If you’ve been shocked by photos like this taken over the weekend you might well be thinking that the popular Snowdon scrambling route isn’t for you. This image was taken on Saturday 7th May 2022 by Ari Roberts and shows a queue of patient hikers standing atop the Crib Goch ridge heading up to the summit of Snowdon. For those not aware of this popular route, after you’ve scrambled your way up on to the ridge you then have to traverse the knife-edge arête with huge drops either side of you and little opportunity to ‘overtake’ slower walkers.
The media have jumped on the story too. North Wales newspaper, The Daily Post reported Picture shows huge queues forming along Snowdonia’s notorious Crib Goch ridge and Wales Online ran the same image proclaiming The huge queue on a notorious ridge in Snowdonia as visitors flock to see 1,000ft drop.
Whilst this photo was extraordinary it isn’t representative of what the scrambling ridge is usually like. Nick Read is a Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor, member of the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team and technical advisor to MountainXperience and was on the same ridge the day after this photo was taken (a Sunday). “The crowds pictured the day before were astonishing. It’s clear that something had gone wrong and that many people were on the ridge by accident resulting in queues building up. When I led my group on the Sunday the ridge looked like a different place with just a fraction of the number of climbers making their way across.”
The stats back up Nick’s comments. Snowdonia National Park Authority publishes detailed statistics about visitor numbers to Snowdon each year. The data is captured using infrared counters positioned at the start of each of the six main Snowdon footpaths and then collated at the end of the year. Although data isn’t available specifically for the Crib Goch traverse, it’s very clear that Saturday is the busiest day of the week on Snowdon by a large margin.
It’s also likely that the crowds on Saturday were caused by walkers taking a wrong turn off the popular Pyg Track at Blwch y Moch. At this point, the path splits and it’s not unusual for people to simply follow others off to the right and up on to the ridge without really knowing what they’re taking on. This ‘herd mentality’ leads to numerous mountain rescue callouts every year.
So how can I avoid the crowds on Crib Goch?
It’s really quite easy to climb Snowdon via Crib Goch without having to queue up. Follow these simple tips for a quieter day on the mountain.
- Choose the right day of the week. The stats speak for themselves. Saturday has always been the busiest day on the mountain so if you can visit any other day of the week you’re guaranteed a quieter day out. Sunday is the next best option with a marked decline in climbers on Snowdon. Even better, choose a weekday when visitor numbers are around a quarter of what they would be on a Saturday. Surely taking a day or two off work is worth it to have this amazing ridge walk to yourself?
- Start Early. This is great advice for any mountain walk but especially on a busy mountain like Snowdon. Aim to start walking as early as you can. In May, the sun rises at around 5.30am so if it’s a nice morning, start walking then! You’ll hardly see a soul on your way, there’ll be no queue on the ridge or at the summit and you’ll only start bumping into others as you get back to the car park and they’re starting off.
- Use a mountain guide. If you’re unsure of your ability to traverse the Crib Goch ridge on your own or just want advice, safety and security then hire a local mountain guide. They will know the ridge better than anyone and will work with you to make sure you’re not having to queue up.