SNOWDON (Welsh : Yr Wyddfa, pronounced ) is the highest mountain in
Wales , at an elevation of 1,085 metres (3,560 ft) above sea level ,
and the highest point in the
British Isles outside the Scottish
Highlands . It is located in
Snowdonia National Park (Parc
Cenedlaethol Eryri) in
Gwynedd . It is the busiest mountain in the
United Kingdom and the third most visited attraction in Wales, with
582,000 people visiting annually. It is designated as a national
nature reserve for its rare flora and fauna.
The rocks that form
Snowdon were produced by volcanoes in the
Ordovician period, and the massif has been extensively sculpted by
glaciation , forming the pyramidal peak of
Snowdon and the arêtes of
Crib Goch and
Y Lliwedd . The cliff faces on Snowdon, including
Clogwyn Du\'r Arddu , are significant for rock climbing , and the
mountain was used by
Edmund Hillary in training for the 1953 ascent of
Mount Everest .
The summit can be reached by a number of well-known paths, and by the
Snowdon Mountain Railway , a rack railway opened in 1896 which carries
passengers the 4.7 miles (7.6 km) from
Llanberis to the summit station
. The summit also houses a cafe called Hafod Eryri, open only when the
railway is operating; it opened in 2009 to replace one built in the
1930s. The railway generally operates to the summit station from
Whitsun to October. The daily running schedule depends on weather and
Snowdon is from the
Old English for "snow hill", while the
Welsh name – Yr Wyddfa – means "the tumulus " or "the barrow",
which may refer to the cairn thrown over the legendary giant Rhitta
Gawr after his defeat by
King Arthur . As well as other figures from
Arthurian legend, the mountain is linked to a legendary afanc (water
monster) and the
Tylwyth Teg (fairies).
* 1 Height
* 2 Environment
* 2.1 Flora
* 2.2 Geology
* 2.3 Climate
* 2.4 Lakes
* 4 Ascents
Snowdon Ranger Path
Rhyd Ddu Path
* 4.4 Watkin Path
* 4.5 Over
* 4.6 Miners\' Track
* 4.7 Pyg Track
Crib Goch route
Snowdon Mountain Railway
* 6 View from the summit
* 8 Folklore
* 9 See also
* 10 References
* 10.1 Bibliography
* 11 External links
A 1682 survey estimated that the summit of
Snowdon was at a height of
3,720 feet (1,130 m); in 1773,
Thomas Pennant quoted a later estimate
of 3,568 ft (1,088 m) above sea level at
Caernarfon . Recent surveys
give the height of the summit as 1,085 m (3,560 ft), making Snowdon
the highest mountain in Wales, and the highest point in the British
Snowdon is one of three mountains climbed as
part of the
National Three Peaks Challenge
National Three Peaks Challenge .
Gagea serotina , the "
Snowdon lily", grows on the cliffs of
The unique 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. The most famous of these is
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 R. A. Salisbury .
Snowdon lies in the northern part of
Snowdonia National Park , which has also provided some legal
protection since the park's establishment in 1951.
The "knife-edge" arête of
Crib Goch (foreground) and the
pyramidal peak of
Snowdon (background) are both the result of
The rocks which today make up
Snowdon and its neighbouring mountains
were formed in the
Ordovician Period. At that time, most of modern-day
Wales was near the edge of
Avalonia , submerged beneath the ancient
Iapetus Ocean . In the Soudleyan stage (458 to 457 million years ago
) of the Caradoc age , a volcanic caldera formed, and produced ash
flows of rhyolitic tuff , which formed deposits up to 500 metres
(1,600 ft) thick. The current summit is near the northern edge of the
ancient caldera; the caldera's full extent is unclear, but it extended
as far as the summit of
Moel Hebog in the south-west.
Snowdon and its surrounding peaks have been described as "true
examples of Alpine topography ". The summits of
Snowdon and Garnedd
Ugain are surrounded by cwms , rounded valleys scooped out by
glaciation . Erosion by glaciers in adjacent cwms caused the
characteristic arêtes of
Crib Goch ,
Crib y Ddysgl and
Y Lliwedd ,
and the pyramidal peak of
Snowdon itself. Other glacial landforms
that can be seen around
Snowdon include roches moutonnées , glacial
erratics and moraines .
