#120 – The Snowdon Halfshoe? What’s a Halfshoe?!!

The classic view of the Snowdon Horseshoe from near Plas y Brenin, Capel Curig

The classic view of the Snowdon Horseshoe from near Plas y Brenin, Capel Curig

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.

Crib Goch looming above the start of the PYG Track

Crib Goch looming above the start of the PYG Track

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 ….

Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) summit from the PYG Track

Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) summit from the PYG Track

The junction of the PYG Track and Miner’s Track

The junction of the PYG Track and Miner’s Track

The PYG Track continues this way

The PYG Track continues this way

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 view from the PYG Track across to Y Llewidd, my return route

The view from the PYG Track across to Y Llewidd, my return route

Looking towards the summit of Yr Wyddfa, with Central Trinity Gully just left of centre

Looking towards the summit of Yr Wyddfa, with Central Trinity Gully just left of centre

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.

The PYG Track, above the zig-zags

The PYG Track, above the zig-zags

The last section of the PYG Track

The last section of the PYG Track

Ill equipped walkers slithering down the PYG Track

Ill equipped walkers slithering down the PYG Track

The view to the summit of Yr Wyddfa

The view to the summit of Yr Wyddfa

‘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.

The junction of the PYG Track, the Llanberis Path and the Snowdon Horseshoe

The junction of the PYG Track, the Llanberis Path and the Snowdon Horseshoe

Looking down towards Llanberis

Looking down towards Llanberis

Yr Wyddfa summit beckoning

Yr Wyddfa summit beckoning

‘Mist’ lying on the railway line, just below the summit

‘Mist’ lying on the railway line, just below the summit

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!

Yr Wyddfa summit

Yr Wyddfa summit

‘One man and his dog’ - the author and ‘Mist’ just below the summit

‘One man and his dog’ – the author and ‘Mist’ just below the summit

Looking down to Y Llewidd, the next peak on our  ‘Halfshoe’

Looking down to Y Llewidd, the next peak on our ‘Halfshoe’

 The entrance to the Hafod Eryri Visitor Centre at the summit ….

The entrance to the Hafod Eryri Visitor Centre at the summit ….

…. closed for business today

…. closed for business today

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.

Llewidd ahead

Llewidd ahead

On the summit

On the summit

Looking back to Llewidd

Looking back to Llewidd

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.

 The shadows begin to lengthen as the sun starts to dip ….

The shadows begin to lengthen as the sun starts to dip ….

…. and dusk starts to fall

…. and dusk starts to fall

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.

The lake of Llyn Llydaw with the hills of the Glyderau beyond

The lake of Llyn Llydaw with the hills of the Glyderau beyond

Looking back to Yr Wyddfa and the Miners Track above a frozen Llyn Llydaw

Looking back to Yr Wyddfa and the Miners Track above a frozen Llyn Llydaw

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.

 The end of a great day – Yr Wyddfa from the Miners Track as the light fails

The end of a great day – Yr Wyddfa from the Miners Track as the light fails

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
This entry was posted in 5. North Wales and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to #120 – The Snowdon Halfshoe? What’s a Halfshoe?!!

  1. Sam Harrison says:

    Good to see snow on Snowdon, not good to still see people up there in trainers with very little gear though! I’ve never managed to get up there when it’s been snowy so I’m rather jeaous.

  2. I dread to think how either of ours would fare on Crib Goch – the Border Collie we used to have did Bristly Ridge once – with a bit of help with a ‘harness’ – but the two we have now……….. !

    • I think I’ve said this before Chrissie, but I was much more blasé with my last search dog, Matt. I took him (unroped) over the Aonach Eagach and didn’t think twice about it, but I don’t know if I would do that with Mist – I might work up to doing Crib Goch with her in summer conditions, and with a bit of help.

  3. LensScaper says:

    Wonderful to see this route snow covered, Paul. Tremendous bunch of photos. I once went round the horseshoe on the May bank holiday in a light dusting of snow. I also recall doing the same route (40+yrs ago) with a Snowdonia Ranger and his Alsation. We had just reached Carnedd Ugain when the Ranger caught a radio call to say someone had fallen off Crib Goch. We scurried back to find a young lad semi-conscious with a head injury. We stayed with him until the Helicopter arrived and winched him off – very efficient they were. Heard the next day he was OK – no fracture fortunately. One of these days I would love to do this route in proper winter conditions. What’s it like up there now?

  4. Thanks for that Andy – Yr Wyddfa is one of my favourite hills by whatever route (though I have to confess I’ve never followed the Llanberis Path) and I can’t remember a bad day!

    I guess conditions are pretty much the same now as shown in the photos – The snow starts just beyond the PYG-Miners junction, but I didn’t bother with crampons and just used the Kahtoolas and walking poles. I kept the spikes on for the descent of the top part of the Watkin Path, but took them off well before the Llewidd junction. Most of the remaining snow on the way up Llewidd was either by-passed or treated with respect – what does remain is really tough névé.

    • I only ever go down the Llanberis path – it would just be toooo long on the way up! It’s quite a nice descent and has lovely views to Llanberis and the two lakes. My favourite routes will always be the western ones, especially the Rhyd Ddu track over Bwlch Main. I detest the top of the Watkin Path with a vengeance so rarely combine Y Lliwedd with Snowdon – I just find it too loose – not too bad going up but it really scares me coming down!

      • I might bin my prejudices Carol, and use the Llanberis Path as a descent, but I’ve never fancied going up that way. I agree that the west side is great, and usually much quieter. My descent from Yr Wyddfa via the top of the Watkin was much easier with the snow banking out the loose stuff, and I made pretty good progress there until the snow gave out.

