The history of Snowdon/Y Wyddfa 1

Ascending Snowdon by car and motorbike

There have been several attempts to ascend the mountain since the advent of the internal combustion engine. Prior to that people tried to ascend by bicycle or horse and pony trap, and it appears that pony traps were sometimes used to transport materials up the mountain. In 1884 someone on a penny farthing managed to reach the summit!

1904 saw the first attempt ever by motor car took place. On 27 January 1904 Harvey Du Cros and his colleague Charles Sangster drove a Ariel car from Birmingham as far as Clogwyn. The actual climb from Llanberis upon the railway tracks took two days to reach Clogwyn due to very bad weather conditions and snowdrifts. The men gave up their attempt, but returned on 26 May 1904 and this time they reached the summit in a single day. They had been however been beaten on 14th May 1904 by Jarrott and Letts who managed to drive their 5hp Oldsmobile practically to the summit itself in just 61 minutes. A photograph in Peter Johnsons book on the SMR (page 55) shows the Oldsmobile parked on the very steep slopes just below the Snowdon Summit Hotel.

The headline in a Chicago newspaper June 23 1904 on De Cros’ and his car to Snowdon summit

Following the exploits of De Cros and Jarrott/Letts, the next attempt took place not long after. This was early June 1904 and the time taken was one and half hours.

The unidentified 1917 attempt by car up Snowdon on film at British Pathe

According to British Pathe an attempt was made in 1917 or 1918, but the people involved are not named. The first part of the journey clearly uses the railway then reverts to the Llanberis path nearer the summit. The film shows the difficulties of using the railway and these scenes were shot above Ceunant Bach bridge with a train and railway crew behind watching the proceedings link to British Pathe film

1920 attempt by George Brown of Llandudno, who took three and half hours to reach the summit. The photograph was taken at the platforms of the old summit station

The Stoneleigh 8 at Llanberis before the summit race 1923

Several other recorded attempts have been made and times have varied considerably, the longest ascent by motor car taking as much as three and half hours. A race up the mountain with two cars took place on 6th October 1923. One was a Stoneleigh 9hp racer, the other a Rover 8. The Stoneleigh reached the summit.

Motorcycling was a different matter. The fastest recorded ascent by motorbike to the summit took just 24 minutes 6 seconds in 1924.

The very last motorised vehicle attempt was in 1951. The vehicle was a land rover driven by an army officer. Following the 1951 ascent, motorised vehicles were banned from making any further attempts to ascend the mountain.

That is not actually the end of the story. The construction of Hafod Eryri neccesitated the use of several JCB’s. These had to be taken up the mountain at the start of each construction season and brought down for the winter months. They were driven along the railway as that is the only way wide tracked vehicles can attain the summit. The last few winters have seen snow laying on the mountain quite late and the Snowdon Mountain Railway has found it necessary to use JCB’s to clear deep snow drifts before the railway’s operating season can start, and these have also reached the summit.

Copyright © August 2010 Gwychder y Wyddfa

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