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How hard is The Snowdon Horseshoe?

The Snowdon Horseshoe is one of the best mountaineering adventures in the UK due to it's challenging nature, magnificent panoramic views and exciting terrain.

The Snowdon Horseshoe is an extremely challenging route which summits four of the biggest mountains in Wales and includes technical Grade 1 scrambling. It is the most difficult 'walk' of a similar distance in the UK.

The Snowdon Horseshoe route which includes the mountains of Y Lliwedd, Snowdon, Crib y Ddysgl and Crib Goch

What is the Snowdon Horseshoe?

The Snowdon Horseshoe is the 'U' or horseshoe shaped loop of mountains which consist of Crib Goch (923m), Crib y Ddysgl (1065m), Y Wyddfa (Snowdon (1085m)) & Y Lliwedd (898m). The mountains are linked by a series of ridges.

The route is 17.5km (11 miles) long with over 900m of ascent.

Crib Goch, the Pinnacles & Crib y Ddysgl are sections of the Snowdon Horseshoe which are particularly difficult

What makes the Snowdon Horseshoe difficult?

The Snowdon Horseshoe is a very demanding route due to the complexities of the terrain, height gained and distance travelled.

A good head for heights is needed to access and cross Crib Goch which is very exposed due to the big drops on both sides.

Route finding especially between the pinnacles of Crib Goch and the summit of Garnedd Ugain is not easy. It is tempting to stray off the best route and there have been several fatalities over the years caused by people falling after getting lost and ending up on steep, loose and unconsolidated terrain.

From a physical perspective it is classed as a 'Grade 1' scramble which means hands are required to scramble or climb rocky sections.

In addition, individuals will need to be physically fit as the route is 17.5km (11 miles) long and crosses steep, rocky and technically challenging terrain.

The Snowdon Horseshoe should only be attempted by individuals with a strong head for heights and a good level of fitness in favourable conditions.

Crib Goch is the most dangerous section of the Snowdon Horseshoe and there have been lots of fatalities on the route

How dangerous is the Snowdon Horseshoe?

In addition to the hazards associated with mountain walking the Snowdon horseshoe poses additional dangers.

Much of the route consists of consequential terrain including a number of accident blackspots. The most notable of these is the Grade 1 scramble across Crib Goch. The knife edge ridge claims a number of lives every year so should only be attempted by experienced scramblers in suitable conditions.

Other accident blackspots on the route include Crib y Ddysgl and the descent of the Watkin Path.

It is also very difficult to downclimb and route find on the east face of Crib Goch making a retreat a serious prospect.

Once on the ridge there are no escape routes which means it requires full commitment and a strong head for heights. Mountain Rescue are frequently called out to incidents where individuals and parties who are 'cragfast' and unable to move. Due to the narrowness of the ridge this causes bottlenecks which could mean staying on the ridge for hours. At least it's a nice view (weather permitting)!

How long does the Snowdon Horseshoe take?

The Snowdon Horseshoe typically takes 8-12 hours with 10 hours or less being a respectable time. Very fit individuals will move quickly on the uphill sections and those with a strong head for heights can quickly cross the Crib Goch traverse.

What training do you need to do for the Snowdon horseshoe?

Fitness and endurance are essential. Hill endurance is best trained by doing long days in the mountains. Cardiovascular fitness training such as running are beneficial but not essential.

In addition to this, leg strength training will help with the rocky and steep terrain. For more information take a look at our blogs about mountain training for beginners or advanced mountain training.

Ideally anyone attempting the horseshoe should have either done Crib Goch before or have done other similar Grade 1 scrambles so they are familiar with the technical terrain and exposure.

The Snowdon Horseshoe is a tough route which requires a good level of fitness and training

Route Description

Crib Goch traverse

Starting at Pen y Pass car park the route follows Snowdon's PYG Track to the wall at Bwlch y Moch where the path forks.

Begin the ascent of the east ridge of Crib Goch by crossing a series of rocky then grassy sections as altitude is gained reasonably quickly until reaching 750m in height. From here a steep rocky band bars access to the ridge. This is the most difficult section as climbing is required on steep ground over big drops!

