The ugly truth re Snowdon’s 2nd peak

The truth behind the malignant name “Garnedd Ugain.”

There are two main summits on Snowdon – Y Wyddfa – Wales highest peak at 3560ft, whilst the other is Crib-y-Ddysl – 3493ft above sea level – just 67 feet lower than Wyddfa’s. From many locations Crib-y-Ddysgl however looks to be the higher summit, but this is illusion.

This illusion caused some people in the late 18th Century to give Crib-y-Ddysgl the nickname of ‘carneddigyn.’ This basically means the cairn almost as high as Wyddfa (having just the tiniest amount of difference.) Since that nickname has surfaced, people have sought to replace Crib-y-Ddysgl which has been the name for many hundreds of years – with ‘Carnedd Igyn’ (or one of it’s many confusing spellings) and what is now known as “Garnedd Ugain.”

Description of Carnedd Ugan in 1907 and the claim that Crib-y-Ddysgl is only a ridge.

Distorting the facts

‘Carneddigyn’ – either read or heard – becomes ‘Carnedd Igyn.’ But it is not because in that sense the meaning has then altered beyond what it was meant to be,

Over time the idea that ‘Igyn’ was somehow wrong has led to the use of ‘Ugan’ and eventually “Ugain.” This has led many authorities including the Snowdonia National Park Authority and others to accept that “Garnedd Ugain, is the real name for Snowdon’s second summit.

It’s a name they have put on their maps and information boards as the only name for that summit – and this is reinforced by the many writers in their clearly authoritative publications on the mountains of Snowdonia.

2011- Snowdonia National Park Authority info boards say “Carnedd Ugain” – no Crib-y-Ddysgl!

1979 – SNPA Snowdon path leaflets describe the peak as Crib-y-Ddysgl. No mention of “GU!”

One of the SNPA’s older public information route maps (Llanberis path) shows (as do the other four similar maps of the time) Crib y Ddysgl.

One must ask why the SNPA has decided on a sudden shift to “Garnedd Ugain” – especially when history shows Crib y Ddysgl is the correct one.

The above examples from SNPA material shows a clear paradigm shift from a recognised name of more than 400 years standing to one of perhaps less than just hundred years. In its early days the SNPA made no mention of ‘Garnedd Ugain’ – indeed the authorative 1949 book of the forthcoming Snowdonia National Park examines every aspect of Snowdonia in depth and doesnt once mention ‘Garnedd Ugain!’ Yet we now find the SNPA clearly pandering to the allusions that there is a peak by that name.

It is clear there is an attempt to distort the facts regarding Crib-y-Ddysgl. Recently it was pointed out that the Wikipedia pages now stakes a claim that “Garnedd Ugain” is ‘sometimes incorrectly referred to as Crib-y-Ddysgl.’

Snowdon Wales’ web archives has a screen-cap of the Wiki entries made in 2010 and 2011. The difference here is very clear. It is very very hard to see how “Garnedd Ugain” is sometimes incorrectly referred to as Crib-y-Ddysgl. The entries below speak for themselves.

The Wikipedia entry from mid-2010 telling us “GU” is also known as Crib-y-Ddysgl.

Wikipedia ( December 2011) tells us “GU” is sometimes incorrectly referred to as Crib-y-Ddysgl!

Even those who are experienced Welsh mountaineers had this to say:

This message was posted on Twitter 13th March 2014.

Early 20th Century attempts to submerge the crib

Throughout the early part of the 20th Century (1900 to 1930) people used “Carnedd/Garnedd Ugan” or “Carnedd/Garnedd Ugain.” NOT one of these authors questioned the name. The Mountains of Snowdonia (by Carr and Lister, 1925) mentions the name just a couple of times, but use Crib-y-Ddysgl many more times. Perhaps some doubt that the other name was correct. This is also a trend found in several other books. On the other hand the BIG BOOK (Snowdonia – The National Park of North Wales 1949) does not mention “Garnedd Ugain” once. Noted mountaineers such as W.A.Poucher flitted between using both names (Crib-y-Ddysgl and “Garnedd Ugain”) but never explaining the origin of one, or the other. Some Welsh writers of the period tried to claim that “Garnedd Ugain” came from Gwgon a 13th C Welsh poet, but not one has bothered to illustrate the evidence for this.

