Booking a trip away to the mountains is always exciting. Before you even go you can spend a happy hour dreaming of the country cottage you will treat like home for a few days. You imagine the challenge of the walk, the triumph of the summit and the welcome warmth of an open fire at the end of the day. When you’re doing it all with mates to celebrate your upcoming wedding then the challenge and the reward is that bit bigger.
Our aim was to complete the Snowdon Horse Shoe. It’s a tough but rewarding route that starts at Pen-y-Pass. From there we would make our way up to Crib Goch, then traverse the ridgeline towards the summit. It’s always worth taking a break at the Snowdon summit café before rounding the rest of the horse shoe and coming down the Miners' track.
The climb to Crib Goch is a fairly surreal experience. You face the odd combination of gaining height and losing flat ground to stand on, before the route suddenly becomes almost vertical. Crib Goch is 3,028 ft above sea level and we all took a couple of minutes to compose ourselves before gingerly stepping out onto the ridgeline at the top.
At this point it was all hands (and feet) on deck with perfect footwork and strong hand holds needed in this minimalistic and aggressive landscape. All the elements seem to strike you at once whilst you're making the crossing. It's definitely unsettling and more than once we dropped to all fours, heart in our mouths and pulses thumping as we made our way to flatter, sheltered ground. Losing a little bit of height also helps bring your heart rate back under control.
Pushing onwards and upwards to the summit we encountered more exposed rock faces, though they didn’t seem too bad after what we had just accomplished. Bursting from the toughest part of the route onto to the easier Llanberis track is a welcome respite. From here it's a gentler walk to the summit. Though in this environment gentler is a relative term: this was still steep going. We had a lot more time to relax and take in the view though. Despite some fog, it was grand.
Summiting and walking up the spiral staircase to touch the plated trig point always gives a nice sense of achievement. After a quick break in the visitor's centre we started the second half of our journey. We were feeling strong after a hot coffee and bite to eat and it was with lighter hearts that we started our descent down the steep, winding path of the Watkins route. This took us to the next scramble up over the East Peak of Lliwedd at 2,929 feet. This scramble seemed a touch tougher after so much work in the bag already but the stunning views of the sea on our right side was simply epic, decorated by the cool wisps of vapour rising from the water of Llyn Llydaw reservoir. Coming down involved a lot of slipping and sliding but we were enjoying ourselves.
We met the soft gravel Miners' track with delight. It was a relief to go back to walking normally, rather than the crab-like yoga contortions we had been using in for hours. Immediately your mind turns to the memories of an outstanding day rather than the pain we had put our bodies through. Food and festivities were firmly at the front of our minds. The less said about that the better . . . It was a stag-do after all.
The Snowdon Horse Shoe is a challenging walk and is certainly aimed at the confident walker with some climbing experience. Using the right kit makes it a lot safer and easier. And having your mates with you definitely helps.
What's your next adventure? we'd love to hear about it below