Crib Goch: Step by step

Trail (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Love it, fear it or loath it, we’ll have you pre­pared for it.

Ragged, ra­zor-sharp and – if rep­u­ta­tion is to be be­lieved – risky, the ridge of Crib Goch is a po­lar­is­ing place. Long thought of as the stark­est phys­i­cal il­lus­tra­tion of the point that walk­ing be­comes some­thing else al­to­gether, this is a rite of pas­sage that com­bines a unique set of chal­lenges as it slices to­wards the sum­mit of Snow­don. Tech­ni­cal dif­fi­culty? Yep, enough to ei­ther ex­cite or un­set­tle. Long drops? One on each side. Nar­row? It’s at least wide enough for two hu­man feet, but not a lot more. Sounds scary? That’s just in good weather.

There are fewer places you’re so ob­vi­ously likely to love – or hate. But Crib Goch is nev­er­the­less ir­re­sistible. Thou­sands do it ev­ery year – some of whom quite pos­si­bly shouldn’t – be­cause it em­bod­ies so per­fectly what moun­tain chal­lenge is about. And the ques­tion on the lips of any­one who hasn’t is, just how hard is it ex­actly? Here, with the help of a few in­trepid Trail read­ers, we at­tempt to an­swer that ques­tion so you know ex­actly what you’re in for...


As a moun­tain ridge, Crib Goch is about as good as it gets. Sur­rounded by Snow­don’s ma­jes­tic sum­mits and tow­er­ing over ice-carved cor­ries it has all the qual­i­ties you could want from an as­cent. This, com­bined with its po­si­tion as part of the clas­sic Snow­don Horse­shoe and a key stage on the Welsh 3000ers route, means it has gained an al­most myth­i­cal must-do sta­tus.

Con­sid­er­ing the crux of cross­ing Crib Goch is the ex­po­sure on the crest, the men­tal pres­sure from the de­sire to get it done can be con­sid­er­able. To help over­come wob­bles about the ex­po­sure on the crest and other wor­ri­some sec­tions it’s worth break­ing the route down into its key sec­tions. Know­ing what you have in front of you will help you win the ‘head game’ that deal­ing with ex­po­sure largely is.


The clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tem for grad­ing scram­bles (see page 56) ranges from Grade 1 through to Grade 4 (or 3S). Grade 1s are gen­er­ally straight­for­ward with no routefind­ing prob­lems, some ex­po­sure and sim­ple moves that ex­pe­ri­enced hill­walk­ers should have no prob­lem deal­ing with.

There is a lot of lee­way within the grad­ing sys­tem and Crib Goch is one of those routes that pushes the up­per end of its grade. Over­all its Grade 1 sta­tus is bang on the money, as there are no route-find­ing prob­lems and it has a plethora of hand and foot holds, mak­ing moves very sim­ple. How­ever where it does stretch the Grade 1 bound­ary to the limit is with ex­po­sure. This is par­tic­u­larly no­tice­able on the sum­mit crest, with con­sid­er­able drops on both sides. So much so that with­out the mit­i­ga­tion of easy route-find­ing and good holds it would nor­mally war­rant a Grade 2 sta­tus.


First off you have to ac­tu­ally get onto Crib Goch’s crest, and to do this from the Pen-y-Pass side means one of two choices, ei­ther the con­ven­tional ap­proach up the East Ridge or via the less pop­u­lar North Ridge. The East Ridge has be­come the de­fault op­tion for most be­cause it’s quick to get to. More of a but­tress, it only re­ally be­comes a ridge where it nar­rows down in its up­per third. Due to its broad na­ture peo­ple climb it by vary­ing lines, and as a con­se­quence you are spoilt for choice. The sound­est rock tends to be lo­cated to­wards the cen­tre, and although it is rea­son­ably steep it is well equipped with con­fi­dence­build­ing holds.

The North Ridge sees far less traf­fic as it’s a bit more of a faff to reach – you ei­ther have a wind­ing but tran­quil hike up from Llan­beris Pass via Cwm Glas Mawr, or a ten­u­ous tra­verse in along The Fox’s Path. The ridge it­self be­comes nar­row and airy as height is gained, but is progressive so you ease into the ex­po­sure steadily. Both routes bring you to Crib Goch’s East Sum­mit.


From the East Sum­mit, Crib Goch’s crest stretches out al­most level in front of you and the ex­po­sure be­comes very ap­par­ent. It is tempt­ing at this point to be over­come by the drops on both sides and opt for the vague by­pass paths on the left-hand (south) side of the crest. Avoid them, as they are in­se­cure and loose, and the crest pro­vides a much more re­li­able path with good solid rock to walk over. The crest re­mains level for about 250m and then slowly rises to its high point, marked by a small (and eas­ily miss­able) cairn. From the cairn, de­scend to the up­per side of three dis­tinct pin­na­cles.


At The Pin­na­cles the ex­po­sure re­lents a lit­tle. The first two pin­na­cles are ei­ther by­passed on the left (Grade 1 nor­mal route) or tack­led di­rectly at a harder grade. Which­ever way you tackle them you will end up at a gap be­fore the third pin­na­cle. This one is crossed over, first in as­cent by a slant­ing weak­ness on its north (right-hand) side, then de­scended on its south (left­hand) side. A scree path leads west to Bwlch Goch.

Bwlch Coch marks the end of Crib Goch and pro­vides a use­ful respite from the ex­po­sure, but it doesn’t mark the end of the scram­bling. Ahead is the shapely crest of Crib y Ddysgl, and if you plan to sum­mit on Snow­don then it’s the route you have to take. If you opt not to head to Snow­don, or you need an es­cape route, the de­scent from the bwlch down the south­ern slopes to gain the Pyg Track is one al­ter­na­tive. It’s steep at first but soon re­lents. The de­scent down the north side pro­vides a longer al­ter­na­tive de­scent.

Crib-y-Ddysgl is a su­perb ridge, and although mostly airy walk­ing with the odd sec­tion of hands-on scram­bling it’s a well-trod­den route and there are paths all over the place. Stick to the lines clos­est to the crest as ones on the left are scrappy and not par­tic­u­larly en­joy­able. The ini­tial steep­en­ing is tack­led head-on, whilst bar­ri­ers above it are ne­go­ti­ated by zigzag paths. As height is gained the crest eases back. There are still the odd steps to clam­ber over but all too soon the sum­mit trig point comes into view and the scram­bling ends. Snow­don’s sum­mit is a pleas­ant walk away from here – so en­joy the soli­tude!


Wind, rain and win­ter con­di­tions can dras­ti­cally in­crease Crib Goch’s dif­fi­cul­ties. Un­der snow and ice it be­comes a full-blown win­ter climb re­quir­ing climb­ing skills to safely ne­go­ti­ate. For your first at­tempt, pick dry, calm con­di­tions. If you gain the Eastern Sum­mit and the wind is stronger than you ex­pected, con­sider de­scend­ing back down your ap­proach ridge and save the cross­ing for qui­eter con­di­tions.




Ia■ Corte■ “Went up there with a mate in ter­ri­ble con­di­tions and got to the café very pleased with our­selves, only to re­ceive a po­lite bol­lock­ing from an older gen­tle­man for do­ing it in such bad weather.”


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