After around 160m of steep climbing the ridge is accessed and the brave will be reward with excellent views of Crib Goch, Crib y Ddysgl and Yr Wyddfa.

From here the ridge soon narrows with steep drops and spectacular views on both sides.

Continue along the ridge and past The Pinnacles before descending to Bwlch Coch and leave Crib Goch with a mixture of relief and disappointment that it is over.

Crib y Ddysgl ridge

Take the direct route up Crib y Ddysgl (aka Garnedd Ugain). This is a fantastic mountain in it's own right and is the second highest in Wales. It is still a lot of fun but feels rather tame after Crib Goch.

After reaching the summit of mountain number two descend to join the main route up to Snowdon where the Llanberis path, Snowdon Ranger Path, Pyg Track & Miners Track join at the marker stone.

Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) section

This is the easiest section by all measures and at just over 1km. The walk from the summit of Crib y Ddysgl to Yr Wyddfa will take just a few minutes.

After jostling your way through the crowds on the summit of Yr Wyddfa head for the quiet of the Watkin Path. The upper section to Bwlch y Saethau is a steep descent on loose scree which can be done quickly by those who are confident and competent on their feet.

Y Lliwedd

After descending more than 300m it's time for a final big climb as you negotiate a series of fun rocky steps up to the West Peak of Y Lliwedd. Broadly follow the ridge past the east peak and continue downhill until the incline flattens. Here you pick up an obvious footpath down into the Cwm of the Snowdon Horseshoe towards Llyn Llydaw lake where joining the Miner's track which takes you back to Pen y Pass and the car park.

Y Lliwedd is a steep and rocky mountain and the climb to it's peak makes it a tough part of the Snowdon Horseshoe


Where to park for the Snowdon Horseshoe?

The best place to park is at Pen y pass car park which is at the bottom of the route. With the exception of the winter months the car park needs to be pre booked.

It is also possible to park in Llanberis or Nant Peris and catch the Snowdon Sherpa Bus to Pen y pass but make sure you don't miss the last bus!

Can you do the Snowdon Horseshoe using public transport?

The Snowdon horseshoe is well served by public transport via the Snowdon Sherpa Bus.

Watch out though as the service only runs for around 12 hours a day during peak season so you will be against the clock.

Where to stay for Snowdon Horseshoe?

The best place to stay is at the YHA Snowdon Pen-y-pass as it is right at the bottom of the footpath. Alternatively, the Pen Y Gwryd Hotel is within walking distance and a little more upmarket.

Further afield, the village of Llanberis has lots of accomodation options and is connected to the start by the Sherpa Bus.

Are there alternative routes?

As the Snowdon Horseshoe follows a U-shaped ridgeline between the mountains there isn't too much variation on the actual route.

The route can be separated into two sections which are completed over two days. The more difficult northern section consists of Crib Goch and Crib y Ddysgl and the easier southern section includes Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) and the twin summits of Y Lliwedd.

The route can also be done in reverse starting on Y Lliwedd and finishing on Crib Goch. The advantage of this is finishing on Crib Goch which is the highlight of the horseshoe. The disadvantage of finishing on Crib Goch are that you will be doing the most difficult, dangerous and technically demanding terrain at the end of the day when you are most tired. In addition descending the pinnacles and east ridge of Crib Goch is more difficult than ascending and route-finding is challenging.

The alternative Snowdon Horseshoe

For those individuals who want to miss out Crib Goch The South Snowdon Horseshoe is a fantastic route in it's own right and is perfect for individuals who want to miss out Crib Goch.

This alternative horseshoe tackles Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) via the South Ridge which is also known as the 'Walkers Crib Goch'. This misses out the really technical, steep and consequential terrain of Crib Goch and Crib y Ddysgl. The rest of the route is the same from Yr Wyddfa summit as it exits down the Watkin Path and continues up Y Lliwedd.

Do I need a mountain guide for the Snowdon Horseshoe?

Individuals with lots of experience on Grade 1 scrambles, good map reading skills and the correct kit and equipment are unlikely to need a guide. Mountain Rescue advise that individuals without the relevant skills, knowledge and experience should hire a guide.

In addition to keeping you safe a good guide will ensure that you have an enjoyable day and furnish the day with interesting facts and information.


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