This is the BIG problem with “Garnedd Ugain.” The evidence is tenacious, at best bordering on the sublime. With Crib-y-Ddysgl there is plenty of concrete fact and literature confirming its existence, and that it has been the name for perhaps at least five centuries.

During the 1950’s and 1960’s local Welsh writers at least stuck to ‘Carnedd Igyn,’ despite most of the popular writers (in English of course) sticking to “Carnedd/Garnedd Ugain/Ungain.” It shows that one line of thought was at least more towards the ‘carneddigyn’ whilst the other slanted more towards the anglicised version which is now the choice of popular opinion.

The background to the controversy

Igyn was thought to be a fairly recent term meaning a very small amount, as explained in the authorative Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (1987 – p2016). It states the earliest use for ‘igyn’ is 1908 – but the word has been used in that context for far longer and this is indeed stated on pages 247 and 3750 where earlier contexts of ‘igyn’ have been found. An English and Welsh dictionary (1828) gives other examples of ‘igyn.’

Igyn is used as part of a word and this has been the case for centuries. Hence one does not have ‘Carnedd Igyn’ but instead ‘carneddigyn.’

19th Century writers of Snowdonia added to the confusion for it seems ‘carneddigyn’ somehow had to be a separate peak. Completely different heights are therefore given for both Crib-y-Ddysgl and ‘carneddigyn.’ An example is shown below, where “Carnedd Igyn” was often said to be a mountain in Caernarvonshire – one whose location was not known.

Crib-y-Ddysgl (Distyll) & Carnedd Iggin are separate peaks! From Bedd Gelert its facts, fairies, & folk-lore (1899)

The very early writers of Snowdonia, such as Edward Llwyd, do not mention any other names for Crib-y-Ddysgl and the slightly later writers, such as Thomas Pennant, William Bingley, and others, clearly asserted that Crib-y-Ddysgl was a peak. The same goes for the hundreds of notes made by botanists of the same period who have explored Snowdonia. Clearly ‘carneddigyn’ did not enter writers’ lexicon until the end of the 18th Century.

The first person to mention ‘carneddigyn’ appears to have been Lewis Morris. He simply mentioned “Carnedd Higin in Caernarvonshire.” Its typical of these reports of ‘carneddigyn.’ Its location is never mentioned. Later its height is at least given and then it is suggested that its not ‘Higin’ but ‘Igyn.’

The Royal Engineers/Ordnance Survey screw-up

The precessdors to the OS, the Corps of Royal Engineers, appear to have screwed up many facts pertaining to Wales in their all-important surveys that established the OS. Robert Dawson snr clearly knew Snowdon’s second peak was Crib-y-Ddysgl then heard about ‘carneddigyn’ and attemtped to change the data. A change of mind then occurred and he used both names. Next he decided to erase both of these on his 1816 map and just leave the height. The alterrations are clearly seen if one examines the 1816 OS maps. Dawson had no doubt been confused and in the end gave neither name prominence.

His son, Robert K Dawson, gave the name ‘Carnedd Igin’ on the Llanberis tithe maps of the 1830’s. It appears he was making the name official.

Robert Dawson snr drew up some of the earliest official maps of North Wales. In 1815 Dawson snr drew a prospect of the Eryri mountains from the south, labelling the one next to Y Wyddfa correctly as Crib-y-Ddysgl. Yet Dawson snr and Dawson jnr are ultimately the judges of what the second highest summit in Snowdonia is going to be called, and they do not make a very good job of it.

