Should mountain routes in Snowdonia have warning signs?
As part of the North Wales Mountainsafe initiative, there are proposals to place warning signs on mountain routes in Snowdonia where there are frequent incidents.
Mountainsafe is the name given to a group formed by the Mountain Rescue Association, the Snowdonia National Park Authority and North Wales Police in response to the number of injuries and fatalities each year in Snowdonia.
Uniting with the mantra 'Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory' the group is providing navigation courses to novice walkers. These free courses are designed to develop basic navigational skills and to raise awareness of mountain safety issues.
Perhaps more controversial, is one of the group's other proposals - the location of warning signs on the approaches to notorious accident 'black-spots' such as the Crib Goch ridge.
Anecdotal evidence shows that many people either ignore or are somehow unaware of the risks in taking this route - particularly in bad weather. Others over-estimate their own skills, some are just unlucky. Whatever the reason, the accident statistics are quite sobering.
During Winter 2006/2007 110 people were rescued from the Snowdon/Ogwen areas alone. Every year approximately 10 people die and 150 are injured in Snowdonia.
The proposals on signage are an attempt to try and improve this situation by making the risks more explicit. But will this work?
“Written signs will not be read. Pictures, however graphic the warning, will be laughed at and said to be for idiots not THEM WHO SAY THEY KNOW BETTER! Have you been able to walk and loved the wild but because of medical conditions known that it would put Rescue Service lives at risk if you climbed/walked mountains? I now have bad arthritis. Yes I welcome a 'mickey mouse ' train! I welcome the Gondola in the Ben Nevis Range! What about the blind who without a train wouldn't have the experience of the high/different air. Don't litter the mountain to inform those who should inform themselves but help those who can't help themselves.”
Feeler Little, Gloucestershire
“i climbed snowdon for the first time two days ago using the easy path alongside the railway. i saw dozens of casual walkers on this route wearing their street clothes and shoes. as a beginner it was not easy to be able to judge if one is able to do the snowdon walk or which route to take.determining one's point-of-no-return is very hard too. signage in the car parks would be helpful in determining what one is really going to encounter on the route. it should aid in whether to choose a different starting point or to continue. maybe the 4 main routes to the summit should be graded on a scale of difficulty? studying a terrain map will help but it will never be as convincing as a single photo of crib goch. the crib goch picture at the start of this page tells me the route is beyond my abilities. show photos in car parks! but signage on the hill would not be good.”
Sarah Ward, Westbury
“I would appreciate a sign telling me which route im heading for. And as far as I know there is a British sign saying crib coch this way. I think that saying driving is more danger than crib coch is a bit ott. I mean if you fall you fall. If you crash at least you stand a chance. Also the roads are filled with signs. I've done many things that terrified me in New Zealand and to be honest I feel more inclined to take the llanberis path up. I've been up on the train so maybe the snowdon ranger and it is beautiful up there.”
Helen Jones, Llandudno Junction
“A very simple warning sign should be posted, however it shouldn't be on our beautiful landscape, it should be in every newspaper, mentioned on radio and shown on tv in the form of a public information broadcast, all year round. It should state how many people are killed by being ill prepared for a mountain venture annually. It should highlight how it affected the families & friends of the bereaved & injured & the huge burden it places on the lives of some very brave men & women who have to venture out to try and rescue them. In addition it should be backed up by notification that should you need mountain rescue, you WILL be expected to foot the bill. Only this financial aspect of the measures I fear will really stick in peoples minds and alter the way they think about venturing out on the mountains. As in every other dangerous activity we participate in, we weigh up the risks BEFORE we do it, although it seems that a great deal of stupid but mainly lucky people have made it up and down our mountains having considered nothing other than their packed lunches. But there are far too many who just don't make it. It is sad but obvious that however stupid a person is, they'll always notice if it's going to cost them money, so lets use that threat to get the message across. Petrol to Wales £50 New sandals £7 Nike trainers £70 Cost of rescue £5000 upwards Being prepared and reducing risks... Priceless”
“One sign with a photo at the start if crib goch from pyg track wouldn't be a bad idea Frankly I am amazed that people start crying about nanny state !! Yes, some folks might have made the mistake of taking that path and are ill skilled to do so, should they just die ? One sign could have made the difference, between someone realising they would be mistaken or someone falling to their death. So your argument is the Darwinian selection huh ? So if you're above the age if 50 ... You shouldn't be there ! Come on ! What a load of rubbish 1 sign !! That's all that's being asked here, and you lot would prefer to see people dying, always wondered how human being can cause atrocities ... Now I know where it begins !”
