that lies between Snowdon and Y Lliwedd. The path continues towards Y Lliwedd. The path splits in two before reaching Y Lliwedd. At this point carry on towards Y Lliwedd, ignoring the Watkin Path which continues its descent off right towards Cwm Llan.
  24. From the foot of Y Lliwedd looking up at the route ahead it does look like quite foreboding but the path zigzags its way up the ridge with ease through the boulders and scree and reaches the summit sooner than you would expect.
  25. Y Lliwedd actually has two summit peaks. The first you will come to is the West Peak at 898 metres above sea level and the highest of the two. From here follow the crest of the ridge to the slightly lower East Peak, at 893 metres above sea level. Descend the crest of the ridge in a westerly direction to Lliwedd Bach.
  26. From Lliwedd Bach head north east for just under half a kilometre to reach a col. Head left on a northerly direction towards Llyn Llydaw. On a clear day there is a great panoramic view of the Crib Goch ridge where you can spot the tiny silhouettes of other walkers tackling the knife edge ridge.
  27. The path reaches the shores of Llyn Llydaw before eventually reaching the busy Miners Track. At the Miners Track turn right and an easy two kilometre stroll along the track will take you back to the Pen-y-pass car park at the start of the walk.
  28. Pen-y-pass has toilet facilities and a great cafe plus there is of course always the town of Llanberis on your way home where there are many places to eat and drink including the famous Pete's Eats.

Maps for this walk

Paper maps for this walk

Click to buy OS Explorer OL17 Map Click to buy OS Landranger 115 Map Click to buy Harvey Snowdonia Mountain Map Click to buy Pathfinder Snowdonia Walk Guides

GPS files for this walk

Route map of this walk

Photos & Trip Reports

Planning for a walk

Check the weather

The weather is a very important part of hill walking. Weather conditions and daylight hours will dictate where you walk, what gear you will need to carry, how far you walk, and may even decide if you go at all. The following links will help you gather information on weather conditions for areas of Britain...

Plan your journey

Planning your journey before you set off for your walk can save you vital hours on the day. You need to make sure you know the area surrounding your starting point as many factors can influence or change the place you park. Don't forget change for parking meters and fees.

Maintenance of your vehicle and being ready for breakdown situations when driving to remote areas is also vital. Pack a full spare petrol can in your boot, and take de-icing tools in winter, including a shovel. The Transport Direct website below is a great resource for anyone wanting to get to the start of their walk using public transport...

Pack the right gear

Carrying and wearing the right gear is essential for walkers to remain comfortable and safe while hill walking in Britain. However, the best gear in the world is of no use to anyone who doesn't know how to use and care for it. Knowing how to use your gear will give you a much more enjoyable experience. The following items are, in my opinion, the essential items to wear and carry for a hill walk in Britain. It would be foolish to head into the hills and mountains of Britain without these essential items and the knowledge of how to use them. Check out the gear section of this site for techniques and gear lists...

  • Footwear
  • Clothing
  • Rucksack
  • Warm Clothes
  • Waterproofs
  • Map & Compass
  • Emergency Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Food & Drink
  • Seasonal Gear

Know what to do in emergencies

It is good practise to tell someone where you are going, and when you expect to return. If you don't get in contact when you said you would on your return, and those you told can't get hold of you, at least they will be able to provide the search party with your general location.

Emergency equipment in the check list above means items such as a survival bag, whistle, and emergency food rations. This isn't anything special; any whistle will do, the orange emergency bags only costs a few pounds, and basic food rations can consist of a couple of chocolate bars. Carrying a head lamp is also an important component and a vital piece of kit used for signalling when you require rescuing.

You should always try and get out of a difficult or emergency situation using your own gear, knowledge and energy. If you cannot do this, then you should dial 999 and ask for the police. Use all the gear you have to keep any unwell or injured members of your party or yourself safe and warm, and use your signalling devices to let the rescuers know your whereabouts. To do this blow six good long blasts on your whistle, or flash six flashes of your torch. Stop for one minute. Repeat. Carry on with the whistle blasts until someone reaches you, and don't stop because you've heard a reply.

Never contact mountain rescue unless absolutely necessary, but on the other hand don't ever feel guilty for having to do so, especially if you are a prepared walker. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of fantastic like-minded souls who love nothing more than people who are prepared for being safe in the mountains.