A website for overseas tourists who are coming to Britain gives the following advice:
“The British are known for their organising skills. They beautifully manage crowds by forming an orderly queue in any crowded location. Queuing and making organised lines comes naturally to all British people. They perfect at avoiding chaos. Forming a queue is the unspoken way of preventing a nasty situation blowing up in a crowd. Needless to say, it is a very good habit to have.”
Another states: “Brits are known for their love of queuing and they take it very seriously. There is really no excuse for jumping to the front of the queue. Even if you are in a hurry you should not try to cut in front of others as this is seen as incredibly rude.”
The summit of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) is a prime example of this. On most fine summer days there will be some sort of queue to go up the final steps to the summit pillar. At busy times, especially at weekends, the queue can be over 50m long and walkers can queue for up to 45 minutes before getting their chance to take their selfies by the pillar.
And people queue in all weathers, sometimes getting very cold in the process, or very wet (though the queue tends to be much shorter when visibility and conditions at the summit are poorer).
The tradition is that people go up to the pillar using the south steps, then return using the north steps, and it’s fairly rare to see the queue going the other way, though once it has started that way it will likely perpetuate through the day. (It must be said that the traditional direction works better in terms of utilising the flatter ground and allowing others to negotiate the queue.)
For the most part, people wait very stoically and in a very patient, British fashion. Anyone attempting to jump the queue and go up the ‘wrong’ way is likely to be shouted at in no uncertain terms by those waiting patiently in the queue, and it’s almost come to fisticuffs on occasion. (The exception seems to be Three Peak walkers/runners who simply want to quickly touch the top and are not interested in photographs.)
I once witnessed this Britishness at its best when a Stormtrooper appeared at the summit, having walked up the Llanberis Path dressed as such, helped by an aide (apparently Stormtroopers can’t see their feet too well). There was a very long queue at the summit that day, but the Stormtrooper and his aide walked straight to the foot of the steps, pushing in front of some hundred people who were queuing patiently. Nobody said a word, not even those right at the steps. Perhaps challenging an armed Stormtrooper is too great a risk. (Fair play, he did then take his turn waiting on the steps.)
It’s best not to mess with a Stormtrooper.
And is there evidence on the mountain of other British habits, such as talking about the weather, being stoic and keeping a stiff upper lip, apologising, and drinking tea? Oh yes, it’s alive and well everywhere, and long may it continue.
(See also our page on ‘Will Snowdon be busy?’)