Snowdon Wales’ new look

snowdon wales

Yesterday (3/06/2016) Snowdon Wales was updated with a new look.

The transition was not without problems. Although most pages are as they were before (with some slight modifications) there are some minor issues e.g links that have been deleted especially where thumbnails linked back to their original source or links that are erroneous.

The reason for a change was a need to be able to update or post new content easily without having to go through all the time-consuming motions of coding & uploading. The site has not any new content in almost two years!

Snowdon Mountain Railway cutting vanishes!

It is often billed in Snowdon Mountain Railway literature the line has just one major cutting, that near Halfway station. This information is somewhat misleading.

When the Snowdon Mountain Railway was first built there were in fact two substantial cuttings, the well known one near Halfway, plus a considerably deeper one of more substantial length, near Clogwyn.

Whilst the Halfway Cutting still survives the Clogwyn one, at Bryn Penllyn near the foot of Cryn Las, above Clogwyn Goch, was gradually removed over a period of approximately seventy years. By the 1980’s it had vanished completely.

Looking downhill towards the site of the Clogwyn cutting. Just a piece of flattened terrain is all that remains.

Contemporary view possibly 1920s showing remains of the Clogwyn cutting.

Link to article: Clogwyn Cutting

© 2011 Gwychder y Wyddfa/Snowdon Splendour/Snowdon Wales

Can Tryfan be seen from Snowdon?

There are sometimes question that begs of the mountain climber in Snowdonia. One of these questions would be, ‘can Snowdon be seen from Tryfan’ – or vice versa. The Glyders, at five miles distance, are clearly visible from the summit of Snowdon so Tryfan must be there somewhere! Its actually very difficult to spot and no doubt depends very crucially on the amount of light, its direction, weather and atmospheric conditions towards the Glyders, and upon the Gribin Ridge itself.

Searching through dozens of my photographs, none appeared to produce a single sighting of Tryfan from the summit of Snowdon. A better zoom lens however produced a couple of pictures taken in February 2011. These just about managed to show the barely discernible rocks belonging to the Snowdonian climber’s favourite peak. A much more powerful lens used in March 2011 combined with excellent weather conditions produced clear pictures of Tryfan’s summit.

The panorama view creator, Chris Jesty, whose excellent productions made a day up the mountains so much more interesting, makes it clear that the iconic Ogwen peak can be seen from Snowdon, and this is shown in detail below:

Section of Jesty’s Snowdon panorama (1980) showing the 2 bumps belonging to Tryfan’s summit.

Summer afternoon view to Glyders from Snowdon. Bristly Ridge can just be seen, but no Tryfan.

Castle of the Winds centre, Bristly Ridge on left, Glyder Fach at right & Tryfan far left.

Zoom showing Adam and Eve and Tryfan’s two summits from Snowdon

As the above pictures show, the Bristly Ridge that links Glyder Fach to Tryfan can be quite easily seen. Compared to this, since its further away, looking for Tryfan is like searching for a needle in a haystack! The visible parts of Tryfan are quite small, so it is no surprise many do not know the peak can be seen from Snowdon. Atmospheric conditions may either make Tryfan’s summits invisible – the amount of ‘shimmer’ along the length of the Gribin Ridge will often be a deciding factor especially in the summer months.

Now the vice versa bit! I dont ever remember seeing Snowdon from Tryfan, actually I did not think it was possible due to the bulk of Glyder Fach being in the way. It is perhaps a great irony that once one has descended the Bristly Ridge from Glyder Fach towards Tryfan, the excellent views of the Snowdon massif disappear behind Glyder Fach completely. For this reason many of us probably do not even think about looking for Snowdon when we are stationed upon the lofty environs of Adam and Eve.

Searching the internet just one picture produced the neccessary view that would have possibly shown the summit of Snowdon. Unfortunately the light is too bright across the top of the Gribin Ridge to see clearly beyond. The only picture I can find is a very old one from one of the books of the celebrated mountaineer, W. A Poucher. His book, Snowdon Holiday (published 1943) discusses the issue of whether Snowdon can be seen from Tryfan. Poucher alludes that most people who have broached upon the subject believe it is impossible to see the topmost of the Welsh summits.