Alex L, Chester
“Just a sign stopping people accidentally leaving the PYG track would be good. I don't want the 'motorway' paths and tourist people in Snowdonia, but Snowdon is a special case. Just one sign is surely worth possibly a child's life?”
“The only sign needed is one at the car park or starting point to any walk/climb. It should read: WARNING! ALL PERSONS PASSING THIS POINT MUST BE ATTIRED IN THE MINIMUM STANDARD EQUIPMENT FOR OUTDOOR PURSUITS. FAILURE TO HEED THIS WARNING MAY RESULT IN DEATH OR SERIOUS INJURY OR IF YOU'RE LUCKY, A HEAVY FINE!”
Chris Cadden, Perth
“The problem with the Snowdon Range and Crib Goch in particular is that the whole area is so geared for tourism. Families come to Pen Y Pass from Llanberis and feel they can choose teir path based on how much walking they want to do. There's no warning of danger anywhere, and it simply isn't on these people's minds. Then when it dawns on them what Crib Goch actually entails it's too late and they have to go through with it. Particularly foreign tourists used to mountain walks in countries where bridges and safety features would normally be installed along knife edge arretes etc. (goodness forbid, obviously!) are caught short when they see that in the UK you have to be experienced, autonomous, and very serious about scrambling/mountaineering skills if you want to be safe. I'm not saying put signs everywhere but one that tells people not to ascend Crib Goch if they're unprepared just where the path forks up from Pen y Pass is surely not too much to ask.”
David Hermann, London
“No defo not, no warning signs, we're a nanny nation as it is we don't need any more intrusion. I've read some of the above articles and yes some people do the most non-sensible things like attempting to traverse [Crib Goch] in 50mph winds, well I'm not surprised people get injured, come on guys use your common.”
Dave Woodhouse, Penkridge
“I have traversed Crib Goch from both directions many times over the years and on one windy December day a friend and I escorted a T.A. soldier and his buddy to safety after he became so gripped it occasioned an embarrassing incontinence. He wasn't in any actual danger but the wind and environment had overcome his senses. Crib Goch has many potential hazards real or imagined but I can't see signs as being any deterrent to determined short sightedness or bravado. Mountains are dangerous and Crib Goch very easy to access from Pen y Pass. What can we do except politely warn off the wearers of jeans and trainers. Or families like the one I met at the summit of Tryfan on a cold day. Both little girls were in flipflops and crying their hearts out as they stood and shivered. Stupid people are just that. Stupid! .... And the signs will look horrid too!”
Richie Ixtar, Tregaron
“Andy Crawford: Snowdon is an exceptional mountain; with nearly a million visitors a year - most of whom dressed ready for a trip to Alton Towers - the old rhetoric and "no signs" rule book needs to be torn up when it comes to it. People are dying, and a small pool of rescuers are risking their lives 170 times a year (mostly on a single mountain!) to fetch the ones who don't. Snowdon is an exception and should be treated as an exception...this is no thin end of the wedge, it is common sense.”
“I am a walker and climber (to a modest standard) with 30yrs experience. Having just returned from Snowdonia, and a mixed bag of hikes, I nearly (inadvertantly) became a rescue statistic whilst traversing the Crib Goch Ridge with my brother (slightly less experience and ability). We followed the ridge 'in reverse' from the col below Snowdon, via Garnedd Ugain to Crib Goch and down. Following the route in this direction is far less obvious and certain than starting via the Pen-y-Pass/Pyg Track. Although the weather was generally clear, the windspeed was very high on the ridge (gusting up to 55mph-60mph), and this was nearly the cause of my misfortune!
I have plenty of experience, all year round, of climbing and walking in Britain and yet I still nearly came to grief.
I think signage at the start point/car park, as at Ben Nevis, has some value, but anything actually on the routes themselves would be (I feel) pointless. You never know how/by which route people will approach a walk/climb and to cover all the options would mean festooning the routes with 'visual litter'.
It seems to me that the problem, is more one of education in the ever-expanding number of people climbing and walking in Britain. Mountain 'sense' and awareness are a much better deterrent to accidents than a few signs.”
