Unlike every other day before, we’d decided on today’s adventure the previous night. Our walk was due to start in Blaen-y-Nant, close to a layby with space for around 7 cars. Due to its proximity to Snowdon it was prone to filling up with cars quite early on in the day. Not wanting to walk up from Llanberis, we instead chose to park up in the van the night before and sleep there.
I slide open the side door of the caddy. It couldn’t have been any later than 8 am. There was one other van in the layby; he’d been there since last night too but hadn’t stirred yet. Instead of jumping out of the van straight away I lay there for a little while. I closed my eyes and focused on all the sounds I could hear – morning bird song, the sound of the small rapids in the river next to the van, Millie fidgeting in her bed, Jamie’s heavy breathing and the sound of a car, way in the distance, making its way down Llanberis Pass. I scooped up my little dog and nestled in closer to Jamie; the crisp mountain air on my face and the warmth from their two bodies was the perfect way to start the new day.
Jamie got moving before I did. He plopped Millie over the stone wall between us and the river, and followed her with his towel and biodegradable soap – I think he took this time to wash his face and freshen up, but honestly, I was still in the van contemplating spending the whole day under this very blanket. However, the call of the mountains was too strong and I reluctantly kicked off the cocoon I’d built around myself and got dressed.
The night had been clear and although we hadn’t seen a hint of frost yet, there was a distinct nip in the air that felt cooler than the days before. The sky was still clear with a few fluffy dottings of clouds bobbing between the peaks. I joined Jamie and Millie down at the river, washed my face and gathered my thoughts. First breakfast, coffee, morning kisses and then route planning.
We scoffed our leftover pizza from the night before, made some half-decent coffee in our Jetboil and set about putting our kit together (very very meticulously this time). We double and triple checked our packs, with Jamie taking extra checks on first aid kits. My hand had already dried up and started to scab, so I cleaned it up one more time, and popped a breathable bandage on it to stop the gross gritty stuff getting in it.
From our layby, we headed along the road in the direction of Llanberis. After a couple hundred meters we came across a wooden bridge at Blaen-y-Nant on our left that crossed the river. The path that leads up from that was steep, well-trodden and easy to follow. It runs parallel to Cwm Glas Mawr and gradually gets trickier the further you venture from the road. The path stays to the right of Cwm Glas Mawr and runs along rough ground underneath a string of inviting crags. We took an opportunity to cross Cwm Glas Mawr, maybe a fraction earlier then the path intends – but it didn’t make much of a difference at all. We continued to follow the river up until we found what looked to be the main path up. This section was mostly wet, mossy rocks, with some sections that required you to use your hands. Even though she was visibly tired from two days of trekking, Millie soldiered on as usual. We had to help her up a couple of big leaps, but other than that she made light work of the tricky path. The steep path gradually traversed around to the left, but we cut up right, taking a quick detour to take in all of the incredible views (and binge eat a few tiny clementines).
We cut back down to join the main path again. As we rounded the corner we were greeted by the most inviting waters we’d seen all weekend. Llyn Glas stands alone at the in the bowl-shaped base of Crib Goch; the dramatic ridge line towering above it. We were a few hundred meters above our car, but this little oasis, sheltered from the wind, didn’t feel very high up at all. Now panting and sweaty from our sharp decent up from Cwm Glas Mawr, I envisioned stripping off all my layers and jumping head first, into the clear waters of the lake. A gentle cold breeze on the back of my neck reminded me that that might not be the best idea, and instead I settled for wiggling my fingers through the icy water, and dotting a little bit of it along my cheek bones.
We pushed on, past the lake and up the bowl towards the start of Crib Goch’s North ridge. The start point was obvious; the ridge tapers down to an easily accessible scree slope. The ground between the lake and the scree slope however, was incredibly boggy and not the easiest to navigate. The path is easy to stick to, but it’s tempting to try and find your own, dryer path through the bogs (I don’t recommend it; this is where we lost the most amount of time).
At the base of the scree slope, we crossed the path of another group of walkers, all dramatically trying to hold their balance on the scree slopes (we were trying very hard not to laugh too loudly at them). We were quickly shown why though. The scree, as in its nature, was incredibly hard to get any traction on. Every step forward felt like a step backwards too. We had to work hard to get up to the scrambling part of Crib Goch’s North ridge.
At the end of the scree slope we were met by the most dramatic ridge line I’d ever seen. Crib Goch’s North Ridge is a stunning knife edge ridge that runs all the way along to Crib y Ddysgl and then on to Snowdon. It’s long, steep approach means that this ridge is far quieter then it’s East Ridge (aside from the people we’d just crossed, we didn’t see anyone else until we reached Snowdon). Be warned – If you’ve never scrambled before then this isn’t the place to start. Whilst, technically, it’s not too difficult at all, the exposure is something that, if you’ve never experienced before, can be incredibly intimidating. The slightest bit of breeze can feel far worse than it actually is.