Poucher’s wartime picture showing the very tip of Snowdon’s summit. Glyder Fawr is on the right. The ‘UFO’ is actually a mark placed by Poucher on his photograph to show where Snowdon’s summit is because even in this direction, its peak is not at all easy to see.

Updated May 2011

© 2011 Gwychder y Wyddfa/Snowdon Splendour/Snowdon Wales

Who needs 1000m peaks?

In the earliest days of the history of the British peaks, many were described as hills, and often measured in miles! Snowdon was considered to be a mile in height, as Observations on the Snowdon Mountains (1802) tells us. Yet many were still viewed as mere hills and eventually Snowdon was agreed to be no more than three-quarters of a mile in height. Going towards the 19th Century our mountains were being measured in either yards or feet, so Snowdon was 1190 yards as described in many publications, one being An account of the principal pleasure tours in England and Wales (1822.)

The assumption that Snowdon is a mile in height (1802)

By the 19th Century yards were being dropped in favour of feet. This seems to have been tied to the desire for the Victorian’s sense of adventure and exploration. Certainly 3570ft had more of a ring to it than 1190 yards. Not only that, it does appear that our English concern with all things in our country being so small, the Victorians found feet made our hills look and feel bigger.

Snowdon measured as 3565ft on the 1919 OS map

The introduction of the metrication system in 1969 led to a slow erosion of the British Imperial system. Metric money has brought up new wheezes where consumers are short changed or tricked by sound-bite prices, hence British metric mountains are a kind of short change. By the late 1970’s many of our mountains were being measured in metres. One cannot look at a OS map now in terms of feet. The Snowdonia Society says on its website “after the Ordnance Survey went metric in the seventies, the traverse of the four 1000 metres peaks, two in the Carneddau and two on Snowdon, has neither the same logic nor the same appeal.”

The obligatory metric givens that are now cited for the Snowdon massif

There are so few Welsh mountains at 1000m it seems a waste. The 15 summits at over 3000ft are definitely more interesting. It seems that anyone bagging the few Welsh 1000m peaks is looking for an easy challenge. Its like doing a Robinson rather than a Munro. Crucially it must be pointed out there isn’t much support for bagging the 1000m peaks of Scotland either (even though there are well over a hundred!)

Whether its 1000ft, 2000ft, 3000ft, these uniquely identify whether a British mountain becomes a Marilyn, Nuttall or a Corbett, or in Scotland, a Munro. 1000 metre peaks are an almost unnecessary, intrusive, category which means more pressure on the mountains. Many problems are now apparent with several types of mountain challenges and it would be perhaps best to try manage what we have rather than add new dilemmas. Adding Glyder Fawr to the magical 1000m would mean more people up there on an otherwise fairly quiet summit, bringing with it more litter and erosion. If Glyder Fawr is higher than it has been, thats great but lets dump the metres and show the world this unique British mountain has a height that is in feet.

Who says Glyder Fawr should be given as 1000m? Why not give it in feet too?

One of the arguments for metrication is that it jumps in bounds of tens and it is claimed this more advantageous than the British Imperial system (which jumps in bounds usually by twelves.) But in terms of height at least, feet is also ‘metric’ and jumps in groups of tens. There are no twelve feet equalling something else or other. Its a very good reason why we don’t need to stultify ourselves with metres for mountain heights.

Compiled 12 September 2010.

© 2010 Gwychder y Wyddfa/Snowdon Splendour/Snowdon Wales

Was Snowdon ever covered all year round?

Early writers spoke of Snowdon being covered in snow the entire year around. Camden, writing in the 17th Century, was one of these, however he has thought that it was hard snow that remained upon the mountain during cooler summer months. Ultimately it has been asserted that it is not possible Snowdon could have been covered in snow the full year round.

