Tackle the top 3 Grade 1 scrambles on Snowdon

Perhaps you’ve already walked up Snowdon and you’re looking for a new challenge. Maybe you’ve tried a little scrambling and you’re keen to try some more.

Then why not head back to Snowdon?

This fabulous mountain also boasts some great scrambles. You’ll beat the crowds off the main paths and still have all that stunning scenery to admire.

Here we outline three Grade 1 scrambles, meaning they are the “easiest” of scrambling routes. Please do not make the mistake, though, of thinking any scramble is easy. Apply the same rules for safe walking in the mountains even more so if you’re considering clambering over steeper rock. One of these scrambles – Grib Goch – combines scrambling with a huge dose of exposure on a knife-edge ridge. If your knees are already trembling at the thought, perhaps avoid that one for now.

So let’s leave those main footpaths on Snowdon and head for a little adventure on the rocks. Ready?

1. Y Gribin Ridge

 

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As the surfaced section of the Miner’s Track reaches the glacial lake of Glaslyn, look left and note a fairly broad ridge mixing rock with grass that narrows and steepens as it heads towards the bwlch (pass) between Snowdon summit and the fearsome-looking ramparts of Y Lliwedd (East ridge) further to the left. This is Y Gribin Ridge (marked Cribau on the Ordnance Survey Explorer map), and it’s where you are heading for a short but enjoyable Grade 1 scramble.

Cross Glaslyn’s outflow stream and head for the ridge, where you immediately have the option of trying out some easy scrambling on rock or keeping to a footpath. There’s a flatter section at around 650m where it’s worth a stop to catch your breath.

Ahead, the ridge steepens considerably. This is the true scramble of Y Gribin, but it’s not very long. Head for two rock outcrops and like most ridge walks, following the crest is the best option. Look for smoothed or scuffed rock and small scree scars of footpath between steps (rocky ledges) – this is your best route. Scramble up a series of steps until you reach the twin outcrops. You can choose to climb between them or avoid and keep to the right. The nice thing about Y Gribin, if you’re just starting out, is that there is frequently an alternative route to take if you’re not feeling confident.

The ridge ends quite suddenly, emerging onto a grassy slope. Head up and past a small pond and soon you reach the Watkin Path following its ascent from Cwm Tregalen. You made it! Now you have a choice – keep right and head for Snowdon summit, follow the Watkin Path back down to Nant Gwynant, or keep left and tackle another of our Grade 1 scrambles, Y Lliwedd.

2. Y Lliwedd

 

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From Llyn Llydaw, Y Lliwedd appears an impenetrable wall of rock with two summits, uninspiringly known as East Peak and West Peak. Yet if you’ve ever walked the Watkin Path, you’ll know that on the other side, the slopes of Y Lliwedd – while still formidable – are far less precipitous. In many ways, scrambling Y Lliwedd makes the perfect practice run for tackling Crib Goch.

Getting to Y Lliwedd is best achieved either by using the Watkin Path, Y Gribin ridge or by any of the routes to Snowdon summit and then dropping down the Watkin Path to Bwlch y Saethau (Pass of Arrows).

Assuming you’ve taken the Watkin Path from Nant Gwynant, where the path turns left on the ridge, head right towards Y Lliwedd. The best fun to be had is to follow the crest of rock which will provide some exposure, especially the drop towards your left and Llyn Llydaw far below. In scrambling terms, this is pretty straightforward and you shouldn’t have any difficulties. If in any doubt, there is an obvious path lower down on your right hand side.

You’ll be surprised to find a small patch of grass at the summit of West Peak (898m). Stop to enjoy the views! The descent is again fairly straightforward, though with a few larger steps you’ll need your hands as well as feet to climb down.

Following the slightly lower East Peak (893m) the path descends steeply back to the southern shore of Llyn Llydaw. You can make this section as easy or challenging as you like, though you may have already had enough excitement for one day! Turn right past the green hut and follow the Miner’s Track down to Pen-y-pass.

3. Grib Goch

 

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“Red ridge” is the most popular of our Grade 1 scrambles, but also the longest and most challenging. While the scrambling is not difficult, crossing the ridge requires a head for heights, strong nerves and – unless you really know what you’re doing and you’re properly equipped – good weather. There are plenty of videos on Youtube of people walking the ridge. If it looks too much, don’t try it. Unlike our other scrambles, there is no “escape route” – once you’re on the ridge, that’s it!

