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Alternative Snowdon Horseshoe

Updated: Feb 20

Alternative Snowdon Horseshoe

I think Snowdon is a mountain for everyone, regardless of who you are, the type of adventure you’re after or how experienced in the mountains your are, it has plenty of options…it even has a train!

There are pleasant, easy to follow tracks to the summit, there are ridge lines to follow and for those looking for a more technical challenge, a whole host of scrambling and climbing routes. Not every route will finish on the Snowdon summit itself, perhaps on one of the satellite peaks, but they will all lead to it.

Those who have been on Mountain Leader Assessments with me, will know that I favour a “Tour de Snowdon”, taking in all the high Cwms and avoiding the crowds, there are so many good variations on this trip!

Now I really like the traditional Horseshoe as it takes in one of the UK’s finest ridges, however I think this is a great alternative and avoids the airy Crib Goch, it also feels like the true ascent of Snowdon as it starts at the lowest point.

It starts in perhaps one of the most beautiful valleys around Snowdon, the start is well way marked, (slightly different to the map which flood the road to the farm) and as you follow through the woods past the National Trust farm at Hafod y Llan, you gently wind up past remnants of the tramways and inclines of the disused quarry further up in Cwm Llan. Around the very inviting set of waterfalls you cross the river and head up into Cwm Merch towards the old copper mines. By the time you reach the end of the path at the mines, you would have ascended over 400m, but it never really feels like it, you’re constantly on a lovely gradient and path the whole way. The mines were open around 1840-1865 and offer a good a place for a refreshment along with a stunning outlook across the valley towards the Moelwyns. Some of the adits / levels are here are essentially a deep slot in the mountain and care is needed if you explore around the area. From here I find it best to head NE up onto the ridge, which comes really quickly and tick off your 1st peak of the day - Gallt y Wenallt. You now have views of most of the of the park, perhaps from a completely different perspective. From here a gentle and enjoyable amble over Lliwedd is next on your journey, it’s not really a grade 1 scramble, but care is needed throughout and especially in poor weather where route finding may not be so obvious. Crossing West, East Peak and Bwlch Ciliau towards Bwlch y Saethau always takes longer than you expect, but maybe because I’m so distracted by the terrain, views and King Arthur! Somewhere around here you will probably start to bump into others..

You could head up the East ridge onto the summit of Snowdon, but it’s not very pleasant and I prefer to finish up the top of the Watkins path for a nice cuppa in the cafe…might as well, it’s there!

Descent is via the South Ridge, which is a gem in itself, the top part is just superb, like a mini version of Crib Goch, a solid path on a fairly narrow ridge giving you a sense of exposure, but not overdoing it! This bit is ace in winter too! Continue on down towards Bwlch Cwm Llan and turn left into Cwm Llan, there’s a fairly good path down. For those interested in the quarrying industry there are numerous quarry holes and building to explore, if you have a good nose around you might be surprised at the access you can get into them. You’re then approaching familiar terrain and it would seem rude not to at least put your tired feet in the waterfall pools which are crystal clear and tempting for a swim, but I’ll leave that to the wife!

Obviously every day should start and finish in a cafe and Caffi Gywnant at the bottom does a good bit of cake and a nice cuppa!

Alternative Snowdon Horseshoe Map

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