The Best Grade 3 Scrambles in Snowdonia
This is the third in our 3 part series of the best scrambles in Snowdonia where we share our top 5 routes of each grade. If you haven’t seen our blogs on grade 1 and grade 2 here they are:
Our aim is not to give extensive step by step route descriptions (don’t worry we will include links to 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 a Grade 3 Scramble?
Grade 3 scrambles are often routes which are low graded climbing routes and therefore deserve respect. They are usually called a scramble either because the climbing is not continuous all the way up or the difficulty of the climbing is not hard all the way up.
Grade 3 scrambles really should be completed with a rope and by experienced parties with rope skills. Generally escape routes are difficult and may require abseiling knowledge if you do get into difficulty. It can be easy to stray onto harder rock climbing territory.
As with rock climbing, some people do solo grade 3 scrambles but they generally have a lot of climbing experience, are very confident and know the route.
For those unsure of the scrambling grades please see our blog on Scrambling Routes Explained blog.
Here are our Top 5 Grade 3 Scrambles in Snowdonia
1. Cneifion Arete
Cneifion Arete is probably my favourite day out in Snowdonia when combined with Idwal Staircase and Continuation. It’s also great linked up with the rock climbing classic - Sub Cneifion Rib (VD).
The route feels like a proper airy alpine ridge and is actually pretty confidence giving for a grade 3. It looks absolutely epic from the base in Cwm Cneifion and if you approach it from seniors ridge it looms ahead like a razor that looks untouchable.
Once you get to the base you can easily see the way up which is from the side. The approach is pretty simple and there is a zig zag scree path to the start.
The first 2 pitches of Cneifion Arete are probably the hardest. The first pitch involves climbing a pretty steep face of rock and it can be slightly tricky to find really good gear placement. It’s probably easier to stick to the right as there are clearer foot holds but if you want an airer start stick further left.
Once up the first face you are then met with a rather awkward looking chimney. After a bit of humorous squirming around trying to find the holds it’s pretty straight forwards and you pop out above onto the ridge.
The ridge is where it become epic. You can stick to the crest of the ridge for an amazing alpine ridge experience or you can stay tucked in further left where there is a path for quite a lot of the way up- but you would be missing out on the fun on that! The moves on the ridge can get a little tricky in places requiring some high leg action and sometimes teetering around on tiny foot holds (which makes an ascent in winter more interesting!)
If you enjoy an airy ridge then you are sure to enjoy Cneifion Arete. You top out on the top of Y Gribin with fabulous views over Tryfan and the Glyders. For a quick descent route simply take Y Gribin ridge down to Idwal Cottage (or the A5 next to Tryfan depending on where you have parked). Alternatively for a longer day you could drop down the ridge and pop up one of the routes up Glyder Fach or go up Y Gribin and descend down Bristly Ridge (grade 1- care is needed on the descent down the gullys) or Devils Kitchen.
2. Chasm Face Scramble, Glyder Fach
Chasm Face Route is outstanding- it has technically climbing, a gully, a catwalk and a tiny cave to wriggle through. I warn you - you will end up with bruises doing the cave in Chasm route! It’s tiny and when you first look at it - it looks far too small for a human to squeeze through!
Chasm route starts at the base of alphabet slab which is easy to pick out when going around what we call lake Australia (the lake between Tryfan and Y Gribin). You go the left of alphabet slab and start up main gully. Main gully has a rather awkward chockstone to get around and I would recommend using a rope at this point if you have anybody nervous in your party.
Once over the chockstone you peel off main gully off to the left to start chasm route. It starts off up a narrow sloping ledge which leads you up to the base of the catwalk. The catwalk on chasm route is really good fun. It has a technical slab to teeter up and then you come out up onto the narrow ledge that is the catwalk. You walk (or crawl) along the top of it and it brings you out below a massive sloping piece of rock, behind which lies the chasm!
It looks like a slit in the rocks and looks far to small to fit through. Trust me - you can but the less beer belly you have better! However, in order fit through, you have to take off your rucksack and any climbing gear so you are just in your climbing clothes and a helmet. If you don't- you will not fit through!
It might be wise to keep your harness on just in case you need assistance from somebody but it might get a bit rubbed when you squeeze through the cavern!
You have to enter the chasm head first and you can choose whether to drag your rucksack in behind you or to push it in front of you - both are equally awkward! Once in the narrow slit you are faced with a hole to squeeze though above you - this is extremely tight and every time I do it I worry I might get my hips stuck! However, after a lot of wriggling you are set free! You then have to bridge out of a wider cave section whilst trying to get your bag up too! The hardest bit of chasm is probably getting your heavy rucksack in and out of the chasm.
Once out of the chasm, the scrambling is much easier - you just keep on going up picking routes that suit your ability and energy level after the chasm! You will eventually summit just along from the cantilever where you can go and sit and have a laugh about this rather ridiculous but epic scramble!
