Ghosts at the summit

The summit is a special place to many people, primarily because it is, after all, the top of the mountain and the main goal for most who walk up Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon).

And many see with relief the summit cairn, with its steps and pillar, and also Hafod Eryri, the summit building, but that’s pretty much all they see at the summit itself. (Well, actually, not everybody does see the building. On numerous occasions I’ve encountered people who had been to the summit but visibility was so poor that they totally failed to see that there was a building there!)

To me, though, the summit area always carries the many ghosts of the past, with its one-time tall summit cairn and wooden huts (not that I remember them personally, you understand).

Engravings of the summit from the 1850s

Photographs of the summit cairn from the 1880s

These buildings stood for the best part of a century, expanding from the two small, original 1840s wooden huts which provided shelter (including overnight shelter) to extended buildings which played host to many thousands of visitors over the years. The footprint of these original wooden buildings (later collectively called the Snowdon Hotel) is still there to be seen, close to the summit cairn, though little remains of their successor, the concrete and glass building of the 1930s, given that Hafod Eryri was later built on much the same footprint.

(above & below)  The summit buildings in the 1890s and 1900s

There are numerous other features too, if you know where to look, such as:

  • A number of iron rings in the bedrock, used for cables to secure the roofs of the wooden huts, can still be seen dotted around the summit.
  • The large retaining wall on the south side of the summit, built up from the ledge below, forming the foundation of part of the Snowdon Summit Hotel (this is still there despite the recommendation that it be removed).
  • Below it is the old sewer pipe from the Snowdon Summit Hotel, demolished in the 1930s, which can still be seen disappearing off the edge of the mountain, with sections of clay pipe above it.
  • A few yards to the SE of the summit cairn is a 34” tall wooden post, the remains of Sir Edward Watkin’s tall flagstaff, erected in 1892 and seen in some old postcard images.
  • The base for Cobden’s telescope, sited in 1897, can be seen behind the summit pillar, not far from the flagstaff.
  • The diagonal line (NW – SE) of the former path up to the summit cairn can be seen, some of the slabs with concrete attached.
  • Old red house bricks (possibly from Assheton-Smith’s boundary wall, seen in the middle picture above) can be seen scattered around, particularly south-west of the summit building.
  • The old route of the Watkin Path where it once left directly from the summit down the SE ridge can still be seen (today it branches off the Rhyd Ddu Path).

Yes, man has a long history on the summit, and when you know where these physical remains are, you can’t overlook them.

If you’re further interested in Yr Wyddfa‘s past, have a look at our page on ‘A brief history of Snowdon’.

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