When is a horseshoe not a horseshoe? When it’s only half a horseshoe, and then it’s a halfshoe! Well, at least in my world it is. The Snowdon Horseshoe is regarded by many as being one of the finest circular walks in the mountains of the UK, and includes the crossing of the knife-edge ridge of Crib Goch.
The ridge of Crib Goch is one of those routes that frequently has people in tears – on a really bad day people get killed or injured! Although not technically difficult it has steep drops on both sides and a confident approach is needed. I’ve done the route several times and it never disappoints. On this walk though, I had a five year old accompanying me ….
Before Social Services drag me away for taking a five year old on the mountains, I should point out that the five year old in question is my Border Collie, ‘Mist’. However, with snow and ice still on the higher peaks, I decided that it was stretching safety limits a bit too much to try the dog on Crib Goch. Hence the idea of the ‘Halfshoe’ – I would take the PYG Track running below Crib Goch and follow that to the summit of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) then continue with the Horseshoe route over Llewidd.
The PYG track was fairly busy, and no wonder – there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was as warm as a summer day, though a good helping of snow beyond the junction of the PYG Track and Miners Track was a reminder that it was still February. At the ‘zig-zags’ on the path I chatted to a bloke who had just climbed ‘Parsley Fern Gully’ and was continuing to ‘Central Trinity Gully’, a good day out by any standard.
‘Mist’ also seemed to be having a good time, with her built in crampons, and I fitted my Kahtoola ‘Micro-spikes’ (see post #115) Everyone else was slithering about on the snow covered path, and there were a few worried looking faces.
We soon came to the junction where the PYG Track joins the Snowdon Horseshoe route and the Llanberis Path. The railway track to the summit was well covered by snow, making an alternative and well-used path, though few of the people on it would know that this is an accident blackspot when icy – I thought I’d seen most things, but I was a bit surprised to see a couple of blokes sliding about pushing cycles!
The summit was less busy than in summer with the train not running, but there was still a crowd milling about. I had a quick look down to our next peak (Y Llewidd) before sharing a sandwich with ‘Mist’ then it was time to be off. Those who didn’t bring their own sandwiches would have gone hungry, as the Hafod Eryri Visitor Centre and café also gets snowed up in winter.
I had a height loss of over 300 metres ahead of me with over 200 metres to regain to get to the twin summits of Llewidd. Before long the path was clear of snow, and I packed away the ‘Microspikes’, though occasional streaks of frozen snow on the ascent required a careful approach – ‘Mist’ just carried on using her retractable crampons.
At the summit I chatted to a bloke and his son who were on the traditional Horseshoe route – Crib Goch Ridge had been snow-free, but Carnedd Ugain had been well covered and they had used ice axe and crampons for that section. Apart from them I saw one other person. As I started to descend the shadows were beginning to lengthen as the sun started to dip.
I had been delayed at home before setting out, and knew that there was a possibility of a finish in the dark – this was fine by me, as I quite like walking in the dark, but I was moving too fast and hit the Miners Track just as the light was failing. My Halfshoe had been exactly the same distance as the traditional Horseshoe, but with 140 metres less height gain – it had also been a great day out.
Text and images © Paul Shorrock