What are the Best Grade 1 Scrambles in Snowdonia?
Why Snowdonia is so good for Scrambling
Anyone who loves scrambling and climbing must go to Snowdonia. It’s absolutely jam packed full of action throughout all the scrambling grades, and the best bit is lots of them have a relatively short approach! Just in the Ogwen Valley alone there is an absolute ton of routes across all the grades to have a go at.
This is the first in our 3 part series of the best scrambles in Snowdonia where we share our top 5 routes of each grade. Our aim is not to give an extensive step by step route descriptions (don’t worry we will include links and further reading for that) but to give you inspiration and to wet your appetite to get out and try the routes. We will also offer any hints and tips for each route from personal experience which you may not find in any guide books!
What is Grade 1 Scrambling?
We start with grade 1 scrambles which are classed as the easiest scrambles and it’s where you should start if you are a beginner. That’s not to say they are not as good or as scary as the higher graded scrambles- some of our favourite Snowdonia scrambles are grade 1. The lower grade routes also tend to mean you don’t need a rope or climbing protection and therefore have lighter packs and can move quickly (If that’s your thing).
For those unsure of the scrambling grades please see our blog on Scrambling Routes Explained blog.
Now for the fun stuff!
The Best Grade 1 Scrambles in Snowdonia
Tryfan North Ridge
If you love scrambling you will love Tryfan. It is littered with routes of all grades on all 4 faces and if taking the north ridge you never take the same route up twice. It’s a continuous scramble all the way to the top and offers amazing views over the Ogwen Valley.
It starts off right from the A5 and as you are driving towards the parking it looms ahead like a giant spiky Cornish pasty. At first glance it looks impossible to climb but as you get closer you can start to pick out ridgelines and routes up.
There is a path to start for a few hundred meters but then it becomes a bit of a free for all where you can pick and choose your way up according to your confidence level. My friend once told me that if you get to ground on the left or the right of the path you can’t climb then you have come off the north ridge which is fairly accurate. If you go too far right (West Face) then you hit the harder grades of the west face and too far left (East face) you will end up on heather terrace which again leads to rock climbs and harder scrambles.
Continue up the scramble picking routes that feel comfortable until you hit a flatter section of rock with marbled streaks over it. Here if you head slightly right (west) then you should come across ‘The Cannon’ which is a classic Tryfan photo opportunity!
The North Tower then awaits which is the massive section of fairly vertical climbing which can catch some people out. It’s fairly exposed and is polished and slippery in places (take care in bad weather). It’s marks the start of the best scrambling on the north face though, so enjoy and continue upwards.
Eventually you will reach the summit and see the iconic Adam and Eve which offers another fantastic photo opportunity. If you are brave enough to jump from one to the other you are said to have ‘gained the freedom of Tryfan’
The route down follows the south face of Tryfan which offers more fun scrambling. Take care not to go to far right (west) and keep looking out for the main path which takes you down to Bwlch Tryfan. You can then follow Llyn Bochlywd down and follow the boggy path (can be indistinct in places) back down to the A5.
Bristly Ridge, Glyder Fach
This seriously packs a punch with a scary gully start (aptly named sinister gully) and then on to a very airy, jagged, pinnacle ridge line. I would say this is at the high end of grade 1 territory- i.e. don’t do this as your first ever scramble, but it’s simply epic!
You start off at Bwlch Tryan (this route is often used as a continuation after summiting Tryfan) and follow the stone wall up to the base of Sinister Gully. The gully itself is not too tricky but slightly unnerving when you look down!
Once at the top keep following the crampon marks and small paths which weave around impressive pinnacles. The pinnacles can be a source of terror and I have had a few knee jittery moments downclimbing the first section in sheet ice in the past! Again- it’s not overly difficult you just need to take care with your foot placements as any slips would have fairly high consequences.
Once past the pinnacles the scrambling becomes slightly easier and flows nicely right up to the top of Glyder Fach. Here you must head over to The Cantilever for another iconic Ogwen photo!
There are various descent routes available- the easy miners path, Y Gribin ridge (grade 1 scramble) or the Devils Kitchen (which is a devil on your knees!). We tend to take Y Gribin normally as it is quick and adds a bit more excitement to the day.
Crib Goch, Snowdon
This classic knife edge ridge has to be one of the best ridge walks in the UK. It is renowned for catching people out who don’t realise they can’t hack exposure and I would advise trying a slightly tamer ridge like Daear Ddu ridge or Striding Edge (In the Lakes) first if you are not sure.
For those who have a head for heights this is packed full of teetering action along knife edge sections and climbing up and over scary pinnacles.To top things off you summit out on top of the highest peak in Wales and you’ve done it the hard way! The views along the way are simply breathtaking.
To get to Crib Goch you first have to go up the Pyg Track. At around 1/3 of the way up you take a right just before a style where you will see the path marker for Crib Goch.
There is a path which leads up to the start of the scrambling. Here you can pick your route up with lots of options available but generally- if you follow the crampon marks and paths in between you should have no problem getting up to the ridge proper.
Once at the start of the ridge it’s an amazing sight- it unfolds out in front of you and you see all of the fun to come! It starts off very narrow which is the knife edge bit and goes on for some time. For the brave and confident you can walk along the top or if you want slightly more reassurance you can drop down and use the top as a handrail.