As for accuracy, there was one problem with these early Ordnance Survey maps. They were “a cross between a blunder and a job.” (cited in The geodesy of Britain or, The ordnance survey of England, Scotland and Wales 1859 pp16.) In her recent book (Map of a Nation – A Biography Of The Ordnance Survey) Rachel Hewitt writes of the major errors the OS men had in understanding Welsh. “English mapmakers did not have an encouraging history of representing Welsh topnymy.” She informs us that Lewis Morris was of the view that Welsh place names had been “murdered by English map-makers.”

We now do know that both Dawsons snr and jnr sent copies of their maps to the local clergymen for scrutiny. Alas the local clergy couldnt spell Welsh names either, take the case of Reverend Peter Bailey Williams and his ‘Carnedd Higgon,’ which was mentioned in The Tourist’s Guide to the County of Carnarvon (1821.) Williams was sometimes prone to mistakes as he himself admitted. Another thing, Williams plagarised most information from other sources so the 1821 guide to the area was not based on any original research.

As the OS continued to rely on unreliable Welsh sources, more and more maps emerged clearly full of blunders. The OS then began to make further attempts to ensure that any Welsh place names were correct. As it was clear that neither bishops nor reverends were giving the right information, they turned to consulting old books instead. One such source was Camden’s Britannia which the Ordnance Survey claimed helped them to define correctly the place names in Snowdonia.

Camden’s Britannia is a large tome covering the history and gazeteer of the British Isles. it was published in 1698. To avoid possible errors in the section on Wales, Edward Llwyd – one of the country’s most noted authorities on Wales, a botanist and an expert in place names especially with regards to the mountains of Snowdonia – was employed to write most of the section on Wales. It is therefore that we must regard the section on Wales having a high regard towards accuracy, and this the Ordnance Survey said they would respect.

Whilst it might have been exemplary of the OS to turn to old sources such as the Britannia, it is very clear the OS blundered once again. Had the OS bothered to consult Camden properly – yes, that is properly – they would have found Snowdon’s second peak had been known as Crib-y-Ddysl for hundreds of years. And this was verified several times over by Edward Llwyd.

No-where in Camden’s Britannia is there any mention of a carneddigyn (or its other alleged names.) It is therefore puzzling when one considers the OS’ claims that Britannia gave them accurate verification of names in Wales. The accurate (and historic) name for Snowdon’s second summit was clearly Crib-y-Ddysgl and it does appear that the OS chose to ignore this. So we find a great ignorance behind Robert K Dawson’s use of “Carnedd Igin” on the OS tithe maps of the 1830’s.

Camden’s Britannia confirms Crib-y-Ddysgl as a peak.

In much the same way that Wales has gained the English version for its capital – Cardiff (the old Welsh was Caerfaff eventually becoming Caerdydd) it has also gained the OS’ English imposed “Garnedd Ugain.”

By the 1890’s the OS was using both Crib-y-Ddysgl and “Carnedd Ugain” on its maps. Yet Crib-y-Ddysgl was used soley on some maps and “Garnedd Ugain” on others! And their maps showed throughout most of the 20th Century two different heights for the peak! An official height and an unofficial one a few metres away clearly higher!

“Garnedd Ugain” at 1065m – and Crib-y-Ddysgl at 1066m! This bunch of incompetent map-makers have at least had the temerity to tell us that Crib-y-Ddysgl is higher than “Garnedd Ugain” and in essence therefore, the more important summit of the two!

Like so many others, they had misunderstood ‘carneddigyn’ – they did not realise it was a descriptive name, not an actual name for the peak, and any verification was erroneously made by either the Bishop of Bangor or Rev. Peter Bailey Williams, and ‘backed-up’ by a complete, and thorough, non-consultation of Camden’s Britannia!

Is it the right peak?

