I Thought Horseshoes Were Lucky – Alison (Nov 1997)

The weather was too good to be true – clear, warm, dry, and not too much wind. It seemed that the ideal opportunity to “do” Crib Goch had arrived. It was tempting to err on the side of caution and leave it for another day, but the Snowdon Horseshoe was a walk I’d always wanted to do and I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t try, so I took a deep breath and “went for it”.

Eight of us set off for Pen y Pass and followed the hoards of other walkers on the same path. When we got to the point of no return, the split of the path for Crib Goch or the Pyg Track, the cloud had come down but there was still little wind – ideal conditions as the route was going to be obvious, and not being able to see the drop was probably a bonus! The first part was technically the most difficult as it involved scrambling up rock faces, but it wasn’t really exposed. It wasn’t too bad although, suffering from short arm and leg syndrome, I was glad to get to the top. Then came the narrow ridge, which was literally like walking on a knife-edge in places. I’m not sure that being able to see the drop would have actually made it any worse for me, as I don’t tend to have too much trouble with heights – even the thought of falling 2ft gets my knees quaking! I don’t think I even felt frightened as such – at least not at first, but then it seemed to become never-ending and I was becoming both mentally tired with the concentration, and physically tired with the half-crouch walking method that I was using. It was easier towards the end where it was possible to walk a couple of feet below the ridge and use the top as a handrail, but I was glad to get to the end of the really narrow bit. I felt much better when a large burly chap came along and admitted to “****ing” himself all the way! (When running spellchecker it suggested “abandoning” in lieu of “****ing” – how did it know what I was hinting at? Computers are getting too clever by halves!). There was still a bit to go, including the 3000er, Crib y Ddysgl, but the path was wider and I started to relax. But the worst was yet to come!

Carol, Heong, and Sue were some way ahead, which left myself, Pete, Adrian, Mike and Chris following what appeared to be the main (and only) path. However, after a while we realised that we were losing height when we should have been on top of the ridge. Something had definitely gone wrong. Not wanting to end up down on the Pyg Track and then having to slog up the Zig Zags, we looked for a way back up. Chris decided to go for one route, but soon came back up behind us, as that had proved too difficult. He and Mike then decided on another route while we carried on in the hope that the path might wind back up. But it didn’t and we ended up on a steep scree slope with nothing to hang on to. Adrian set off diagonally upwards and Pete and I started to follow, but I hated walking across the loose scree – it seemed as though the whole mountainside was moving with every step and I had visions of moving down with it. After a couple of slips my nerves couldn’t take any more, so Pete and I started heading straight up, with me hanging on to any solid rock I could find. It took us a while, but we eventually made it back on to the ridge. For me, that was the most frightening part of Crib Goch – and it wasn’t on the route, so I’ve got to go back again sometime and put it right (incidentally, we weren’t the only ones to have strayed onto this lower path – we saw a few other groups trying to fathom a way back onto the ridge).

With hindsight, as soon as we realised we weren’t on the right path anymore, we should have retraced our steps back to where we knew we were on the ridge again – going back always seems a long way round but, because it had been such an easy path, that would have been by far the quickest option. We weren’t far from Crib y Ddysgl where we had emerged, and as we got to the trig point the clouds started to clear to give some good views of Snowdon and the Crib – perfect timing or what?

Everyone met up again at Snowdon summit station. My legs were shot through but I was persuaded that the rest of the Horseshoe didn’t involve any steep descents, so I carried on. Needless to say, it was steep and it took me a while to get down (I’ve never been so glad to reach the boring Miners Track!). But looking across to Crib Goch in the late afternoon sunshine, it was all worth it. And I’ll be back some time to do the whole ridge! Lucky Horseshoe!

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