Rock Climbing, Abseiling & Canyoning

5 Of The Best Scrambling Routes In Snowdonia | A Guide To The Best Scrambles In North Wales

If you like to get your hands on rock, then Snowdonia is the perfect destination. North Wales' adventure capital is full of exhilarating scrambles

Thanks to its unique topography and geology, Snowdonia’s landscape lends itself perfectly to scrambling. It also caters to all abilities, perhaps more so than any other UK mountain destination. This means that if you’re only just starting out, there are plenty of easier grade 1 routes within the national park that offer the adrenaline-inducing exposure of a narrow ridge traverse or a steep gully scramble without too many technical difficulties to consider.

“There are plenty of easier grade 1 routes within the national park”

The only real requirements are a little mountain experience, sure-footedness and a head for heights. Of course, if you’re practised in ropework, Snowdonia also boasts more demanding routes that pose some trickier technical challenges. In fact, there are so many great scrambles that guidebook publisher Cicerone has filled a whole book with them – a sure sign that you are spoilt for choice. But we wanted to share some of our personal favourites with you, from the iconic Crib Goch to the lesser-known Mushroom Garden.

Credit: Chris Johnson
Credit: Chris Johnson
Photo: Outdoors Magic editor, Will Renwick, scrambling on Crib Goch. Credit: Ray Wood

Crib Goch

This famous ridge is Snowdonia’s best-known scramble for a reason – the sheer level of lofty exposure and that sensation of teetering on a knife-edge arete offer genuine heart-in-mouth thrills and gut-twisting excitement. It certainly shouldn’t be underestimated – the traverse is enough to freeze many a hillwalker in their tracks. This fact can sometimes make the route frustrating, since an immobile or painfully slow walker on the ridge can sometimes lead to queues of people waiting to cross. But if you get a clear run at Crib Goch, it is an experience to be relished. On a clear day, there are no better views to be had of the majestic Snowdon horseshoe.

“That sensation of teetering on a knife-edge arete offer genuine heart-in-mouth thrills”

Under normal conditions, Crib Goch is a Grade 1 scramble, but comes with plenty of exposure. You’ll need to be comfortable with the prospect of steep drops on either side and no escape route off the ridge: it requires complete commitment.

To tackle it, head up the Pyg Track from Pen-y-Pass. At Bwlch y Moch look out for the sign to Crib Goch off to the right. Follow the path up to start the scramble, which climbs sharply among slabs to bring you up to the start of the ridge. Pay close attention to your line here, as it is easy to stray off route. The crest of the ridge is only about 200m long and the line is obvious: just stick as closely to the arete as you can. Some straddle the crest, others choose to hand-rail their way along on the left-hand side. When you reach the Crib Goch Pinnacles, you can either head up and over or skirt around the edge before reaching Bwlch Coch and then Crib y Ddysgl, which although airy feels a lot easier after crossing Crib Goch, bringing you to the summit of Garnedd Ugain. Follow the path on to Bwlch Glas and up to the summit of Snowdon, before descending via the Pyg or Miners Track back to Pen-y-Pass.

Pictured: Walking towards the base of the North Ridge of Tryfan. Credit: Chris Johnson

North Ridge, Tryfan

They say you can’t climb Tryfan without using your hands, which makes it a favourite peak for scramblers, whichever route you take to reach the summit. However, the North Ridge is undoubtedly the most popular option, with technical sections that offer both excitement and exhilaration. Although it’s classed as a Grade 1 scramble, it’s not to be undertaken lightly, especially in poor weather.

“They say you can’t climb Tryfan without using your hands”

The route includes a couple of gullies, and then the North Tower which, depending on the conditions, can feel a lot harder than its grade. When it comes to picking a line, the best advice is to keep heading up and over rather than attempting to traverse around to either side. Tryfan’s summit is marked by the twin monoliths of Siôn a Siân (known as Adam and Eve in English), which are easily spotted amongst the boulders that litter the summit. Legend has it that if you leap between the two, you’ll be rewarded with the freedom of Tryfan. It’s a short jump, but the consequences of failure would be unpleasant in the extreme.

Start from Gwern Gof Uchaf and follow the path skirting Tryfan Bach, climbing up to a fence. Turn right along the fence and climb up to the Heather Terrace but continue upwards to reach the north ridge. The route from here on in is just the line you choose, although due to heavy use you should be able to spot the route most frequently chosen. With almost 1,000ft of scrambling, even the super-fit are likely to feel a little pumped. The cantilevered Cannon Stone provides a good spot for a rest before some even more intense scrambling upwards to the summit.