There is some suggestion ‘carneddigyn’ could be the wrong peak. Why is this? The earliest reports mentioning ‘carneddigyn’ just say that it is a mountain in Caernarvonshire. Its location is never specified. Gutyn Peris, a Welsh bard (whom we will discuss more of later) appears to have been the very first to place ‘carneddigyn’ as being within the Snowdon range, and it is clear that Gutyn Peris uses the name as being descriptive of the peak and how small the difference was between it and Y Wyddfa.

Lewis Morris Celtic Remains 1750’s

Lewis Morris is without a doubt the first to mention it in writing. Like many of the other reports of ‘carneddigyn’ made later, these reports tell us that ‘carneddigyn’ is a descriptive label made by people on the Isle of Anglesey. The reason for this was that it often seemed higher than Y Wyddfa, in fact it was just a few feet lower in elevation.

‘Carneddigyn’ was not a name revered, say around Llanberis, Beddgelert, Capel or Rhyd Ddu – it wasn’t one of their names for the peaks of Snowdon. In fact most people had no idea where ‘carneddigyn’ (or ‘Carnedd Igyn’) was. Let’s look at Lewis Morris’ entries which were first made in the 1750’s. First of all we find that he can roughly place both Carnedds Elidir and Llewelyn, but not ‘Carnedd Igyn’ (as Carnedd Higin):

As a side note, researchers wondering where the references to Carnedd Elidir first originated – well now they know! Having spoken of the mountains of Elidir, Higin and Llewellyn, Lewis Morris then discusses Crib-y-Ddysgl – and this is the very important bit – he refers it to as a peak and validates this fact by way of Edward Llwyd:

It is very strange. If both Carnedd Higin and Crib-y-Ddysgl are the same peak why is this not mentioned? Why is it that it is only many decades later that anyone purports to claim that Carnedd Higin/Igyn is Crib-y-Ddysgl? Perhaps there was an eighteenth century version of Stars in Their Eyes? We introduce Crib-y-Ddysgl as – ‘Carnedd Igyn!’

Let us not forget also the entry from Beddgelert that we saw earlier, telling us that both Crib-y-Ddysgl and ‘Carnedd Iggin’ are completely separate peaks.

What of the name itself?

It is clear ‘carneddigyn’ was not understood in the way it was meant. It was purely a descriptive label for Crib-y-Ddysgl because of the ways this peak sometimes seemed slightly higher than Y Wyddfa, and yet was smaller – just by a tiny amount.

The mistake was to write it, and understand it, as ‘Carnedd Igyn.’ Variously people have written/translated it as Higgon, Iggan, Rigan and more. Eventually the joker in the pack, “Carnedd Ugain” was produced. Its alleged translation – as the cairn/hill of twenty is no less than a comedy of errors.

1920’s Snowdon Guide pic with both Carnedd Ugain/Crib-y-Ddysgl as the summit.

One of the early conclusions on this website was that the mountain guides themselves may have inadvertently encouraged the shift towards “Ugain.” They may have heard the connotations being propounded by the learned gents who wrote of the mountain names, and decided that it was more likely to be Ugan or Ugain.

Why Ugain? Well as we know, it was close to, but not quite, the height of Wyddfa. One way of seeing this was probably as in the old Welsh igian (eg igyn.) Igian means amongst several things, a red-herring and this fitted perfectly with the Snowdon guides. Often tourists using the Llanberis track thought they had neared the top of Snowdon, only for the true summit to be a mile or so further. In other words the secondary summit was that red herring. As previously examined, Igyn/igian thus deforms, eventually becoming “Ugan” and “Ugain.”

Was ‘Igyn’ a person?

Some sources have suggested Igyn was a person who placed a cairn of stones upon the peak. Yet not one source can say when Igyn lived. There is no trace of an Igyn lineage in Welsh records for Snowdonia. The only ‘Igyns’ to have existed were a minor family in Denbighshire. Rather reassuringly, in terms if ‘Igyn’ however is that some writers insist that name (e.g. Igin or Igyn) is more plausible than the bizarre “Garnedd Ugain.” One of these such references can be found in Enwau Eryri (1998.)