The English name "Snowdon" comes from the
Old English snaw dun,
meaning "snow hill", as
Snowdon often has a covering of snow.
Although the amount of snow on
Snowdon in winter varies significantly,
55% less snow fell in 2004 than in 1994. The slopes of
one of the wettest climates in Great Britain, receiving an annual
average of more than 200 inches (5,100 mm) of precipitation .
Llyn Llydaw , the largest and deepest lake on Snowdon's flanks,
is crossed by a causeway at its eastern end.
A number of lakes are found in the various cwms of the
Llyn Llydaw – 1,430 feet (440 m) high, 110 acres (45 ha) –
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
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
* 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
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
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
Clogwyn Du\'r Arddu is a significant site for rock climbing .
Snowdon Massif includes a number of spectacular cliffs, and holds
an important place in the history of rock climbing in the United
Kingdom. Clogwyn Du\'r Arddu is often colloquially known as 'Cloggy'
among climbers, and was the site of the first recorded climb in
Britain, in 1798. It was carried out by
Peter Bailey Williams and
William Bingley , while searching for rare plants. It is now
considered to be one of the best cliffs in Britain for rock climbing.
Y Lliwedd was also explored by early climbers, and was the subject of
a 1909 climbing guide, The Climbs on Lliwedd by J. M. A. Thompson and
A. W. Andrews, one of the first in Britain.
Snowdon was used by
Edmund Hillary and his group during preparations for their successful
1953 expedition to climb
Mount Everest .
Sketch map of the
· grey: ridges
· red lines: paths
· orange lines: roads
· dotted grey line:
Snowdon Mountain Railway
The first recorded ascent of
Snowdon was by the botanist Thomas
Johnson in 1639. However, the 18th-century Welsh historian Thomas
Pennant mentions a "triumphal fair upon this our chief of mountains"
following Edward I 's conquest of
Wales in 1284, which could indicate
the possibility of earlier ascents.
Snowdon offers some of the most extensive views in the British Isles.
On exceptionally clear days,
England , and the
Isle of Man
Isle of Man are all visible, as well as 24 counties, 29 lakes and 17
islands. The view between
Snowdon and Merrick (southern Scotland) is
the longest theoretical line of sight in the
British Isles at 144
miles (232 km).
Snowdon has been described as "probably the busiest mountain in
Britain", with approximately 444,000 people having walked up the
mountain in 2016. A number of well-established and engineered
footpaths lead to Snowdon's summit from all sides, and can be
combined in various ways. The circular walk starting and ending at
Pen-y-Pass and using the
Crib Goch route and the route over Y Lliwedd
is called the
Snowdon Horseshoe, and is considered "one of the finest
ridge walks in Britain". The routes are arranged here anticlockwise,
starting with the path leading from Llanberis. In winter conditions,
all these routes become significantly more dangerous and the Llanberis
Mountain Rescue Team state that "additional skills, equipment and
knowledge are required". Many inexperienced walkers have been killed
over the years attempting to climb the mountain via the main paths.
These six main paths were mapped by the Google Trekker in 2015.
Llanberis Path is the longest route to the summit, and has the
shallowest gradient. It largely follows the line of the Snowdon
Mountain Railway , and is considered the easiest and least interesting
route to the summit of Snowdon. It is the route used by the annual
Snowdon Race , with 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
Snowdon Ranger Path (foreground) crosses a boggy area before
ascending past Llyn Ffynnon-y-gwas.
Snowdon Ranger Path (Welsh : Llwybr Cwellyn) begins at the youth
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 "probably the oldest path to the
The route begins with zigzags through "lush green 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
Clogwyn Du'r Arddu towards the summit. This path meets the
Llanberis Path, the
Crib Goch path, and the combined Pyg
Track and Miners' Track all within a short distance, just below the
RHYD DDU PATH
Rhyd Ddu path, also called the Beddgelert Path, leads from the
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 .
Plas Cwmllan (right) and Gladstone Rock (left) in Cwm Llan,
looking along the Watkin Path
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. 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
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
William Ewart Gladstone
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
Y Lliwedd , which is
marked by a large orange-brown cairn . From here, it heads west to
Rhyd Ddu Path at a standing stone shortly below the summit of
Carry On... Up the Khyber were filmed on the lower part
of the Watkin Path in 1968, with the Watkin Path representing the
Khyber Pass in the film. In 2005 one of the stars of the film, Angela
Douglas , unveiled a plaque at the precise location where filming took
place, to commemorate the location filming, and it forms part of the
Wales Film and Television Trail, run by the
OVER Y LLIWEDD
Y Lliwedd (seen here in early spring) is a sharp ridge
south-east of the summit of Snowdon.