      • I don’t think I’d find it any better on snow – there’s quite a bit of crag under the path as it rakes across the face – I think I’d be just as unhappy on snow really. I don’t mind going up it so much but I rarely use the top of that path.

  5. MrsBoardwell says:

    Great pics Paul! We did this route as part of our first wedding anniversary *celebrations* (ha!) aka the 3 Peak Challenge. Unfortunately Henry’s paws suffered quite badly on the ice and we had to call time on our plans half way up Scafell Pike 😦 Saw some woman try some very fancy looking snow shoes on her dog in Betws Y Coed over the weekend, not sure ours would approve but might be worth looking into when grounds get tough ^_^
    Until next time,
    Babs B

    • Never heard of snowshoes for dogs Babs, though I do carry some tough rubber boots in case Mist cuts a pad – never used one yet as her feet are as tough as, err … old boots?!! 🙂

      • MrsBoardwell says:

        Similar to these Paul http://www.innerwolf.co.uk/dog-boots.html. They’re not cheap either! Not sure ours would walk in them, ha!

      • Yes, I carry a pair of the Pawz Disposable boots in my first aid – there are 12 in a pack, so no reason not to carry a couple in each rucksack. I carry them to hold a dressing in place should the dog get a cut pad – I once had to improvise a wound dressing on my last search dog when he had an injured foot. As for the other ‘doggie boots’ on the link you sent …….!!! They wouldn’t stay on for 30 seconds before Mist ripped ’em off!
        Slightly off topic, do you get probs with your dogs in snow, with ice balling up between their toes? It usually happens in cold powder snow, as the snow melts slightly with the warmth of the dogs paw, then re-freezes as ice. The best solution is to clip the hair between the dog’s toes, but Mist wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to do that!! In winter I carry a small pot of vaseline, and rub that between her toes – problem solved 🙂

  6. My favourite Welsh mountain (Snowdon – Y Lliwedd comes a close second I think). Still haven’t ever done Crib Goch though. I suppose if I get everything done on Skye that I have to, I must surely be able to do Cribby.

    I hate the new cafe/visitor centre and try to never go in there – I miss the old one – I always went in that when it was open. I suppose I just didn’t see a need for a new one really…

    Talking of snow and ice on the zig-zags of the PYG track – I once had a guy shoot past me on his back as he slipped during his descent. I was going up (with spikes) and think I just moved smartly out of his way. One of his mates grabbed him by the jacket as he whistled past. You do see seriously ill-equipped folks on Snowdon don’t you – it’s just too popular really…

  7. Chris had an epic on Crib Goch some years back – like you she doesn’t like heights, but what really put her off was the youngsters rushing along the crest, without a care in the world! When you get round to doing it, try to go early in the day when it’s not too busy, take your time over it, and I’m sure you would be fine.

    Awhh….! I quite like the new building carol 🙂 I’m not in favour of building things on the tops of mountains as a rule, but the old building was slowly decaying and to remove it would just have left an ugly scar on the summit – at least the railway and visitor centre give the less able a chance to share what we hill folk take for granted 🙂

    The section of the path by the zig-zags is a horror story when snowed up!! I had to rope a bloke down there a few years back, or he would have shot off down the slope like the guy you mentioned. In my impetuous youth I once gave a right royal bollocking to a bloke forcing his crying daughters up the final snow-bound section – nowadays I would probably do something more useful like helping them!

    • I think you were right with the bollocking – if someone’s that unhappy on a route on a hill, it’s time to take them somewhere easier and get them started off properly. They can work up to the harder stuff later.

  8. Nice Paul. Looks like a brilliant day out. I was looking forward to this since your last post and you didn’t disappoint!

    • Cheers Dave – we don’t have the wide open spaces that you have in Scotland, but the mountains of Snowdonia and the Lakes are pretty good value.

  9. lanceleuven says:

    ‘The ridge of Crib Goch is one of those routes that frequently has people in tears’

    My first reaction was “Wow, that really must be quite beautiful”. Until I read the rest of the sentence!

  10. MrsBoardwell says:

    Can’t say I’ve ever noticed any ice balls on their paws [but now feeling suitably guilty – am I a bad parent???] but Maisie is very short haired and I trim the hairs on Henry’s paws regularly a) he’s a pretty boy, ha! and b) now that he’s getting on a bit I like to be able to see quite easily what’s happening with his paws. I am liking the Vaseline suggestion though. Result!

  11. brilliant! this brings back memories for me…this was the first serious walk I ever did in Wales and I remember it being scorching hot and the views were magnificent! thanks for the memories Paul…I savoured every word and picture…and I really need to go back and do it again someday!

  12. Super pics of a great route .. specially like the ones of you & Mist ….

    • Thanks for that Susanne – I’ve also enjoyed catching up on what your dogs have been up to 🙂

      Mist is currently being trained for search and rescue in North Wales, but 25 years ago I trained my first dog when I was a member of Penrith MRT – yes, Karen and Dottie’s team! Also training back then was a young Joy Grindrod – small world isn’t it!

      Looking forward to reading more adventures from your boys.

  13. Pingback: #121 – Moel Eilio – unfinished business! | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  14. Pingback: #125 – Snow time in Snowdonia – Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  15. Pingback: #147 – Ring out the old … 2013 hill memories | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  16. Pingback: #189 – Snow time in Snowdonia – The Glyderau | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s