Why Snowdon? – Part 1

Why Snowdon? – Part 1

With a height of over one thousand metres above sea level, the huge rock formation known as Snowdon is the largest mountain in Wales and in fact the British Isles. Formed by volcanic ruptures in the Paleozoic era around 485 million years ago, this gargantuan mountain sits proudly atop a beautiful landscape of green hills and wet lakes. The superb vistas, and open air in the Snowdonia region make for a popular tourist attraction. It is so well loved in fact that Snowden today is the busiest mountain in the United Kingdom, visited annually by over half a million eager climbers.

But what brings so many busy people to the quiet mountaintops of Wales?

Many of these come to complete the three peaks challenge, a feat of walking where the three highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales are all reached within the tight schedule of just 24 hours. Often starting at the most northward location, Scotland’s Ben Nevis and moving to Scafell Pike, Snowden is a popular final destination for the weary and brave walkers. Totaling a mean three thousand metres the challenge is not for the faint hearted but does provide those willing
with stunning views and no doubt a lifetime of bragging rights.

But obviously not everyone who visits Snowden is up for a lengthy workout, luckily for those who prefer a more relaxed ascent to the mountaintop there is the Snowdon Mountain Railway. Traveling a brief yet steep 4 miles from the sleepy village of Llanberis to the summit itself, the SMR uses its rack and pinion track to tackle the change in height that most conventional trains don’t have to worry about. These toothed wheels and tracks work like cogs in securing the vehicle to the track without the worry of a runaway train – which unfortunately did occur on opening day way back in 1896. Thanks to the addition of gripper rails that provide further safety, this error of the past has not dissuaded the thousands of riders that use the train today, who will no doubt feel secure in the reassuringly modern looking electric/diesel coaches that replace the old steam ones.

However, for those who shun the contemporary conveniences and modern updates, there is great history atop the mountain too. One of the most intriguing being the legend of Rhitta Gawr, a giant who apparently claimed Snowdon as his kingdom. Known infamously for defeating the warring kings of the time and creating his own unique trophy – a cape made from their beards. This odd piece of folkloric fashion makes for strange imagery either way, a cape made of bloodied chins or a giant sewing a hairy patchwork. Regardless, the giant of Snowden wanted a bigger cape and thus sent a message to no other than King Arthur when he was in the region. Decling to be part of this beasts’ bizarre attire, Arthur slayed the great beast with his sword and he was buried on the mountain. This it is believed is where the Welsh name for Snowdon – Yr Wyddfa – comes from, it means tumulus which is also known as a burial mound.