What it's really like on Snowdon's deadliest ridge, Crib Goch, and why it has to be taken seriously

As you get closer to its summit, the landscape becomes almost lunar-like and anxiety-inducing.

The "lunar-like" landscape on the approach to Crib Goch.
The "lunar-like" landscape on the approach to Crib Goch.

It somehow inspires caution even in experienced walkers and scramblers.

The path is narrow, incredibly so, and there are spiteful drops on either side.

Actually, there's not even a path - The absence of anything that resembles a sensible foothold means you quickly realise that one wrong move could genuinely cause you serious harm.

Crib Goch induces intense concentration, and you find yourself crawling on all-fours wishing you had taken the Pyg or Miners Track instead.

Whatever the weather, Snowdonia's most infamous ridge is indeed a challenging and sometimes terrifying proposition, and it's only to be taken on by skilled mountain walkers.

Most people who traverse the narrow knife edge, myself included, find the experience scary but rewarding and are often awed by its beauty.

But make no mistake, it is undeniably deadly.

Snowdonia's knife-edged ridge.

Crib Goch, featuring sheer drops and hard scrambling as it does, has played host to a number of tragedies over the years.

It is considered "extremely dangerous" and Llanberis Mountain Rescue say it "should not be attempted by novice walkers".

Good weather conditions and strong navigation skills are a must too, with a "mountain guide" advised for the less sure.

Another climber from Rowley Regis, Rahis Nawaz Khan, died in July 2021 after falling from the north section of Crib Goch.

There have been been a number of other tragic examples over the years, and mountain rescue call-outs, which are fortunately often non-fatal, regularly originate from this part of the range.

According to the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team's website, many of their "rescues on Crib Goch are to 'cragfast' people who have simply underestimated the seriousness of the route and cannot cope with the exposed and steep rocky ground and end up unable to help themselves."

The concept of 'cragfast' brings me to the point of this article.

Rather than quote statistics and tell you that Crib Goch's summit is 923 metres above sea level, I thought it might instead be more interesting and useful to communicate what it actually feels like to be up there, knowing that it can be lethal, essentially explaining why you can get into trouble even if you're well prepared.

It is quite clear to me, as someone who has attempted the ridge, that inexperience and fear could very easily combine to make you "cragfast" on the rocks.

And while I have never found myself frozen in fear, I have endured what you might call a near miss.

When I first attempted the ridge, I approached from the Snowdon side, having summited at 4am and enjoyed a sunrise I'll never forget.

A stunning view over Crib Goch from Snowdon's summit early in the morning. Photo: Mark Morris

Side for an outrageously fit peak runner carrying a bike on his back, there was no one else on the mountain, and the weather was so overwhelmingly pleasant that the stage was perfectly set for me and my walking partner to attempt the infamous Crib Goch.

Both of us enjoy the outdoors and have done our fair share of mountain walking. We were also well prepared in terms of equipment.

We were nervous, but excited.

Before you even reach the section of the ridge that's considered "dangerous," it becomes very clear that you're not engaged in a relaxing tourist walk any more.

This is not like some of the easier trails up Snowdon. It is extremely exposed, and in my view, a completely different environment from the rest of Snowdonia's larger peaks, except perhaps for parts of Tryfan.

With heightened anxiety and surroundings reminiscent of the moon, my walking partner and I stopped talking to each other and focused solely on scrambling over the sharp rocks.

Everything was going well. It was mildly challenging but incredibly enjoyable, but then the weather changed.

And as is so often the case in the mountains of North Wales, the change was dramatic.

Before long, we were engulfed by a thick film of foggy drizzle.

While we were relatively experienced mountain walkers, we were not ready to take on Crib Goch in poor weather. I doubt many people are.

During the ascent to what we believed was the summit, we found ourselves skirting the side of what looked like a jagged pyramid.

We could barely move, and were soon holding on to the rock in the wind and rain, unable to see more than a few metres in front of us.

Steep and exposed! Crib Goch is Snowdon's most dangerous ridge. Photo: Andy Harbach licensed under CC BY 2.0

We decided to abandon the scramble. This was both a good decision because the ridge was becoming too slippery, and a bad one for reasons I'm about to go into.

Knowing that one of Snowdon's easier tracks was somewhere below us to our right, we decided that to go on would be too risky, and felt the only option was to head directly down the side of the ridge to rejoin the safer path.

This is something you should never, ever do and I'm sure any authority on the subject, mountain rescue included, would echo that message. The rocks were loose and we had no helmets. It was extremely dangerous, but still, we thought, safer than continuing along Crib Goch.

In the end, we were lucky, but others in our position might not have been.

Other walkers, making their way calmly up Snowdon, were quite baffled to see two men sliding on their backsides down the side of the mountain, the earth almost moving underneath us.

When we reached the path, we simply climbed to our feet, headed down to the hostel, and off up the road to climb Y Garn, a peak I would highly recommend.

Not far from the summit of Y Garn. Apologies for the Instagram filter. Photo: Mark Morris

The truth is, in my humble opinion, while Crib Goch is a healthy challenge and no doubt one of the most rewarding mountain experiences in the UK, if not the world, it is dangerous.

It is not a "come on, let's just give it a go" route, or one to take lightly.

We didn't take it lightly, we were relatively experienced, we checked the weather ahead of our climb and made the decision to cross the ridge based on good conditions at the time, but we still wanted to get off it as soon as possible when the weather changed.

The best thing to do is to take the advice of experts, whether it's mountain rescue or other authorities.

Crib Goch is a real scramble and it has to be taken seriously.

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