Total distance 9.3km | Total ascent 1050m | Scramble rating Grade 1 | Go there when the weather gods grant you a perfect mountain day
The words ‘classic’ and ‘iconic’ are regularly bandied about when describing mountain routes. But with Crib Goch we are talking about a bona fide iconic classic. This status is helped by being tethered to the most popular mountain in the world – Snowdon – but that’s far from the whole story.
You see, Crib Goch isn’t actually all that technical. The scrambling moves are all relatively simple and well within the capabilities of a moderately experienced hillwalker. At least, they would be if they weren’t so gosh-darn high up in the air. Because Crib Goch’s pièce de resistance is the mind-blowing, knee-trembling, pant-wetting levels of exposure it slides under your feet; the drops are BIG. And if that wasn’t enough, in some places the ridge is so thin that it feels more like a tightrope walk than a mountain stroll. The phrase ‘knife-edged’ could have been invented for Crib Goch; as you teeter along you may find yourself wondering if it might be possible to slice a lime on the back of the arête to go with the gin and tonic you’re now desperately craving.
But in spite of all this, or more likely because of it, it’s not unusual to be part of a queue traversing Crib Goch. It’s a popular route and deservingly so. Put simply, it’s hard to find a more epic mountain journey in the UK hills, and impossible without heading to Scotland. If you’ve got a head for heights, a dry, wind-free day, and a penchant for airy scrambling, you’ll love it. It goes something like this…
Use the Snowdon Sherpa bus to get to the ever-full and increasingly expensive Pen-y-Pass car park. Take the Pyg Track from the back-right corner of the car park and follow this to Bwlch y Moch, where you leave the main path and fork right heading towards the east ridge of Crib Goch.
As the ridge steepens it starts broad and becomes narrower with height. Pick your own way up the rock following the obvious signs of traffic; the polished rock can be slippery if damp. Try to stay on the crest of the ridge as it narrows – this is where the rock is most reliable.
You’ll pop up on the east summit of Crib Goch (the true summit is a barely noticeable rise further along the arête) and be presented with your first clear view of the task in hand. It’s a real ‘Wow!’ and possibly ‘Dear God…’ moment.
Initially the ridge offers some flat and table-like rock, but it soon narrows. Although the rock on the apex is solid and reliable – and some people will scamper along it quite happily – if you find the exposure daunting you can walk slightly off the top on the left (south) side of the ridge, keeping your right hand on the crest like a handrail for reassurance.
After passing the true summit of Crib Goch (marked by an entirely missable cairn) a slight descent brings you to Crib Goch’s famous pinnacles. They can be climbed, but this increases the difficulty and grade of the route. The Grade 1 option passes the first two on the left (south) side, before swinging back right to a gap in the ridge. After the gap the third pinnacle is climbed carefully on its right (north) side, then descended on its left (south) side to reach the saddle of Bwlch Coch.
Although it’s possible to descend the steep southern slopes to the Pyg Track below, continuing along the ridge over Crib-y-Ddysgl is a more pleasing option. For the most fun stick to the crest all the way to the trig point on Garnedd Ugain – the scrambling here is easier and much less exposed than anything on Crib Goch itself.
If you’ve been up Snowdon several times before you may be quite happy to give the summit a miss and head straight down the Miners’ and Pyg Tracks from the fingerpost at Bwlch Glas. If you want to bag the summit first, it’s a short (1.2km) out and back. Alternatively, if you’ve planned a BIG day out you can continue over the summit to claim the second half of the Snowdon Horseshoe via Y Lliwedd before returning to Pen-y-Pass. Or you could descend via any of the main routes and make use of the Sherpa Bus again (it circumnavigates the Snowdon massif) back to where you started.