Crib Lem Spur Scramble (Llech Ddu Spur)

Crib Lem Spur-min
In a bid to bag as many of the UK's finest scrambles as possible, I headed to the Crib Lem Spur (Llech Ddu Spur) in Snowdonia on a very, very hot and sunny Friday. Here's my take on this spectacular scramble and the wider hiking route that takes in 3 of the Welsh 3000s (Carnedd Dafydd, Carnedd Llewelyn and Yr Elen)

Contents

In a bid to bag as many of the UK’s best scrambles as possible, I continued with a jaunt up Crib Lem Spur (Llech Ddu Spur). Now, I had never heard of this one until a few weeks ago. Requiring a bit of a walk in, it is, by all accounts, typically much much quieter than nearby Crib Goch. Now, I love a bit of scrambling but I don’t like my ridges too busy. So this one really appealed. I headed out on one of the hottest days of the year (not my finest decision making) for a long day of hiking, scrambling and views in Snowdonia. Here’s how it went.

 

Hike date8th September 2023
Weather conditionsSunny and very hot (with cloudy spells on ascent but temperatures remained really high).
Distance hikedApprox 18.km
Walking time6 hours (if we exclude rests, stopping to fly the drone and generally sitting down questioning my life decisions in that heat)
Elevation gain total1,130m
TerrainGrassy (and boggy) terrain at the start and end, very rock on higher ground. 
Hiked withSolo

Christmas tree rock crib lem spur

My view was a bit like this around here:

scrambling crib lem spur

Do bear in mind I use a chest mounted GoPro Max which has a very wide angle and makes things look narrower! But this was certainly an area where I was very cautious.

The exposure though, isn’t consistent and, in my view, Crib Lem isn’t as exposed (or at least not in the same way) as Crib Goch.

Crib Lem Spur Route

The route I took is this one:

As is usually the case, my Apple Watch data brought the hike in at longer than the AllTrails estimate, with mine coming in at 18km (probably because at least twice a hike I end up going the wrong way and turning back 😂 ).

If you park in Gerlan on the other side of Bethesda, you’ll be close to the starting point. There’s very limited parking for non residents though so be sure to park considerately. 

You’ll walk from there up the single track road and, a km or so in, will turn off onto footpaths through fields. 

This part of the walk is boggy and overgrown in parts. I hiked this route on day 5 of a significant September heatwave, so I imagine it would have been boggier still in more typical weather conditions. 

Eventually, you’ll get sight of the impressive valley you’ll be walking into. I can’t remember any other hike in England or Wales with such a stunning valley walk in. It’s something I typically associate more with Scotland hiking.

As you enter the valley, the route takes a right up a steep, grassy incline. There is a path in parts but it’s not always clear. After 5km of total hiking (there or thereabouts), you’ll reach the start of the spur. It’s an impressive spur, an ascending rocky ridge that, from the angle of the first view you get, looks huge.

Crib Lem is an incredibly beautiful ascending ridge type scramble.

Once up it, you’ll take a slight right and walk for a few minutes to summit Carnedd Dafydd.

Views to carnedd dafydd

From here, you come back on yourself and walk across the plateau (which descends slightly) before ascending again to Carnedd Llewelyn.

Another short descent and reascent to Yr Elen and it’s back down then to ground!

The descent from Yr Elen is, initially, loose scree and steep. Take care. But the route is easy enough to follow. Towards the bottom, it’s back to boggy, overgrown fields again before you meet the road back to Gerlan once more.

The latter part of the walk is when the late start I had to make truly paid off. I was descending during sunset.

Couple the golden hour light with a near cloud inversion and my views were utterly incredible.

Is Crib Lem Difficult?

 

This is a tough question to answer. The scrambling is not complex or technically demanding. But I found this one of my most difficult scrambling days.

It’s a grade 1 scramble and the scrambling itself is straightforward enough for anyone who’s done a couple before. 

But… it was so hot. It must’ve been close to 30 degrees in the valley and remained in the high 20s even at altitudes of 1,000m. The sun was relentless over the day. Couple that with the steep climb up to Crib Lem Spur to even start it (the spur begins at an altitude of around 700m) and I found this overall a tough hiking day.

I wasn’t able to set out until after the school run so it was after 11am by the time I was on the trail and so it was hot from start to finish.

I had extra weight in my bag from the 4.5 litres of water I brought (it was so hot that I still ran out before I was back at the car).

I also made the mistake of eating too late. I wanted to wait for lunch until I was at the start of the spur, but by this point I was sugar shaky! 

Late lunch views weren’t bad at all though!

So much so that by the time I’d finished my lunch and went to start the scramble, I found myself so tired that I was making some silly decisions when it came to picking routes and even found myself failing to check a hand hold at one point. That’s when I decided to stop again, eat something sugary and wait 15 minutes while I played with the drone.

From here, I felt a ton better and thoroughly enjoyed the remainder of the scramble and the hike.

So for me, this one was a tough old day. But I put a lot of it down to the weather (which I definitely underestimated).

As a scramble in itself, it’s not technically challenging. It’s a beautiful, beautiful route. There’s exposure for sure, but perhaps not as consistently exposed as Crib Goch. 

I’ll go back and redo this one in cooler weather. The Carneddau is indeed a spectacular part of North Wales and the rocky peaked mountains here are simply beautiful. 

Is Crib Lem Exposed?

Yes, in parts. But this isn’t consistent (unlike Crib Goch, for example).

One of the more exposed parts is around what’s known as the Christmas Tree rock… you can see here why’s known as such:

 

 

Is Crib Lem Spur Suitable for Beginners?

Yes, I think so. If you’re comfortable with exposure and heights, this is likely to be a good scramble for you. It’s not hugely technical.

Hand holds and foot holds are plentiful but there’s lots of loose rocks too, so check them all first.

I probably wouldn’t suggest waiting until a Saharan heatwave to do it either, to be honest 😂 

Would I do it again?

Absolutely. It was a tough day with the heat but the whole route was just so spectacularly beautiful that I would love to go back and scramble this again on a cooler day.

The views on descent are utterly incredible when the conditions are right. I got so lucky with my descent conditions… that sunset dancing across the clouds isn’t something I’ll forget in a hurry.

Snowdonia, you really are wonderful.

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