The History and natural history of UK's Main mountains.

Part one Snowdon  

 File:Snowdon massif.jpgImage courtesy of Chris Dixon CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Snowdon Massif from Glyder Fawr. 

Whats in a name?

Snowdon is the busiest mountain in England and wales,as far as tourism is concerned, with a staggering  558,000 walkers recorded in 2018, along with an additional 140,000 visitors taking the train. It lies with the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. Standing at 3,560 feet above sea level. it is designated as a National Nature reserve, for its rare fauna and flora.

The name in Welsh is Yr Wyddfa, meaning tomb or monument. Others say it means Tumulus. The English name is said too derive from the old English Snaw Dun , meaning Snow Hill. Although, it is true, Snowden is often covered with snow between November and April, it also has one of the wettest climates in Britain with 200 inches falling on average over a year. 

The temperatures, on Snowdon's summit, are very variable. In the summer they can reach thirty degrees centigrade while in winter they may plummet to minus twenty degrees centigrade and with the wind capable of speeds of up to 150 mph it may feel as cold as minus fifty degrees centigrade.

Mount Snowdon

Image courtesy of Markus Trienke CC BY -SA 2.0 license.

An historic report from the Selborne Society.

The most prosaic and common place person must feel that there is something awful and sacred about the highest point of a great mountain. The top most crag of Snowdon, the loftiest crag of England or Wales, reigning over so magnificent a prospect, so beautiful in its natural form, and crowning so mighty a king among mountains, must, one would have thought, would have commanded the veneration of the English People, and been carefully guarded against all injury and defilement.

It belongs to three rich landowners {at the time of this report}, and it would have been perfectly easy for them to have proved themselves as fit guardians of such a spot, simply be refusing any harm to be done to the natural outline of the crag, and insisting on the removal of the horrible mass of litter and refuse, which is now making the spot into an ash-heap.


The owners have , however, apparently cared for it only as something out of which to make money. They have allowed two hideous corrugated shanties called, " The Hotel" , to be erected at the very summit, so that the form of the crag is quite distorted as seen from all sides, and from almost any distance. A straight artificial terrace emphasises the unnatural line of the " Hotel, and a brick wall ( without any use or object, except, I was told, the maintaining of someone's "rights", has been carried for some yards along the edge of the crag. Bricks, corrugated iron and straight lines on the very summit of Snowdon!

Can one imagine that any civilised owner of such a spot would tolerate such a gross an outrage?.But this is perhaps not the worst. The accumulated rubbish of years is scattered everywhere: all the ashes,vegetables and other rubbish from the "Hotel" are merely thrown out upon the mountain side: at the very door of the Hotel {when I was there} ,  an unsightly heap of broken boxes, jammy papers, and so on: one could not move without being aware of the offensive form of litter caused by trippers. 

Now is all  this inevitable in a place visited daily, in the season, by hundreds of people?. I protest strongly that it is not. A new member of the Selborne Society, who called my attention to the subject a few weeks ago, suggested that the railway( which of course brings so many more people, and has done so much to vulgarise the mountain}, would now make it perfectly easy to remove daily all the refuse and litter bins, provided by the " Railway and Hotel Company"  for that purpose. He felt so deeply that it did not help one to enjoy to enjoy the dawn when one was standing on an ash-heap, that he offered to share the initial expense of clearing Snowdon if the Railway and Hotel Company could be induced to insist that the manager of the Hotel would keeping it clear. 



Snowdon a glimpse of History.


The rocks that form Snowdon are as a result of Volcanoes which are believed to have occurred during the Ordovician period, and further sculptured the Massif by Glaciers, which formed the pyramidal shape of Snowdon itself, and the surrounding areas. 

Despite the above report from the Selborne Society-------  

The first building to be erected at the Snowdon summit was in 1838 to sell refreshments, and a licence to sell intoxicating liquor was granted in 1845. Very basic accommodation was also provided for visitors. When the Snowdon Mountain Railway was opened in 1896, it added its own accommodation and sales outlet near the summit.

During the 1930s, many complaints were received about the state of the facilities at the summit and in 1934/5 a new station building was erected in two phases. It was designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis and included rooms for visitors and a cafe. The other operators were bought out and the ramshackle collection of buildings on the summit was cleared. The flat roof was intended to be used as a viewing platform and some photographs show it being used in this way. However, other photographs taken of the cafe show that the roof leaked, which probably explains why the practice was stopped. The Summit was taken over by government agencies during the war and the accommodation was restricted to staff use afterwards.Having become increasingly dilapidated in post-war decades, this building was described by Prince Charles as "the highest slum in Wales". Its state led to a campaign to replace the building. In April 2006, Snowdonia National Park Authority with the support of the Snowdonia Society agreed a deal to start work on a new cafe and visitor centre complex. By mid-October 2006 the old building had been largely demolished.

