Snowdon has two main peaks, these are Y Wyddfa and Crib-y-Ddysgl. There is a difference in height of only 67 feet between the two peaks.
The peaks of Snowdon – including Crib-y-Ddysgl
Snowdonia’s early writers and visitors make it absolutely clear that they acknowlegde Crib-y-Ddysgl as a mountain in its own right. Thomas Penant, the welshman who popularised Snowdonia, saw Crib-y-Ddysgl as the tallest of the four sons of Snowdon.
The other peaks (or sons of Snowdon) were Crib Goch, Lliwedd and the nowadays unrecognised and un-named 16th Welsh 3000ft peak once known as Clawdd Coch, or Llwybr-y-Maen. This was clearly a peak in its own right, but nowdays is not recognised as such. In Victorian times it was known as the Saddle; the re-incarnation as an unrecognised 3000ft summit is called Bwlch Main.
Edward Llwyd, writing over 400 years ago, tell us Crib y Ddysgl (which he wrote as ‘Kriby Diskil’) meant the Dripping Peak because water could be clearly seen streaming down its sides. Llwyd was a knowledgeable person on Welsh affairs and people often sought his mind on such matters because he had intricate knowlegde of the country. It is absolutely clear from Llwyd that Crib-y-Ddysgl is a peak (as well as being a ridge.) Let’s face it, Crib Goch is a peak isnt it? And its a ridge too!
Recent postcard of Snowdonia showing Crib-y-Ddsgyl
Some claim that the peak is called rather by the name of ‘Garnedd Ugain.’ Yet there has been confusion over that alleged name since abut 1770 – and it is quite clear that ‘Garnedd Ugain’ is wrong anyway. Crib-y-Ddysgl has two summits marked by the OS until the 1980’s. One is marked by the trig point and a clearly unmarked summit that is clearly a couple of feet higher not far away and this perpetuates the confusion felt by the OS since its first serious survey of the area between 1816-1820. Just before that J. Furnival’s map of North Wales (1814) clearly marks Crib-y-Ddysgl whilst a year later (1815) the Corps of Royal Engineers drew a prospect of the Snowdon range from the south east with Crib-y-Ddysgl as its second peak.
Til the 1980’s two heights were given for the summit as well as the erroneously named ‘Garnedd Ugain.’ By then efforts were clearly being made to shove Crib-y-Ddysgl to one side in orer to establish the other name for the peak.
In its very early literature the Snowdon Mountain Railway describes the peak as ‘Carnedd Ugan,’ and Crib-y-Ddysgl as a ridge, but after 1900 it changes the odds in favour of Crib-y-Ddysgl, clearly specifying it as a peak. Its like many other sources which yo-yo between the two names, never really asking why there is a second name – and how it could be at all relevant.
‘Garnedd Ugain’ is clearly an anglicised addition. Its clearly a monument to the english. ‘Garnedd Ugain’ is said to mean the hill of twenty, but there is very strong evidence that no-one knows just what this ‘twenty’ stands for. Its just ‘the hill or cairn of twenty’ and that has been good enoough for people to claim it as the true peak in deference to Crib-y-Ddysgl. Some say this ‘twenty’ derives from the Roman Twentieth legion which was based in Gaer/Chester.
Terry Batt tells us in his book, ‘Place names of the 3000ft mountains of Wales,’ that the Twentieth Legion used to climb the mountain for exercise, and ordered it be called Mons Viginti – or mountain of twenty. He claims that this occured while the legion was briefly based in Segontium (Caernarfon.)
Maybe Batt has got his facts wrong? Or perhaps concocted the whole thing? There isnt such a phrase as ‘Mons Viginti’ anywhere to be found in any sources or references. If he had seen a word that had been somewhat similar but somehow mis-remebered it as being Mons Viginiti, it would have most likely been Montivagant. This is an old word from around the late 1600’s or early 1700’s meaning to wander over hills or mountains. An example of its usage would be: ‘The Shepherd had to gather his montivagant sheep.’ Two books: The Glossographia Anglicana Nova Or, A Dictionary, Interpreting Such Hard Words of Whatever language, as are at present used in the English Tongue, with their Etymlogies, Definitions etc (1707); and An English dictionary by Elisha Coles 1717, give the meaning of Montivagant.
Montivagant: wandring on the mountains – from An English dictionary by Elisha Coles, 1717
On the other hand, if for any reason it transpires that the legend ‘Mons Viginiti’ is at all true, then clearly ‘Garnedd Ugain’ celebrates the murderous might of those romans who invaded Eryri. The Roman Twentieth Legion were a pretty cruel lot who decimated hundreds of Welsh people during their quite short stay at Segontium (Caernarfon) – whilst on a tour away from their main camp at Gaer/Chester (History of Gwynedd by Dorothy Sylvester P26.) Should this murderous lot be glorified for evermore as ‘Garnedd Ugain’ – Snowdon’s second peak?
One cannot see how ‘Garnedd Ugain’ can be embraced as a real mountain name if its history is linked to such dirty deeds against the Welsh. Its quite clear many people have pushed Crib-y-Ddysgl aside in the quest to establish ‘Garnedd Ugain’ as the peak – without even asking why, or even bothering to find out where the name really comes from, if it did indeed exist. Nor does it appear that anyone has asked of themselves; if Crib-y-Ddysgl was in fact a true peak why did it get pushed aside to mean the ridge only?
The Welsh Mountaineering Club claims – rather unsubstantially – that ‘Ugain’ is a corruption of Carnedd Wgon, after Gwgon Brydydd, a Welsh poet of the 13th C. This however is an error picked up from some Welsh (Gymraeg) books of the 1930’s. If Gwgon’s had been heralded as the second most important peak (in the same way as Carnedd Llywelyn and Dafydd gained their names) surely it would have been recorded somewhere? The only consistent name for this peak through the centuries has been Crib-y-Ddysgl therefore any other names should be discounted.
Crib-y-Ddysgl from Snowdon. The uneven summit is apparent.
Crib-y-Dysgl. The old descriptions clearly referred to it as both a peak and a ridge.
Crib-y-Ddysgl – clearly recognised as a summit in its own right 200 years ago. Dozens of 18th C and 19th C books do not mention its other alleged name, and many accounts of visits to Snowdon do not even speak of ‘G(C)arnedd Ugain’ – substantial evidence that this name does not exist – most definitely not in that form anyway.
Snowdon is clearly described as a five peaked mountain on the Hereford (Mappa Mundi) map of 1208, and by then two of the peaks were clearly known as Wyddfa (spellings vary) and Crib Goch. Crib-y-Ddysgl was recorded as a peak by the Welshman Edward Llwyd (Lhwyd) in the section on Caernarvonshire for Camden’s Britannia of 1698. Llwyd clearly acknowledges the existence of ‘Kriby Diskil’ as a peak. He visited Snowdonia several times and recorded many of the names of the mountains, even those that are now forgotten. This knowledge should not be dishonoured – because Llwyd wanted everything that was Welsh to have their place in the world and not be consumed by other cultures.
Camden’s Britannia 1698 – it confirms Crib-y-Ddysgl as a peak.
Note: There are over 37 different names for Snowdon/Y Wyddfa. Each of these names has a background and a certain amount of relativisim with each other. Although we call the foremost peak Snowdon/Y Wyddfa today, it can be seen how the name has grown and developed through the centuries. There are a possible few second names for Crib-y-Ddysgl, but the important factor is they do indeed follow the relevancy that describes and establishes it by that particular name. This is one such method by which genuine mountain names can be established, and verified.
Updated January 2012.
© Copyright Gwychder y Wyddfa Dec 2011