Back in the mid-2000s, visitor numbers to Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) were in the region of 150,000 annually. By the end of the decade they had leapt to something in excess of 350,000, and by 2017 had exceeeded half a million. The figure is now well above that, and if we also add train passengers, the current figure is well over 750,000.
(As an aside, figures prior to about 2015 were estimates; today counters on all the main paths give an accurate figure.)
The huge leap in Yr Wyddfa‘s popularity in the past decade and more is due in no small part to the rise of social media. Every year millions of photos are taken on Yr Wyddfa, and tens of thousands of them end up on social media websites, fuelling a desire to come and visit.
Most people, of course, take more pictures when the weather is good, and anyway usually select their best pictures for posting. This means that the pictures of Yr Wyddfa that people see do not give an accurate representation of everyday conditions on the mountain. Most pictures show good weather, and people see, for instance, stunning sunrise photos or pictures of cloud inversions, giving the impression that these kind of conditions are there for the taking every day, when in reality they are far from that.
The queues which build up at the summit are also a newer phenomenon. With so many people wanting to take mulitple photos of themselves and their friends by the summit pillar – many of which end up on social media – the whole process of acending the summit steps and touching the top has reached a new dimension. Nowadays, on a sunny summer weekend, queues in excess of 30 minutes are commonplace; 15 years ago this just didn’t happen.
(There is, by the way, a good 4G signal from the summit, where it picks up the Llanberis transmitter. On Kilimanjaro summit they’ve recently put in Wi-Fi so that people can post pictures!)
The summit pillar and toposcope – star of a million photos
Social media has also popularised some of Yr Wyddfa‘s quieter routes; a decade ago few knew of Allt Maenderyn (the South Ridge), and even Crib Goch has a greater proportion of people on it now than ever before.
Lower down on the mountain, locations such as the waterfalls and pools on the Watkin Path were once known to relatively few. No longer.
But is it a bad thing that more people than ever want to enjoy Yr Wyddfa – and Eryri (Snowdonia) generally? Probably not; we should be pleased that so many want to enjoy the outdoor world that we have long loved. As long ago as the 1970s, the Manasseh Report recognised the value of Yr Wyddfa‘s honeypot status:
“Snowdon is now seen and accepted as performing a useful function by drawing tourists to a single spot where they can be catered for, and away from others where it is felt that loneliness should prevail. … [It] is accepted as a useful ‘honey pot’, drawing pressures off other parts of Snowdonia but, as such, it is recognised to be seriously needing a positive management policy to keep pace with erosion by tourists.”
Again on the positive side, social media allows the National Park Authority to publicise the messages that it wants to get through, such as the need for planning before heading to Yr Wyddfa, the availabilty of the Sherpa buses, and the request to ‘leave no trace‘. Similarly, organisations like the Snowdonia Society and Caru Eryri frequently post about the good work they are doing on the mountain with regards to litter picking and path maintenance.
Only recently we met a group of litter pickers on Yr Wyddfa. This group of individuals had met for the first time on Instagram and had decided to not just do a walk, but to collect littler as they went.
And if you aren’t a fan of the popularity that social media brings to Yr Wyddfa, come when it’s quiet, and you’ll largely have the place to yourself. (See our page on avoiding the queues if you want to find quieter times.)