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.