The other thing about ‘Igyn’ was that his peak rose to a height of 2975 feet. This is mentioned in all the references to the unknown ‘Igyn.’ Clearly people had been copying other sources and citing it as a remark of fact. This cited height is way-off because Crib-y-Ddysl is much higher than 2975 feet! People could not say who Igyn was, and which mountain was his – except that it had a height of 2975 feet. Not much of a fact to go on!

The Climber’s Club fails to solve the mystery

The Climbers Club sought to settle confusion on “Garnedd Ugain.” They revealed it was also known as Carnedd Ddigin (or if one prefers, Carneddigyn!!) The club failed to find any valid reasons why it was known as “Garnedd Ugain” or even ‘Carnedd Ddigin’ except that it was something the farmer at Beudy Mawr had told them. It is possible this was derived from old tithe maps and not from tradition.

Correspondence with a local who lived in the Pass of Llanberis in the 1960’s at the next farm to Beudy Mawr. This person, also a noted mountaineer, has written in depth on the mountain climbers of Snowdonia. He reveals that “Garnedd Ugain” or its alleged deriatives were neither spoken or heard of back in the 1960’s.

The absolute crux of all this is – there is just no oral evidence for “Garnedd Ugain” or it’s many deriatives.

The Climber’s Club investigations on “Garnedd Ugain” 1965

The Climber’s Club mention Crib-y-Ddysgl in depth a few pages later, but did not link this to its other alleged name (or vice versa in their analysis of “Carnedd Ugain.”)

What do other locals think? Well, unfortunately the Llanberis Information Office closed in September 2011 due to cuts, but the Welsh speaking staff there held strong opinions upon “Garnedd Ugain.” They would have told you that “Garnedd Ugain” didnt fit within the Snowdon massif and the name had clearly been mutuated from some other location.

Gutyn Peris and the real ‘carneddigyn’

Gutyn Peris – whom we have mentioned before, was a Welsh Bard who lived in Llanberis. He uses ‘carneddigyn’ in a different sense. Peris clearly shows ‘carneddigyn’ is purely a nickname, and not a substitute for Crib-y-Ddysgl. ‘Carneddigyn’ means the summit that is a tiny little bit lower than Snowdon even though it looks higher, as seen from the Capel Curig or Anglesey direction.

Whether the reliance on Gutyn Peris is valid because it is derived from other sources is not known. How much knowlegde Gutyn Peris had on ‘carneddigyn’ and its actual location is therefore not known especially as no-one knew where it was. It must be said that Gutyn Peris’ description of the ‘carneddigyn’ – as seen from Capel Curig – is one of the few confirmations that we have that the name is purely a nick-name, not a real name.

This particular line of reasoning is dutifully followed through in part by maybe just a couple of publications. One of these is A Short Description of the Eryri Hills, as shown below, and an indication that ‘Carnedd Ugan’ is a name of Anglesey’s.

Above and below: Information from A Short Description of the Eryri Hills (1852.) This acknowledges the name as a descriptive factor when viewing the summits from places such as Anglesey.


Interestingly it is shown later that this form of spelling for the peak is English, not Welsh.

We do know from land tithe maps of the mid 1830’s onwards that ‘carneddigyn’ is mentioned as being the name where Crib-y-Ddysgl should be. One thing is that these maps clearly show the name is simply a reference to land owned by Sir Bulkeley Williams, who lived at Baron Hill near Beaumaris in Anglesey. This tells us further that ‘carneddigyn’ was just an Anglesey name, and it appears that the Ordnance Survey’s Robert K Dawson couldnt be arsed to divulge that information especially as he must have used Baron Hill records to determine the names and parcels of the various bits of land upon the slopes of Snowdon.

The Scenery of England & Wales 1869. The local view of Snowdon’s range clearly acknowledges it’s Crib-y-Ddysgl.

