It has been silly season for me on Snowdon, the extended daylight and good weather means I have summited four times this week alone. Twice last week and both days at the weekend. As the days progressed the state of the mountain has deteriorated. It is still standing and still fine, but from a lover of the outdoors and nature it seems that there is an annual stampede that has little regard for the mountain.
As I walk down the mountain on Saturday with a group of businessmen from Reading or somewhere similar they ask about the local economy and I jest that if Llanberis wasn’t at the foot of snowdon it would be Bethesda. They asked where is bethesda, i said exactly!
I don’t mean to insult anyone from bethesda, but a drive along the A5 reveals an old quarry village clinging onto an economy, there are few cafes, even fewer B&Bs and more than one or two closed down shops. Llanberis on the other hand flourishes through its position at the foot of Snowdon, a sacrificial cow held up to people as the highest point in England and Wales.
As I headed down from the summit that last saturday there was barely enough room to walk there were so many people filing along the final ridge from the finger stone where the PYG, Miners, Llanberis and Snowdon Ranger Paths converge into what was the walking equivalent to a friday afternoon/evening on the M5/6 around Birmingham.
Among those caught in the congestion are a whole bunch of people who would normally have no place on a mountain. They have come to raise money for charity, they have seen Chris Moyles and Cherly Cole climb Kilimajairo and Snowdon and want some of that action. They are potentially a problem on many levels. First off they have a kind of zealous approach to the mountain that means they are getting to the summit come hell or high water. As if charity is a cloak of invulnerability.
More than one walker I past struggling their way to the top suggested they would get the train down. To which I point out that the trains are full and it is going to cost twenty quid if they can find a place. Where is the idea that getting to the top is optional but ensuring you can get back down is pretty vital. I wonder how many people break themselves raising money for charity?
They have no idea what a mountain is and many therefore don’t know how to behave. I heard many people complain there was no rubbish bins. Oblivious to the concept of leave no trace or pack it in and pack it out approach. My opinion is somewhat backed up by the no doubt tonnes of litter that is strewn across the hillside. The top image is just one such image, but look under a stone or in a crevice and some would be mountaineer has probably stuff a crisp packet or water bootle.
They have probably headed to the heights for an escape from the Urban and concrete jungle, only to treat a mountain the same as they would street in a city. As street cleaner will be along soon enough to clear their mess away. They just seem oblivious to the fact that snowdon isn’t hyde park, it is much more beautiful and fragile.
This Sunday in the afternoon the summit cafe ran out of water. I heard some great comments, like what are they thinking running out of water. They actually provided alcohol cleaner instead by the way, but no one seemed to think that all that water needs to be bought up on the train, and that this weekend had seen so many people on the summit it made my head spin. The demand for hand washing must have been massive as I saw two 1000 litre tanks on their way down from the summit that morning! The only time I saw more people on the summit was for the Olympic Torch Relay. Then everyone went there for one event after that the crowds cleaned.
The problem of Snowdon is immense but it only last a month or so. I am not sure what the solution is, education, but how can you educate people when they think Wales is in the dark ages because no one has worked out how to pump tonnes of water to the summit to let them wash their hands and have some free water to drink, because it obviously doesn’t cost to get the water up their in the first place.
I breaks my heart almost every time I climb the mountain. I don’t know what the solution is but I guess pointing people to the countryside code and point out that people should try and take only photo and leave only footprints. Or simple leave no trace!