The ridge requires a lot of focus so we took this opportunity to become absorbed in the views. From here they are second to none – Llanberis pass ran along below us, and we truly felt like we were on top of the world. I scooped Millie up and popped her into Jamie’s backpack (a move we’ve done before) – we were both nervous about having her gallivant up the knife edge ridge on her own. We toyed with the idea of putting her on her lead, but there is a risk of her counterbalancing one of us then. No. The bag was the much safer option.
We navigated the ridge with ease. The exposure made my stomach flutter a few times, but I just brought my focus back to my hands and feet. The easiest path is obvious; the rock is polished and shiny from years of thousands of hands and feet traversing the ridge. We took it slow, placing our feet and hands with care and trying not to take too much notice of the cloud cover that had started rolling in over Snowdon. The path followed the knife edge ridge for the most part, and then cut down and left to avoid some of the dangerous sheer rock formations after Crib Goch’s peak.
The descent off Crib Goch was easy enough and leads straight up and on to the path for Crib y Ddysgl (also a Grade 1 scramble). There are several paths that can be taken on Crib y Ddysgl; the main one goes straight over the top for some more beautiful exposed scrambling.
Being pressed for time we took the wimpy (but faster) way out and cut left, following the path that runs parallel and lower down from the main path. Being less exposed and not as technical we were finally able to take Millie out of the backpack; she shook off and lead the way as usual. The path was pretty well held together, except for a few patches where some loose rock had fallen away. After a few hundred meters and a slight bit of descent the path on Crib y Ddysgl joined on to the main path going up Snowdon. With the cloud rolling in over the ridge and the sun now setting we did toy with the idea of heading straight back down to Snowdon’s main car park. However, we thought it would be a waste to have come all this way and not get to the summit (both of us have actually never summited Snowdon). So we double checked the batteries in our head torches and pushed on for the last couple hundred meters of ascent to the summit.
As we came up to the main ridge on Snowdon the wind picked up and we were suddenly in thick cloud. We pressed on, the last section of mountain felt easy in comparison to the rest of the day. We passed two wild eyed mountaineers who’d set up camp on the side of the mountain; tight beanies pulled down to their eyebrows, gentle music playing from inside the tent, whiskey in hand and dinner on the stove. They invited us over, but with the sun now completely set and the promise of a long trek back to the car, we politely declined.
The summit came soon after that, although, being dusk and in complete cloud cover we couldn’t see any of the views that were promised. Instead, we retied our shoes laces, popped on our gloves and head torches and headed back down the mountain. The two gentlemen had since retreated back to their tent, which was now full of belly laughs and excited chatter. My tired legs longed to join them, but I knew that if I sat down I certainly wouldn’t get back up again until the morning.
We took the rocky Miner’s Track down Snowdon; though steep, was easy to navigate even in very poor visibility. It was longer than we originally thought – From the summit it’s almost 4 miles long. Our legs ached but kept pace; there was promise of a cold drink and a Twix at the YHA in Pen-y-pass. Millie had started to slow down after about 16 kilometres, so we scooped her back into the bag for the last little section.
We fell through the door at the YHA, eager to find the most sugar-loaded snack in the building and just as excited to see other signs of life; they must have thought we were bonkers because we were so excited at the prospect of sugar and people that we kept stumbling over our own words (I had to stop myself from dancing from excitement). We each had a bar of chocolate and a coke which we demolished in about 0.3 seconds.
With the thought of dinner in our minds we rushed out of the YHA shouting words of ‘thanks’ as we barrelled back through the front door. Being a Monday we were unsure of the Chip Shop opening times (we’d already decided quite early on that that was going to be our dinner of choice), so we hurried back down Llanberis pass to our van; without even taking off our muddy boots we threw our packs and Millie into the van and raced down the road. Luckily, we just caught the Chip Shop as it was closing and managed to pick up a couple of pieces of breaded chicken, a battered sausage and a fish pie. Looking back, I think most of the food had lost its crunch after being sat under the heat lamps for a few hours, but we didn’t even notice. We found a spot by the lake, got under the blankets in the back of the van, ate all of the food we had left in the van and almost instantly fell asleep.
We drove home the next day recharged and grateful for the incredibly mountains that we have so close to us.
Thanks for sticking with me for the long posts; hopefully you enjoyed reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. Let me know what you thought in the comments section below!
See you next week!
Snowdon Via Crib Goch North Ridge and Crib y Ddysgl: OS Map: OL 17
Guide Book: North Wales Scrambles by Gary Smith