3. Dolmen Ridge, Glyder Fach
Dolmen Ridge is a fantastic scramble which is a pretty good introduction to grade 3 along with Cneifion Arete. It is easy enough to find and route finding on the route is not particularly challenging either.
It has technical climbing, a fun ledge (which makes a good photo) and a sustained scramble all the way up to the top of Glyder Fach.
The route starts towards the right hand side of the main Glyder Fach cliffs and with a keen eye you can pick out the quartz markings on the rocks at the base of the route from lake Australia. You can approach it from the right or left of the lake however if it has been wet I would recommend going left as it’s much less boggy.
There is some debate in the guide books whether you should start dolmen ridge on the right or left of the gully once at the quartz stones. I personally prefer starting right which takes you up some relatively straight forwards grade 2 ground as a warm up. You skirt up the side of the gully and you eventually come to a left hand ledge which leads you onto the iconic dolmen ridge ramp which you see in all the photos:
The ramp on dolmen ridge is good fun and airy with a narrow small down climb to reach the end. Here off up to the right is probably the crux of the route. It is a steep climb up which requires some good bridging skills however the hand and foot holds all the way up are positive.
Once at the top the scrambling becomes easier and the crest leads onto what is known as the dolmen (because it looks like a giant tomb) which is easiest climbed on it’s right. From here the views are amazing:
Keep on going up dolmen ridge until you eventually summit onto Glyder Fach. For descent you can use Y Gribin or for a more action packed descent use Bristly Ridge (grade 1) but take care descending the gully.
4. Wrinkled Tower, Tryfan
Winkled tower is on the west face of Tryfan and it’s one that I put off because of being slightly obsessed with the east face! However - it’s is a little cracker- don't do the same as me! We decided to do wrinkled tower one day because there was a strong easterly wind and wanted some shelter.
The route has a really short approach just off the A5. It’s a steep start but within 20 minutes you are at the base of the route which starts off on relatively easy slabs.
The scramble then carries on up some pretty decent small rock faces with interesting climbing throughout. You will then eventually reach some grassy ledges which you will see a big chunk of rock slightly off to the right with a gully going up the middle. This is the best bit of the route and the crux.
The route takes you up the gully which is awkward and tricky in places where a little bit of heaving is necessary! Once you have negotiated the chockstone and gully you have to make a scary step out onto a ledge on the left. After a bit of teetering you will reach the end - reach up to the left hand corner and you will find the hidden big handhold which gets you on top.
Once you have negotiated the crux you can enjoy the climbing up the rest of the west face of Tryfan. We took a direct line up and ended up just above the cannon stone which meant we had the rest of the fantastic north ridge of Tryfan to enjoy.
For an even longer day combine this with an ascent of bristly ridge and descend down Y Gribin. Alternatively, use Tryfan south ridge to descend and the path back down which skirts the west face.
5. Little Tryfan Arete (Tryfan Bach Arete)
I adore this big lump of slab! I wish it wasn’t so popular but I understand why it is. Little Tryfan is a 10 minute approach from the road and is a brilliant piece of rock for beginners to learn on. The climbing grades range from grade 3 scramble up to Severe. The hand and foot holds are brilliant all over it and it’s also a good place to learn multi-pitch skills.
The arete is the grade 3 scramble and it simply takes the left hand edge of the slab all the way up.
I love how much exposure there is when you stick right on the edge and it’s really confidence giving all the way up. There are no hard or easy moves - it’s just a continuous, enjoyable easy climb right to the top.
Little Tryfan arete is over quickly though so I would use it in conjunction with another route/s. You could simply do a few more of the routes on the slab or nip up it on the approach to the east face of Tryfan to do some routes there.
I realise our last choice might be somewhat controversial! What about Clogwyn y Person Arete or the Atlantic Slab I hear you say…..Truth is we have yet to do these 2 routes and as soon as we have done them I will re-evaluate! I’m not sure if they will change my love for Little Tryfan though- it’s where I learnt to trad climb in the pouring rain with Beyond the Edge (mentioned below) and will always have a special place in my heart!
WHAT KIT DO YOU NEED FOR GRADE 3 SCRAMBLING?
For grade 2-3 scrambles we would recommend you have the following kit:
- Approach shoes with a sticky sole and good edges
- 30-60m rope depending on where you are scrambling. We tend to use a 30m to reduce weight and just do shorter pitches.
- Nuts and hex set as a minimum
- 2-3 smaller cams (not essential but do come in useful and you will end up using these if you progress to rock climbing)
- A selection of slings (for pinnacles and flakes) 4 x 60cm, 3 x 120cm and 1 x 240cm
- Nut key
We stock all of these items on our amazon store 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.
This post contains affiliate links. If you buy anything through them we will get a small referral fee and you will be supporting us and our blog at no extra cost to you.