The new RIBA Award-winning[ £8.4 million visitor centre, Hafod Eryri, designed by Ray Hole Architects in conjunction with Arup and built by Carillion, was officially opened on 12 June 2009[56] by First Minister Rhodri Morgan. The Welsh National Poet, Gwyn Thomas, composed a new couplet for the new building, displayed at its entrance and on the windows, which reads "Copa'r Wyddfa: yr ydych chwi, yma, Yn nes at y nefoedd / The summit of Snowdon: You are, here, nearer to Heaven". The name Hafod Eryri was chosen from several hundred put forward after a competition was held by the BBC. Hafod is Welsh for an upland summer residence, while Eryri is the Welsh name for Snowdonia.


 : Snowdon Mountain Railway

The Snowdon Mountain Railway (SMR) (Welsh: Rheilffordd yr Wyddfa) is a narrow gauge rack and pinion mountain railway that travels for 4.75 miles (7.6 km) from Llanberis to the summit of Snowdon.[48] It is the only public rack and pinion railway in the United Kingdom,[48][49] and after more than 100 years of operation it remains a popular tourist attraction, carrying more than 130,000 passengers annually.[50] Single carriage trains are pushed up the mountain by either steam locomotives or diesel locomotives. It has also previously used diesel railcars as multiple units. The railway was constructed between December 1894, when the first sod was cut by Enid Assheton-Smith (after whom locomotive No.2 was named), and February 1896, at a total cost of £63,800 (equivalent to £7,437,000 as of 2019).[51]

 The Snowdon Mountain Railway (SMR) (Welsh: Rheilffordd yr Wyddfa) is a narrow gauge rack and pinion mountain railway that travels for 4.75 miles (7.6 km) from Llanberis to the summit of Snowdon.[48] It is the only public rack and pinion railway in the United Kingdom, and after more than 100 years of operation it remains a popular tourist attraction, carrying more than 130,000 passengers annually. Single carriage trains are pushed up the mountain by either steam locomotives or diesel locomotives. It has also previously used diesel railcars as multiple units. The railway was constructed between December 1894, when the first sod was cut by Enid Assheton-Smith (after whom locomotive No.2 was named), and February 1896, at a total cost of £63,800 (equivalent to £7,437,000 as of 2019).

Image courtesy of Hugh Llewelyn-6 Padarn CC BY-SA 2.0 license

 View from the observation coach of Snowdon Mountain Railway 2 foot gauge rack railway 0-4-0 No.6 "Padarn" built by the Swiss Locomotive Works, Winterthur, Switzerland (No.2838 of 1922) in the clouds at the summit station of Mount Snowdon ready for the descent to Llanberis, 09/09.

Views from the summit

Snowdon offers some of the most extensive views in the British Isles; on exceptionally clear days, Ireland, (the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland), Scotland, England, and the Isle of Man (as well as Wales) are all visible, as well as 24 counties, 29 lakes and 17 islands. From here, it is also possible to see the mountains of the Peak District and South Pennines that surround Manchester. The view between Snowdon and Merrick (southern Scotland) is the longest theoretical line of sight in the British Isles at 144 miles (232 km). In practice, atmospheric conditions make such sightings extremely rare, but a report from 2015 demonstrates the observation. The mountain itself may also be viewed on take off and approach to both Manchester Airport and Liverpool John Lennon Airport on very clear days, and even from Howth Head in Dublin, Ireland.

Lakes ---A number of lakes are found in the various cwms of the Snowdon range.

  • Llyn Llydaw – 1,430 feet (440 m) high, 110 acres (45 ha) – lies in Cwm Dyli, Snowdon's eastern cwm, and is one of Snowdonia's deepest lakes, at up to 190 ft (58 m) deep. Various explanations of its name have been put forward, including lludw ("ash"), from ashen deposits along the shore, to Llydaw ("Brittany"). It contains evidence of a crannog settlement, and was the location of a 10-by-2-foot (3 m × 0.6 m) dugout canoe described in the Cambrian Journal in 1862. The lake is significantly coloured by washings from the copper mines nearby, and is used by the Cwm Dyli hydroelectric power station, which opened in 1906.[ The lake is crossed by a causeway, built in 1853 and raised in the 20th century to prevent the causeway from flooding frequently.
  • Glaslyn – 1,970 feet (600 m) high, 18 acres (7.3 ha) – lies higher up Cwm Dyli than Llyn Llydaw. It was originally called Llyn y Ffynnon Glas, and has a depth of 127 feet (39 m). For a long time, it was believed to be bottomless, and is also the location for various myths.
  • Llyn Ffynnon-y-gwas – 1,430 feet (440 m) high, 10 acres (4.0 ha) – lies in Cwm Treweunydd, Snowdon's north-western cwm, and is passed by the Snowdon Ranger path. It was enlarged by damming for use as a reservoir for use by slate quarries, but the level has since been lowered, and the lake's volume reduced to 24,000 cubic metres (850,000 cu ft).