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Bristly Ridge, Glyder Fach

Bristly Ridge is another classic Grade 1 Snowdonia scramble that can be combined with Tryfan’s North Ridge as part of a longer, epic day of scrambling. To reach Bristly Ridge you’ll first ascend Sinister Gully. Despite its name, this is a relatively easy climb including a gully and slab scramble, up a natural staircase with plenty of decent handholds all the way up. Once you’re at the top of Sinister Gully you’ll start up Bristly Ridge proper, which is best tackled head-on. With moderate exposure, this is a route that requires a decent head for heights. The crux of the route is the Great Pinnacle Gap – read on for the beta.

“With moderate exposure, this is a route that requires a decent head for heights”

From the A5 at Ogwen follow a path up to Llyn Bochlwyd and head left to reach Bwlch Tryfan. Follow the wall, first on the left-hand side until you reach a stile. Cross here and continue on to start your ascent up the rocks on the left, aiming for a stone wall. Climb over the wall and up through Sinister Gully to reach Bristly Ridge, where you’ll head across the top of the ridge. On reaching Great Pinnacle Gap, avoid the right side, which is a sheer face, and instead down climb the left side of the ridge before crossing the gap and then heading up the right-hand side of the pinnacle. After this, some comparatively easy scrambling will bring you to the shattered summit of Glyder Fach.

The Mpora crew wearing the Hanwag Makra Combi GTX while covering technical terrain on Daear Ddu, Moel Siabod. Credit: Jordan Tiernan

Daear Ddu, Moel Siabod

If you’re looking for an easy route to give you a taste of scrambling in Snowdonia, then the Daear Ddu ridge up the south eastern flank of Moel Siabod is a great option. Not only is it a whole lot quieter than the more famous scrambles in the park, but the ridge is relatively broad so there’s more than one route up, which means that even if there are plenty of people around you’ll be able to pick your own line to suit your ability.

The scrambling section lasts for just over 1km and climbs some 300m in height, but doesn’t feel particularly exposed, while the metres disappear below you quickly enough without too much exertion. From the summit, your efforts are amply rewarded with panoramic views in all directions.

Head to the bridge at Pont Cyfyng. Cross the bridge, looking out for the Moel Siabod signpost. Take this path up past houses to reach open hillside and then a lake and quarry. From here the path ascends to Llyn y Foel, where you can skirt across the northern edge of the lake to the base of Daear Ddu to start your scramble upwards. Follow the ridge, sticking to the crest, until it eventually reaches the trig pillar at the summit of Moel Siabod. Descend back the way you came, or head down the mountain’s north eastern flanks to pick up the path back to Plas y Brenin, just outside the village of Capel Curig. A woodland and riverside footpath just before the footbridge at the head of Llynnau Mymbyr then leads back to the start.

Deep in the Mushroom Garden. Photo: Matt Jones

Mushroom Garden, Foel Goch

Despite the name, there aren’t any mushrooms to pick here. But there’s plenty of fun, guy. This includes some amazing scrambling in almost certain solitude, since this route is something of a hidden gem – albeit one hidden in plain sight. You’ll leave the crowds behind you from Ogwen as you head down the road past the Youth Hostel and into Creigiau Gleision.

“Despite the name, there aren’t any mushrooms to pick here. But there’s plenty of fun, guy”

This towering crag has a truly adventurous feel and there are plenty of different routes to pick from to suit your ability. The scrambling section takes around an hour, starting from the Eastern Gully. As this is a route not often walked the terrain is vegetated so take care, especially on wet days when it may be more slippery than usual. There are some slabby sections and you’ll climb up gullies past towering rock pinnacles before eventually emerging onto the plateau of Foel-Goch, where you can easily walk on up to the summit.

From Ogwen Cottage follow the road past the Youth Hostel. At a small bridge over a stream turn left onto a very faint path which heads up towards Foel-Goch. Contour around the hill to enter the head of Cwm-coch, with the Mushroom Garden up to the left, almost overhead. The entrance to Eastern Gully lies between two rock towers, just beyond a scree fan. From here you can pick a route to suit you, scrambling up steep ground before emerging onto a broad plateau. From here follow the path upwards to the summit of Foel-Goch. You could extend the day by bagging some of the other summits of the Glyderau before descending via the knee-jarring Devil’s Kitchen to Cwm Idwal.


For more from our Wales Issue 

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