Discover more about scrambling in the beautiful and rugged terrain of Snowdonia National Park, with local mountaineering expert and #GetOutside champion Jason Rawles.
Snowdonia is a wonderful adventure playground. You could base yourself in a village like Llanberis and be walking and scrambling in some of the most rugged and beautiful mountains that the UK has to offer. It’s all on your doorstep.
Northern Snowdonia is split in to three distinct mountain ranges separated by two valleys. You have the Snowdon massif which holds the highest mountain in England and Wales and then the Glyderau, and the Llanberis Pass sits between them. Then you have the mighty Carneddeau which Ogwen Valley (on the A5) separates that from Glyderau.
The below picture from OS Maps shows Snowdon bottom left, then the middle section (Glyderau) containing Glyder Fach, then top right (Carneddeau) towards Carnedd Llewelyn.
Image from OS Maps application
In all these areas you have beautiful walks for all capabilities and scrambles that can stretch the comfort zone of the adventurous walker. By scramble, in this context, we define it by making your way up steep, awkward or exposed ground using your hands as well as feet. It’s not for everyone, so please proceed with caution and make sensible decisions about your own capabilities as an individual and group. Scrambles are graded as (1) being the easiest and (3) being at the harder end. In the high level route descriptions below the number in the bracket represents the grade of the scramble.
People may need the use of rope in some scenarios so kit planning is essential as well as an understanding of the localised weather in relation to the route.
If scrambling is your thing, then a recommended book is North Wales Scrambles by Garry Smith. It details 50 of the best routes of varying grades with extremely detailed instructions to follow and help.
Scrambling routes to explore
As a starter for ten though, you have the classic Snowdon Horseshoe which includes a crossing of Crib Goch (1) which is a knife edge arête and stunning pinnacles. You also take in the summit and cross over Lliwedd which is an imposing mountain steeped in legend and history.
The pinnacles on Crib Goch - Image: Jason Rawles
In the Glyderau you have another classic called the Bochlwyd Horseshoe. This includes an ascent of Tryfan via the North Ridge (1), Bristly Ridge (1) and then down Y Gribin (1) to ‘Australia’ lake (it looks like Australia from above) or Llyn Bochlwyd and then down to the A5.
Adam and Eve on the summit of Tryfan - Image: Jason Rawles
In the Carneddeau, which is a bigger day out, is the Llech Ddu Spur (1) which is also known as Crib Lem on Carnedd Dafydd. This starts from above Bethesda and rather than head back the same route push along to Pen Yr Ole Wen or even cross to Pen Yr Heigl Du. It would be best to have a couple of vehicles as this route is point to point. Don’t forget to bag any trig points as you head over!
If you wanted to avoid the scrambles, you could look at Snowdon via the Watkin Path as it’s a little less crowded until you get to the summit. A deviation down would be to look at the South Ridge and there are no scramble points. However, in bad weather you need to be tight to navigation.
Summit of Snowdon at sunset - Image: Jason Rawles
In the Glyderau you could avoid the North Ridge on Tryfan by taking the path up through Cwm Tryfan and get up on to Glyder Fach via a scree path which pops you up by the Cantilever Stone. Cross the Glyders and you could either pop down to Llyn Idwal via a path to one side of Devil’s Kitchen or head up Y Garn and then pop down the path than runs to the side of Llyn Lyd.
Cantilever stone - Image: Jason Rawles
The Carneddeau is a big lump. It’s worth having two vehicles for a big day out. Park one at the top car park by Aber Falls (SH675716) and the other at the bottom of Pen Yr Ole Wen, ideally by the little road just to the East of Llyn Ogwen and you should see Glan Dena on the map. If you start here, you can head up the East ridge of Pen Yr Ole Wen. There is a small rock step but otherwise okay. Push across the Carneddeau to Dafydd, Llewelyn, Foel Grach and to Foel Fras. Please be tight to navigation if the weather is bad. Then you could follow the path to Drum and drop down to the path that comes off by Llyn Anafon.
Trig point on Foel Fras Image: Jason Rawles
Top tips from a local
These are just some options and are dependent on levels of skill and capability but some top tips for helping:
Know what the weather is doing through the whole day that you’re out, not just the start. It then helps with kit selection and knowing any escapes routes you may need. It’s not good to be stuck on a ridge line, or up high, as the weather changes and lightning arrives.
Have a detailed and honest understanding of what you and your group capability is. This can be the deciding factor between run and a rescue. The mountains will be there another year when you may have more skills and experience.
Plan for the worst and hope for the best. This isn’t suggesting you carry every single piece of kit you own, but, you may think of things like a small rope if you have the skills to help with scrambles. You may think about a head torch if you’re heading out late and may encounter darkness. It’s just worth thinking about.
Make sure you have enough food and water for the duration. When you’re hungry and physically exerting yourself, it can create some bother. Hydration issues can cause cramp and other medical problems. Hungry and thirsty just isn’t nice! If you don’t want to carry litres and litres of water, consider natural water sources but also be aware that they may not be there and also things like contaminated water through rotting animals upstream. Again, worth thinking about
HAVE FUN! The mountains are an amazing place and you can extract so much happiness from adventure. Don’t forget to stop, look around, chat with people, enjoy the area and be wowed by its beauty. Have a read of what the environment is like and what flowers you could see. Perhaps a competition as a group to see who can spot the rarest flower!?
This goes without saying, but it’ll be mentioned anyway, that it’s worth ensuring you have the capability to take your rubbish or litter away with you. A lot of people push rubbish in to an outside rucksack pocket and then the wind blows it away. Nobody feels great knowing they’ve littered the mountains by accident.
Engage with the community you’re visiting. They rely on tourism and love having you in the area. Stay local, eat local, buy local….
Find places to stay or more helpful information about Llanberis, or your can also read the blog by Jason Rawles as part of a #GetOutside planning for adventures series leading to a summit of Snowdon.
This is some high level information to help you with your decisions to #GetOutside. As well as this, there is a wealth of resource via #GetOutside and OS Maps. You could also hire a local guide or book on a course to help build skills and experience. Click here to contact Jason, who can advise you about getting started.
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