There are several ways to approach Crib Goch, though here we’ll focus on the most popular and straightforward. From Pen-y-pass, follow the Pyg Track as far as two styles and a faint path heading right by a fence line. Follow a well worn path before the start of the scramble route.

Now you’re hands-on, with ledges and steps to contend with. Keep as close to the true crest as you can – veering right or left can lead to more difficult scrambling. Soon you will reach the so-called “bad step” which will test your foot and hand-holds a little more. You can avoid it by keeping left, but if you can do this, you will know that you can tackle the rest of Crib Goch’s scrambles.

If you’re heart isn’t racing yet, it soon will be – you’ll reach the knife-edge ridge of Crib Goch. To your right are sheer cliffs, to the left steep scree. How are your legs? You can walk right along the top or, if that’s too much, drop down a few feet to your left where there is a path and use the ridge as a hand-hold as you pick your way along. Don’t feel embarrassed if you choose to walk it this way – the path just below the top has been formed by many others before you doing exactly the same thing!

The exposure is serious along Crib Goch, greater than most if not all Grade 1 scrambles in the UK (and more than many higher grades of scramble, too). But take your time, have confidence in yourself, and enjoy this exhilarating experience.

Exposure is not all Crib Goch has got in store for you – there are three rock pinnacles to tackle along the way, too. They are fairly straightforward to navigate – for the first, follow an obvious gap in the rock to the left. You can avoid the second altogether or give it a go using really good hand-holds. Tackle the third via a series of obvious ledges, working from the left hand side at the base towards the right near the top.

Congratulations – you’ve made it across Crib Goch! At grassy Bwlch Coch you can drop steeply down to the Pyg Track on your left and either head back to Pen-y-pass or carry on to the summit. However, most people continue on and up Crib-y-Ddysgl, which involves more scrambling and gradually less exposure. From the summit of Crib-y-Ddysgl it’s an easy walk around to Snowdon summit. Well done – you’ve completed one of the greatest Grade 1 scrambles in the UK!

Parking and access

All three of our scrambles are accessed via Pen-y-pass and the Pyg and Miner’s Tracks. This poses your first problem of the day – parking! Unless you are a really early riser, chances are you will not get a space at Pen-y-pass.

We strongly recommend you park in Llanberis or Nant Peris and use the Snowdon Sherpa bus service, or (on Saturdays from Easter to October) the Park and Ride service from Nant Peris or Pen-y-Gwyrd. Do not be tempted to park on the verges around Pen-y-Gwyrd – parking is now forbidden except in marked pay-and-display areas.

Accessible walks for everyone in North Wales

Walking can do wonders for both the mind and body. It’s accessible to all, helps you connect with the landscape and, best of all, it’s free! North Wales, and Snowdonia in particular, provide some of the best opportunities for walking in the UK owing to its diverse landscape, fascinating history and extensive wildlife.

Some families need to factor in accessibility, which can mean planning walking routes where a pram or wheelchair can pass through, and also consider things like distance and terrain.

We think everyone should be able to explore our region so we’ve compiled a list of walks that are accessible to all. Whether you want a short stroll or a longer adventure, these are great leisure walks the whole family can enjoy. In addition, most of them have useful facilities nearby including parking, picnic tables and toilets.

The Mawddach Trail

accessible

Location: A 9-mile trail from Dolgellau to Barmouth

Distance from hotel: Just over an hour’s drive southbound along the A470

The Mawddach Trail is considered to be one of the best walking trails in Britain, with visitors returning to it each year. The route follows the sparkling Mawddach Estuary and gets you up close and personal with the local wildlife. You’ll enjoy stunning views across to Diffwys and the Rhinogs, and up the estuary to Y Garn and the Arans beyond Dolgellau.

The trail is essentially flat, has a fairly even surface and for most of its length is at least three metres wide. There are several accessible benches and picnic tables along the path and wide gates accessible for wheelchairs, bicycles and prams.

The walk ‘officially’ starts in the picturesque market town of Dolgellau and finishes by crossing the iconic Barmouth railway bridge. If you don’t fancy the whole 9-mile walk, you can join the trail at Morfa Mawddach and Penmaenpool, too. There are accessible toilets in all of these locations.