It follows that should anyone really want to give Crib-y-Ddysgl an alternative name, its ‘carneddigyn,’ not ‘Carnedd Igyn’ (or ‘Garnedd Ugain’ et al.)

Garnedd Ugain – an imperialist peak

“Garnedd Ugain” is often claimed to denote a Roman Legion (based in Chester) which made incursions into the mountains to wipe out the Welsh peoples.

If this murderous army – the Twentieth Roman Legion – is meant to be remembered for the deaths of Welsh people – as recorded in History of Gwynedd by Dorothy Sylvester, let us then indeed accept the second summit of Snowdon as “Garnedd Ugain” and remember it as the significance of the murdering army who decimated hundreds of Welsh.

The only problem is that it’s just too far-fetched and clearly no such name would have been accepted by the Welsh – yet it’s been taken on board without the fallacy being questioned.

Entry from an old document (c1890) declaring “Ugain” an English invention! The author writes that Iggan is an anglicised name, but he also pushes the reader towards Ugan, another anglicised name! The author clearly missed the whole point however – certainly Iggan (or its other deriatives, Ugan, Ugain) is anglicised, the original ‘igyn’ is not.

Imagine Carnedd Edward after the despotic english king who vanquished the Welsh? Such attempts would be clearly rejected outright. As one website points out, “Ugain” is an ugly name – and if an alternative name for Crib-y-Ddysgl is needed, why cannot it be Garnedd Owain?

Some seriously dedicated Welsh researchers say “Garnedd Ugain” is not the right name. They are spot on! One example is found in Enwau Eryri (1998) whilst Chwedlau a Choelion Godre’r Wyddfa (1998) is another.

It is absolutey clear that any ‘facts’ purloined behind this so called “cairn of twenty” amount to nothing less than pure drivel. This very scandal is examined further in the feature on Crib-y-Ddysgl.

Ungainly confusions?

The spelling for “Garnedd Ugain” and its early form ‘Carnedd Igyn’ is multiple. Even now its still getting spellings that are just not even anywhere near spot-on.

“Carnedd Ungain” From Hill Walking in Snowdonia (1951) by E Rowlands.

Strangely Rowlands tells us that Crib-y-Ddysgl is the second highest Welsh mountain!

“Carnedd Ungain” dropped in favour of Crib-y-Ddysgl. From Hill Walking in Snowdonia (1951)

Three Peaks, Ten Tors (2004 p188) Carnedd Uchaf (miles off target!) but rightly Crib-y-Ddysgl.

A camera in the hills: the life and work of W.A. Poucher (Smith R 2008) Carnedd Ungain.

The Free Online Dictionary has something ungainly about its entry for Snowdon!

Webster’s Online Dictionary – its page on “Garnedd Ugain” says it all!

At least with Crib-y-Ddysgl the spelling is quite constant. Its sometimes spelt as Crib-y-Ddisgl (with older variants – such as Crib-y-Dhescil.) With “Garnedd Ugain” it’s a mug’s game of numerous spellings no doubt encouraged by the Britannic mother tongue.

The correct term should be ‘carneddigyn.’ This describes a nickname for Crib-y-Ddysgl in terms of how it looks from certain perpsectives. It is not related to any alleged exclusively named summit that has absolutely no historical evidence for it.

“Crib-y-Ddysgl is the tallest of the four sons of Snowdon.” (Thomas Pennant.) Never ever in a million years has it’s second summit had any other name – without any proper reason. There are some other names used centuries ago for Crib-y-Ddysgl – yet “Garnedd Ugain” (or any one of its other alleged names) is just not on the list of those early Welsh mountain names.

Throughout this article Y Wyddfa, not Yr Wyddfa, has been used. The former is clearly correct whist the latter is not. It appears it was the OS once again who introduced this change.

© Copyright Gwychder y Wyddfa February 2012

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