Next come the pinnacles which are super fun and have impressive drops on the right. You can skirt around these but it’s regarded as safer to tackle head on as care needs to be taken on the scree on the traverse paths.
Once the pinnacles have been negotiated things ease up a little but that’s no the fun over. The scrambling continues all the way up to the summit of Carnedd Ugain which is only slightly lower than Snowdon itself. The path then continues up to the left up to Snowdon summit itself.
For descent, the easiest path back to the car is either the Pyg Track or the Miners Path. Alternatively you can continue the scrambling and complete the fantastic Snowdon Horseshoe which is a full on action packed day.
Daear Ddu Ridge, Moel Siabod
This often neglected route is a fantastic introduction to scrambling as you can make it as easy or as hard as you like. It’s never too committing or exposed but still offers some excitement for those who hug the edge of the ridge.
The route starts off as lovely walk up through old mines and brings you up into a basin. Here you can see the ridge straight ahead and it goes up to the right. The question is- how do you get to it?! The shortest, direct line to the base of the ridge is notoriously boggy so treat with care! I found this out the hard way and ended up waist deep in bog- thankfully my winter mountaineering kit kept me relatively dry! If you have a real bog aversion then take the southern end of the lake which tends to stay higher above the wettest areas.
Once on the ridge you can’t go wrong- just keep heading up. To make it easier stay left on the ridge, to make it spicier hug the right of the ridge all the way up. The ridge is never too scary and it’s also easy to route find. Here is a great video of the route made by Simply Hike:
On a good day the views are amazing on the summit as you get a full view of the Snowdon Horseshoe. It’s a lovely spot for a lunch and coffee break before taking the easy path back down to Capel Curig.
Llech Ddu Spur (Crib Lem), Carnedd’s
This little gem is hidden away on the northern side of the Carneddau range. You will probably have the place to yourself owing to the 1.5 hour approach but it’s worth it- the exposure and climbing is fantastic all the way up as you are surrounded by the beautiful Carneddau valley.
Word of warning- this one is tricky to find. Make sure you do your reading first before attempting and opt for a good weather day.The start is from Bethesda which is tricky to park in- basically park anywhere you can which isn’t likely to annoy any of the residents.
For route finding take a look at the BMC route description here , watch the BMC video below and have a good read in the Snowdonia Scrambling books too.
Once on the scramble it’s fairly straightforward with some exposure and hands on climbing but never as gripping as Crib Goch. The first section has some rock steps and runnels which lead up to the narrower ridge.
The ridge can taken on it’s crest or you can take the easier paths off to the right or left. This leads onto the iconic diamond photo that you see in the photos. You can then go straight on up to the summit of Carnedd Dafydd.
The common descent route taken off is to go onto Carnedd Llewelyn which completes the Cwm Llafar Horseshoe. All in all this is fantastic day out with relatively little traffic- just make sure you attempt in good weather so the navigation is easy.
What Kit do you Need for a Grade 1 Scramble?
The great thing about grade 1 scrambles is most of them can be done with the minimum amount of technical kit other than what you would normally use hiking. The only extra things we recommend are:
- Approach shoes with a sticky sole and good edges.
We stock hiking and scrambling gear in our online amazon shop here.
Recommended Scrambling Courses
If you are new to scrambling then we thoroughly recommend you taking a scrambling course with a professional first. It will give you the preparation needed to get out onto the mountains safely and have a great day out. We have used the following companies for scrambling and climbing courses and highly recommend them both:
Beyond The Edge: Run specific scrambling courses in Snowdonia which are absolutely fantastic. They have enabled us to go out and be completely independent on all scrambling grades and got us started with trad climbing. Chris and Alex are very generous with their time and give you all the encouragement you need to get out on the mountains, have a good time and be safe.
Leading Edge: Run a variety of rock climbing and scrambling courses. We have been on specific tailored climbing courses with them to enable us to push our trad climbing grade and can’t recommend them enough. They are also based in Snowdonia and you can often bump into Cath or Sam at the Siabod café before and after days out. Sam is an inspirational teacher and is highly regarded in the outdoor industry.
Recommended Scrambling Books
North Wales Scrambles- Gary Smith: This is the first Snowdonia scrambling book we bought and it’s brilliant. It has the all the best routes in the area with detailed photos and easy to follow route descriptions.
Scrambles in Snowdonia- Cicerone: We use this alongside Gary Smiths book as it helps with navigating the routes and has some slightly different routes to try. The photos are also slightly different which helps enormously with route finding on some routes with more complex lines.
Mountain Walking in Snowdonia- Cicerone: This book is useful to use alongside the specific scrambling books for bigger days out if you want to link up different mountains.
Snowdonia Harvey Map: It’s vital you don’t just rely on books to navigate the mountains - always carry a map. The books will only cover the specific route you are doing and if you end up off that route then you need to be able to find your way off the mountain. We like Harvey maps the best as they have the crags in much higher detail which is easier for scrambling and climbing.
We hope this blog gives you the inspiration to get out and try the routes. As ever please do contact us with any questions - we would love to hear from you.
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