Other lakes include Llyn Du'r Arddu below Clogwyn Du'r Arddu – 1,901 feet (579 m) high, 5 acres (2.0 ha), Llyn Teyrn near Pen-y-pass – 1,237 feet (377 m) high, 5 acres (2.0 ha), and several smaller pools.


Snowdon rare flora 

The environment of Snowdon, particularly its rare plants, has led to its designation as a national nature reserve. In addition to plants that are widespread in Snowdonia, Snowdon is home to some plants rarely found elsewhere in Britain. These include the "Snowdon lily", Gagea serotina, which is also found in the Alps and in North America; it was first discovered in Wales by Edward Lhuyd, and the genus Lloydia (now included in Gagea) was later named in his honour by Richard Anthony Salisbury.[10] Snowdon lies in the northern part of Snowdonia National Park, which has also provided some legal protection since the park's establishment in 1951.

 Image courtesy of Velela CC BY -SA 2.5 license.

The six main paths 

These six main paths were mapped by the Google Trekker in 2015. The elevations and gradients given here are for the start point on a public road, based on Ordnance Survey mapping. Other definitions are possible so alternative figures can be found.


Llanberis Path[edit]

Length: 6.8 kilometres (4.2 mi). Elevation gain: 965 metres (3,166 ft). Overall gradient: 1 in 7.1 (14.1%).

The Llanberis Path is the longest route to the summit. It follows the line of the railway and being the easiest and least interesting, it is the route used by the annual Snowdon Race, which has a record time of less than 40 minutes recorded from the start to the summit.

The section of the Llanberis Path beside the railway near the summit has been called the "Killer Convex"; in icy conditions, this convex slope can send unwary walkers over the cliffs of Clogwyn Du'r Arddu. Four people died there in February 2009


Snowdon Ranger Path[edit]

The Snowdon Ranger Path crosses a boggy area before ascending past Llyn Ffynnon-y-gwas

Length: 6.3 kilometres (3.9 mi). Elevation gain: 935 metres (3,068 ft). Overall gradient: 1 in 6.7 (14.9%).

The Snowdon Ranger Path (WelshLlwybr Cwellyn) begins at the youth hostel beside Llyn Cwellyn, to the west of the mountain, served by the A4085 and Snowdon Ranger railway station. This was formerly the Saracen's Head Inn, but was renamed under the ownership of the mountain guide John Morton. It is thought to be the oldest path to the summit

The route begins with zigzags through turf, before reaching a flatter boggy area in front of Llyn Ffynnon-y-gwas. The path then climbs to Bwlch Cwm Brwynog, and then snakes along the ridge above Clogwyn Du'r Arddu towards the summit. This path meets the railway, the Llanberis Path, the Crib Goch path, and the combined Pyg Track and Miners' Track all within a short distance, just below the summit

Image courtesy of Eric Jones CC BY-SA  2.0 license.



Rhyd Ddu path[edit]

Length: 5.8 kilometres (3.6 mi). Elevation gain: 905 metres (2,969 ft) or 896 metres (2,940 ft) [depending on exact start point. Overall gradient: 1 in 6.4 (15.7%).

The Rhyd Ddu path, also called the Beddgelert Path, leads from the village of Rhyd Ddu, west of Snowdon, gently up on to Llechog, a broad ridge dropping west from the summit. It is considered one of the easier routes to the summit, with the advantage that the summit is visible from the start, but is one of the least used routes. It climbs at a shallow gradient to Bwlch Main, shortly southwest of the summit, from where it climbs more steeply, meeting up with the Watkin Path at a site marked with a large standing stone a few hundred metres from the summit. An alternative start begins at Pitt's Head on the A4085 road

Watkin Path[edit]

Plas Cwmllan (right) and Gladstone Rock (left) in Cwm Llan, looking along the Watkin Path

Length: 6.2 kilometres (3.9 mi). Elevation gain: 1,025 metres (3,363 ft). Overall gradient: 1 in 6.1 (16.5%).

The Watkin Path is "the most demanding route direct to the summit of Snowdon", since it starts at the lowest elevation of any of the main routes and has the steepest overall gradient. It was first conceived by Edward Watkin, a railway owner who had attempted to build a railway tunnel under the English Channel, and had a summer home in Nant Gwynant near the start of the path It was originally designed as a donkey track and opened in 1892.