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 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.
The Pyg Track (above) and Miners Track (below) merge above
Crib Goch is visible at the top of the picture.
The Miners' Track (Welsh : Llwybr y Mwynwyr) begins at the car park
Pen-y-Pass , at an altitude of around 350 metres (1,150 ft), and is
the most popular route to the summit of Snowdon. It begins by
skirting Llyn Teyrn before climbing slightly to cross the causeway
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.
This standing stone marks the point where the Pyg Track starts
The "Pyg Track" (Welsh : Llwybr 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. Regarding its name, the website of the Snowdonia
National Park Authority states:
Nobody knows for certain why this path is called the Pyg Track. It's
possible that it was named after the pass it leads through, Bwlch y
Moch (translated Pigs' Pass) as the path is sometimes spelled 'Pig
Track'. Or, maybe because it was used to carry 'pyg' (black tar) to
the copper mines on Snowdon. Another possible explanation is that the
path was named after the nearby Pen y Gwryd Hotel, popular amongst the
early mountain walkers. —
CRIB GOCH ROUTE
The traverse of
Crib Goch is "one of the finest ridge walks in
Britain", and forms part of the well-known
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 . All routes which tackle
Crib Goch are
considered mountaineering routes or scrambles .
SNOWDON MOUNTAIN RAILWAY
A train approaching the summit station Main article: Snowdon
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. 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 £6,658,000 as of 2015).
VIEW FROM THE SUMMIT
Snowdon offers some of the most extensive views in the British Isles;
on exceptionally clear days,
Ireland , (the Republic of
England , and the
Isle of Man
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
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
and indeed there are no reported sightings. 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
Hafod Eryri, built in 2009
Snowdon Mountain Railway, Llanberis, Caernarfon, Gwynedd, LL55
53°04′08″N 4°04′32″W / 53.068865°N 4.075588°W
/ 53.068865; -4.075588
1,085 m (3,560 ft)
12 June 2009
DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION
Ray Hole Architects
AWARDS AND PRIZES
RIBA Welsh Architecture Award 2010
Hafod Eryri Visitor Centre
The first building on the summit of
Snowdon was erected 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 café . 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 café 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, 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
café 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
Carillion , was officially opened on 12 June 2009 by First
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
In Arthurian legend,
Excalibur into a lake
identified by some as
Glaslyn on the slopes of Snowdon.
Welsh folklore , the summit of
Snowdon is said to be the tomb of
Rhitta Gawr , a giant . This is claimed to be the reason for the
Welsh name Yr Wyddfa, literally meaning "the tumulus ". Rhitta Gawr
wore a cloak made of men's beards, and was slain by
King Arthur after
claiming Arthur's beard. Other sites with Arthurian connections
include Bwlch y Saethau, on the ridge between
Snowdon and Y Lliwedd,
where Arthur himself is said to have died. A cairn, Carnedd Arthur,
was erected at the site and was still standing as late as 1850, but
no longer exists. According to the folklore, Arthur had Bedivere
throw his sword
Glaslyn , where Arthur's body was later
placed in a boat to be carried away to
Afallon . Arthur's men then
retreated to a cave on the slopes of Y Lliwedd, where they are said to
sleep until such time as they are needed.
Merlin is supposed to have
hidden the golden throne of Britain among the cliffs north of Crib y
Ddysgl when the Saxons invaded.
Glaslyn was also the final resting place of a water monster, known as
an afanc (also the Welsh word for beaver ), which had plagued the
people of the
Conwy valley . They tempted the monster out of the water
with a young girl, before securing it with chains and dragging it to
Glaslyn. A large stone known as Maen Du'r Arddu, below Clogwyn Du'r
Arddu, is supposed to have magical powers . Like several other sites
in Wales, it is said that if two people spend the night there, one
will become a great poet while the other will become insane. Llyn
Coch in Cwm Clogwyn has been associated with the Tylwyth Teg
(fairies), including a version of the fairy bride legend.
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to SNOWDON .
* "Snowdon". Encyclopædia Britannica . 25