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Snowdon - Overview

At 1085 metres, Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales. According to legend, the Welsh giant Rhitta was buried in the summit cairn after he had been slain by King Arthur. The earliest recorded ascent of Snowdon was undertaken by the botanist Thomas Johnson in 1639 and the rise of tourism in the eighteenth century saw an increasing number of visitors to the mountain. New paths were created up the mountain and of the six popular routes in existence today, the easiest, but longest route is the Llanberis Path. The most spectacular ascent of the mountain is via the Snowdon horseshoe which ascends the narrow ridge of Crib Coch and then to the summit of Snowdon before traverseing the 300m high cliffs of Lliwedd, where George Mallory trained for his ill-fated trip to Mt Everest in 1924.

In the early days of modern tourism, local guides offered their services and, for an additional charge, also provided ponies and donkeys to the weary of foot. The first summit hut selling refreshments was established in 1820. Despite the inclement weather, Prince Pückler-Muskau enjoyed a personal bottle of champagne here in 1828. Over the next decade, two rival hotels from Llanberis established their own shelters, named ‘Roberts Hotel’ and ‘Dry Club’. In 1844, the former welcomed the King of Saxony in the company of his physician, Carl Carus.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the Snowdon Railway Company was created so that tourists could travel up Snowdon in any weather. Owing to the steep ascent, the company went to Switzerland and bought five special steam trains that were able to push, rather than pull, the passenger carriages up the mountain and return them again safely by engaging their breaks. The first journey took place in 1896, but on the return journey from the summit, the train derailed, probably due to overloading. In the aftermath, the much safer rack and pinion railway system was installed and the same system is still in use today.

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