This may not be correct – especially in the light of recent research. Modern scientists have found definite records of extreme weather conditions around the world during the little ice age which is said to have been from about 1300 to 1850. The 12th century ties in with the earliest descriptions of the ‘snow mountain.’ During the middle ages records were practically nil and the vagaries of the weather was rarely recorded. However there is a very high likelhood that in Giraldus’ time the weather must have been somewhat colder than normal and there may have been times when the weather was cold enough to keep snow upon the mountains for a considerable length of time during the summer. The Cairngorms are known to have been covered in snow all year round during some of the harshest periods of the Maunder minimum, and recently researchers discovered a minor Scottish lake that was always frozen over even during the ‘warmer’ summers of the little ice age.

The worst years were between 1645 and 1715 and known as the “Maunder minimum.” This was a long period over which sun-spot activity was practically nil. During this time could have been one of those very rare years when Snowdon would have been covered through most, if not all of, the year. Possibilities include 1601 which has been recorded as having frosts every morning during June. 1628 is another year, as that saw the mountains of Switzerland regularly covered in snow between May and August. Some of these years in the British Isles had no summer at all especially those between 1690 and 1698. During April 1696 it wa so cold that the artic ice extended south and surrounded Ireland completely. 1698 was said to have been one of the coldest years ever recorded.

New Scientist (25 September 2010 p20) reported on the efects of deforestation and the levels of snow seen on Mount Kilimanjaro. Scientists found that the more deforestation occured the less snow there was. By this it transpires that when Snowdon had more forests around it, this actually protected the snow (prevention of warm currents rising up from the valleys.) This is another means by which snow could have on occasions lingered upon the summit through an entire year. It does appear plausible Snowdon had snow remaining on its summit all of the summer in some years until the 16th century.

Evidence shows the Gulf of Mexico suffered a drop of two to three degrees during the Maunder minimum so temperatures in Britain were pretty harsh. Things have changed now, with the threat of global warming, and despite that spectre, in the 21st millenium snow can linger on the mountain for the larger part of the year from as early as September until April or even possibly May.

© August 2010 Gwychder y Wyddfa/Snowdon Splendour/Snowdon Wales

The world’s smallest public transport served summit?

Snowdon Wales believes Snowdon’s summit has to be the smallest in the world served by a public transport system. Other small mountain summits all have their rail stations and facilities somewhat much further below the actual summit. Comparable situations include the Cocovados (Brazil) Brienz Rothorn, Pilatus and Niesen (Switzerland) as shown in the pictures below.

Snowdon’s Summit is extremely small in comparision yet the peak manages a railway station, cafeteria and shop, staff facilities and electricity generation. How quaintly British!

The Cocovados, Brienz Rothorn, Pilatus and Niesen all have buildings/terminal stations well below the summits.

The Schilthorn and Santis have their buildings plonked right on the peak itself. And yet so much more roomy than that of Y Wyddfa’s.

Mountains in Switzerland are now being served entirely by cable cars, which allow the summit buildings to be plonked right on top of a small peak. Two examples are the Schilthorn and the Santis in the above pictures. Both are larger than Snowdon’s tiny summit.

Switzerland’s Schilthorn (9,744ft) is the smallest of the two (with a slightly larger size summit compared to Snowdon’s) but its Piz Gloria offers tons more space and facilites than Hafod Eryri could ever! The Schilthorn is served by a single cable car which involves far less terminal space and allows more facilities including a revolving restaurant (the Piz Gloria), a sun deck, and many other facilities. On the face of it, can anyone imagine James Bond chugging up Snowdon by steam train to face his arch enemy Blofeld? Despite Snowdon and 007 being British institutions it doesnt quite work the same does it?

For a Swiss mountain, the Schilthorn is quite surprisingly not much bigger than Snowdon. This might sound like a crazy assertion. Yet the Swiss mountain sits on top of a huge massif that supports nine peaks towering over the Lauterbrunnen valley. The Schilthorn is the second highest of these. Walking up there involves an ascent from Allmendhubel, a very pretty alpine village (elevation 6273ft) closest to the base of the Schilthorn. The total climb is 3471ft. That’s just 171ft more than the ascent of Snowdon via the Watkin path!

© 2010 Gwychder y Wyddfa/Snowdon Splendour/Snowdon Wales