The Snowdon Girdle Walking Route
Route Start Location:
|22.02 km||1518 m|
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
Activivity Type: Epic Walk, Scrambling, Scrambling Grade 1
Summits and Places on this Route
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The Snowdon Girdle Walking Route
Snowdon is such a popular mountain, it seems quite a bizzare option to visit and totally ignore the summit. However, there’s a little known route called the Girdle of Snowdon that was developed by the guidebook writer – Showell Styles in his classic guidebook – Mountains of North Wales. These days, guidebooks are pretty predictable, but Showell brings in such classics as the slowest 14 Peak Traverse where he camps a night on each summit and the Snowdon Girdle.
The route essentially takes the shortest practical route around Snowdon, without actually visiting the summit. While it initially sounds like a daft idea, this is one of the best ways to explore the Snowdon Massif and the beautifully remote corries that surround it. You can start off anywhere you wish – but we start in Rhyd Ddu just as Showell did, and follow a roughly similar path. We’ll mention where it differs. It makes a tough day walk, but would make a much better wild camp that could be savoured over two or even three days.
From Rhyd Ddu, you have the luxury of a path to follow – though you’ll need to set off path in order to contour around to the magically quiet Cwm Clogwyn. There’s a little known ascent route via Cwm Clogwyn to the summit, and it has to be one of my favourite walks. I’m just ashamed to say that this is one spot I’m yet to wild camp (having done so a few times just below the hanging valley) but soon to be rectified.
The route, by it’s nature should visit the three small lakes – Nadroedd (Snakes), Coch (Red) and Glas (Blue) as this is an unashamed tour of as many features as you can visit!
The path descends down the infant Afon Goch, a pain to cross in places, and past Llyn Ffynnon-y-gwas and onto the Snowdon Ranger. On a busy summer day, you’ll have met not a soul since you left the Rhyd Ddu path and you’ll not welcome their intrusion, so you’ll pass through Bwlch Cwm Brwynog as soon as possible.
You’ll pass along a rougher, boulder hillside beneath Clogwyn Du’r Ardddu – affectionately known as Cloggy – and on to the lake of the same name. Rest here, for the next section is particularly arduous. While many suffer along the slog of Allt Moses who have ascended from Llanberis, mostly unaware of how tough the walk is, your solitude is what suffers and the effort needed to reach the top is a welcome diversion.
If you were to ascend to the summit, then this is probably when to do so, but you must return to this point as you descend a steep grassy ridge down to one of Snowdonia’s best kept secrets – Cwm Glas. Again, the corrie has it’s lakes – with the unimaginative Llyn Bach (Little) and another Llyn Glas that’s not to be confused with the other Llyn Glas. Though strangely blue isn’t the colour you think of here (yes, yes – blue can also mean green in Welsh, but green doesn’t come to mind either) but the red of Crib Goch. For maximum effect – plan your trip to camp here.
A scree path leads up to Bwlch Coch, though you could ascend Crib Goch North ridge for a more interesting ascent, and you’ll need to descend from Bwlch Coch to the Pyg Track below. This is more usually used as an emergency descent, and the section of the route that will need the most care.
The Pyg Track and the Miners Tracks take us easily on to the Glaslyn and up the fine scramble of Y Gribin. This is steep, but nothing you wouldn’t expect from a Grade 1 scramble, and far too short. Keep off the Watkin Path for as long as possible, and to the ridge crest for some airy walking, but you’ll eventually need to drop down the Watkin all the way into the lower reaches of Cwm Tregalan to an old dam at around SH611 529 on the corrie lip.
Styles decided to ascend straight up the side of Allt Maenderyn from here, but that’s a bit steep for our liking! Instead, you can contour around to Bwch Cwm Llan, keeping as high as possible below the steep slopes and finally a wall that can be followed for 500m to Bwlch Cwm Llan.
The final section, ascends the lower end of the South Ridge and contours on to Llyn Maenderyn (as good a name for it as any) and down Cwm Carregog to rejoin the Rhyd Ddu path and back to the start.