Llyn Cwellyn

accessible

Location: Between the Snowdon Massif and Mynydd Mawr (northern part of Snowdonia National Park)

Distance from hotel: You can drive to the lake in less than half an hour but we recommend taking the more picturesque 40-minute car journey via the A4085, taking you past some of Snowdonia’s other fabulous lakes.

If you love fairytales, stomp the same boards as legendary characters on a walk along the shore of Llyn Cwellyn.  It’s not uncommon in Wales for fairytales to be linked to lakes, and Llyn Cwellyn is no exception.

Legend has it that in ancient times, a man was drawn by the sweet music of fairies into the middle of their circle near the lake. Soon, he fell under a deep spell, finding himself transported to a beautiful country where everyone was in perpetual bliss. After spending seven years there, he remembered the reason he had begun walking all those years ago; he had been looking for his sweetheart; he missed her still. Upon his return to the waking world, the man’s parents were dead, his brothers and sisters didn’t recognise him, and his sweetheart had married another. He died of a broken heart a week later.

For an accessible visit, take the Janus Path. The level boardwalk will take you through a delightful little woodland on the lake shore, affording striking views of Llyn Cwellyn and Mynydd Mawr to one direction, and Snowdon to the other.

Benar Boardwalk

accessible

Location: Between Harlech and Barmouth

Distance from hotel: An hour’s drive southeast via A498 and A496 (alternatively, Talybont railway station is very close)

Traeth Benar is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the area and stands within the Morfa Dyffryn Site of Specific Scientific Interest. If you walk right to its end, you’ll also access the designated nudist section, the only official naturist location in the area. Don’t be put off though, the area is clearly signed, so you won’t wander into a lot of revellers sans-culottes!

The stroll along the boardwalk is just 200m and takes you from Traeth Benar car park down to the beautiful beach. Those looking to be outdoors but not overdo it will really enjoy this short trail. Feel free to bring Rover too – the area is popular with dog walkers.

Dôl Idris Nature Trail

accessibleLocation: Cadair Idris

Distance from hotel: A two-hour journey through amazing landscapes southbound along the A470

If you have never visited Cadair Idris, prepare yourself for a spectacular mountain reserve with a variety of landscapes and terrain. Rugged summits, glacial lakes and a mossy gorge cover over 450 hectares of breathtaking landscape, and you can enjoy it all on an accessible adventure!

Local folklore describes Idris as a giant who lived on this magnificent mountain. The large boulders on the lower slopes are said to be the debris of stone throwing battles between Idris and other giants. It is much more likely that he was simply an important leader in this area; a giant in personality rather than in stature.

Dôl Idris nature trail is just 0.7 miles long but a perfect way to sample the area. It features accessible paths to take you around the parkland. You’ll pass a picturesque lake and its fish ladder, exotic trees and the remains of a soft drink laboratory!

The Cadair Idris Visitor Centre and Cadair Tea Room are close to the recommended Minffordd car park, which houses an exhibition showcasing the wildlife, geology and legends of Cadair Idris National Nature Reserve.

Llyn Padarn

Accessible

Location: Llanberis

Distance from hotel: The lake is just a 15-minute walk from the hotel or a couple of minutes by car.

Llyn Padarn is the closest walk to our hotel to enjoy. It has a superb circular walking route which takes in several interesting features relating to the history of slate quarrying in the area. The National Slate Museum in Gilfach Ddu offers a fascinating insight into life for the quarrymen in times gone by. If you’ve got kiddies or rail enthusiasts with you, you will also enjoy a ride on the Llanberis Lake Railway.

This walking route is as easy as it gets, as you can walk out as far as you want and just turn back. It’s also a cycle route if you want to return on two wheels at a later date. We recommend that you start at the Lagoons car park and then it’s an immediate left. The entire white waymarked route takes you around the lake. The walk itself is just under five miles, and you can complete as much or as little of it as you like! This would certainly be our recommendation for walking off a delicious restaurant after a comfortable night in our cosy rooms!

Images courtesy: Mawddach Trail © Copyright Jeff Buck. Llyn Cwellyn © Copyright Kenneth Yarham. Benar Boardwalk © Copyright I Love Colour. Dol Idris © Copyright Shaun Ferguson. Llyn Padarn © Copyright Chris Plunkett. All images licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.