The start of the Watkin Path has been described as "the prettiest beginning" of the routes up Snowdon. It begins at Bethania on the A498 and climbs initially through old broadleaved woodland. After leaving the woods, the path climbs past the waterfalls of the Afon Llan to the glacial cirque of Cwm Llan, crossing a disused incline from an abandoned slate quarry. It then reaches Plas Cwmllan, formerly the home of the quarry manager for the South Snowdon Slate Works beyond, and later used for target practice by commandos during the Second World War. Near Plas Cwmllan is the large boulder known as Gladstone Rock, which bears a plaque commemorating a speech given in 1892 by William Ewart Gladstone, the then 83-year-old Prime Minister, on the subject of Justice for Wales. The slate workings in Cwm Llan were opened in 1840, but closed in 1882 due to the expense of transporting the slate to the sea at Porthmadog. Various buildings, including barracks and dressing sheds, remain.

From the slate quarries, the Watkin Path veers to the north-east to reach Bwlch Ciliau, the col between Snowdon and Y Lliwedd, which is marked by a large orange-brown cairn. From here, it heads west to meet the Rhyd Ddu Path at a standing stone shortly below the summit of Snowdon.

Image courtesy of Paul Glover CC BY-SA 2.0 license.



Over Y Lliwedd[edit]

Y Lliwedd In early spring

Length: 6.4 kilometres (4.0 mi).



The route over Y Lliwedd is more frequently used for descent than ascent, and forms the second half of the Snowdon Horseshoe walk, the ascent being over Crib Goch. It is reached from the summit by following the Watkin Path down to Bwlch y Saethau, and then continuing along the ridge to the twin summits of Y Lliwedd.The path then drops down to Cwm Dyli to join the Miners' Track towards Pen-y-Pass. 


View towards Y Lliwedd from the summit of Yr Wyddfa/Snowdon Taken from the highest part of Yr Wyddfa looking along the ridge towards Y Lliwedd. The Watkin Path follows the ridge on the south side (right) and then turns south for lower ground as the path starts to rise towards Y Lliwedd. Llyn Llydaw is far below to the left  

Courtesy of John S Turner CC BY-SA 2.0 license 



Miners' Track[edit]

The Pyg Track (above) and Miners Track (below) merge above Glaslyn. Crib Goch is visible at the top

Length: 6.6 kilometres (4.1 mi). Elevation gain: 726 metres (2,382 ft). Overall gradient: 1 in 9.1 (10.9%).

The Miners' Track (WelshLlwybr y Mwynwyr) begins at the car park at Pen-y-Pass, at an altitude of around 360 metres (1,180 ft). It has the shallowest overall gradient and is the most popular route to the summit of Snowdon.[ It begins by skirting Llyn Teyrn before climbing slightly to cross the causeway over Llyn Llydaw.[ It follows the lake's shoreline before climbing to Glaslyn, from where it ascends steeply towards Bwlch Glas. It is joined for most of this zigzag ascent by the Pyg Track, and on reaching the summit ridge, is united with the Llanberis Path and Snowdon Ranger Path.[Derelict mine buildings are encountered along several parts of the path.



Pyg Track[edit]

Standing stone marking the start of the Pyg Track at Pen-y-Pass

Length: 5.3 kilometres (3.3 mi). Elevation gain: 726 metres (2,382 ft). Overall gradient: 1 in 7.3 (13.7%).

The "Pyg Track" (WelshLlwybr Pyg), or "Pig Track" (both spellings may be encountered), also leads from Pen-y-Pass. The track climbs over Bwlch y Moch on the eastern flanks of Crib Goch, before traversing that ridge's lower slopes. Above Glaslyn, it is joined by the Miners' Track for the zigzag climb to Bwlch Glas between Snowdon and Garnedd Ugain, where it joins the combined Llanberis and Snowdon Ranger paths.

From the website of the Snowdonia National Park Authority,

 The Pyg Track (above) and Miners Track (below) merge above Glaslyn. Crib Goch is visible at the top

Images courtesy of  Kevan Watson CC BY-SA 2.0 license.


Crib Goch route[edit]

Length: 5.0 kilometres (3.1 mi).

The traverse of Crib Goch has been described as "one of the finest ridge walks in Britain", and forms part of the Snowdon Horseshoe, a circuit of the peaks surrounding Cwm Dyli. The path follows the Pyg Track before separating off from it at Bwlch y Moch and leading up the East ridge of Crib Goch. After the Crib Goch ridge, it descends slightly to Bwlch Coch, then ascends to the peak of Garnedd Ugain (1,065 metres (3,494 ft)), before dropping to join the Llanberis path. All routes which tackle Crib Goch are considered mountaineering routes or scrambles.

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