“Having spent 46 years enjoying the mountains, part of that time in a rescue team and part as a trained Scout Mountain Leader, I despair at the idea of signs on the mountains. For how long would anyone be safe in a real pea-souper? My guess would be 10 yards! In my earlier days very few idiots were seen on mountains, if any. The problem now is that publicity, especialy on the television, of walks following supposed celebrities up mountains on sun soaked days leaves the perception of accessibility and ease in the minds of the uneducated. At one time you needed to seek out the start point for yourself and so needed to be able to read a map just to begin the walk. Advertising the starting points of routes gives the unprepared a chance to get onto trails. Signposting the way as well will make it even easier for them to get onto Crib Goch or any other danger point. Remember that some will take the danger threat as a challenge and not a deterrent. Those who place the signs will be (and probably should be)sued for stupidity when the unwary become fog bound and can't see the last or next sign. Believe me they will be coming looking for you if they survive. In my view, extra signing on the mountains will increase the incidents for the Mountain Rescue Teams to deal with and not decrease them. So my approach would be to obliterate all signing and clues to the start of any routes. Spend any money on removing all traces of the first 1/4 mile of any track, in the mountains, so that only those who know how to navigate will get started. Probably an impossible task now but please don't make it easier for fools.”
Ron Barker, Bicester
“All sorts go up Snowdon, and yes - some do attempt Crib Goch in their jeans and trainers. Others are appropriately equipped but lose their nerve once they're on the ridge. This does not mean they deserve to fall off and die - you bunch of narcissistic, puritanical weirdos! I do lots of trekking in the Austrian Alps, and out there, not only would a section like Crib Goch be denoted on both the ground and maps by the simple and universally recognised use of blue and white signs (as opposed to normal red and white ones), but there would probably also be a fixed via ferrata. If you're going to open these paths up to anyone (which I agree with), then this is a good approach.”
Ben More, London
“Whilst I'm against signs and for common sense, the poster who mentioned expert terrain warnings on ski mountains has a good point. However, I was in Cornwall over the summer and came across a gentleman who was old enough to know better standing on a 'Caution steep cliff face' warning sign to have his photo taken, in high winds, about 1 foot from the egde, the week after a young student fell to his death a little further up the path. No matter how much we might light to warn people, there are always going to be some idiots who think that the rules of gravity and life don't apply to them.”
Laura W, Wokingham
“I have just returned from Crib Goch and Snowdon. I have reached the summit many times, however attempted "the goch" for the first time. We climbed the PYG path on the way up and decided Crib Goch would be easier going down.
How wrong we were.
After one hell of a struggle to find the correct pathway across, we eventually got to the end and met a group heading up.
We asked if they had seen an obvious path, they said yes, but its tough, and not to go that way, better to turn round.
We replied, "if you struggled with that first part (first 200 meters) you don't want to carry on . . . and luckily they listened.
I don't think there should be signs everywhere . . . however a small sign just before the 1st actual steep climb, saying something like "if you have struggled at all up till this point, please turn back" as it looks like there is an obvious path at first, which would mislead people into thinking it is like that all the way up.
It is very deceiving for the inexperienced.”
“there are many good points enlightend in this forum and reviewing them all i think ONE sign at the carpark or roadside start to the route could display fatalities that have occured on the mountain over a period of time, but for those of us that know these mountains and enjoy the back to nature feeling i dont see why our playground should be littered with warning signs. and being a young man myself (23) i know that the mindset of the people my age with little or no common sense would see it a "challange" to defy the odds and embark on crib goch in their sandles, but one thing is for certain when news hits home that their beloved was brought down in a bag those closest will hopefully have a altered image of what mountain = hazard really means!”
Simon Davies, Caernarfon
“Nuts! (a) The wind will take down most of them (b) idiotic vandals will remove the rest, and (c) the result? Someone somewhere will have the overwhelming feeling of having done some good, even if they haven't actually achieved anything. If a mountain isn't enough of a hint at what trouble you might get into if you don't know what you're doing, you won't exactly take heed of little signs, will you?”
John Rowlands, Bodedern, Anglesey
“What a laughable idea! Yes, let's spoil the oustanding natural beauty to inform the halfwits who can't see signs, won't read signs, don't give a damn if they could read signs, that if they dress up in fashion items belonging to city streets, they will fall victim to Darwinian selection. Priceless.”
A Walker, Winchester
“We already have a cafe and micky mouse train to bespoil this stunning majestic mountain- Does it have to suffer the indignity of signs also. What's next, a stannah stair lift? There are already too many innapropriate intrusions on this massif. You cannot legislate for lack of common sense.”
Eryl House, Holywell N Wales
“I agree with the comments that signs may not deter many people who have already decided to have a go, but such signs could be part of the process of educating people. This is especially true on such a famous mountain. Indeed,if they succeed at their first attempt they may even become overconfident. Perhaps the sign can be on the outside of a box (as someone suggests) with leaflets inside outlining the most important points and where they can get advice and training. My experience on Crib Goch (with other experience prior to my first time there) is that a great deal depends on the weather and on a person's attitude. I would stress the need to be patient and to cross the ridge in a way that feels least uncomfortable, no matter how you might appear to others.If that is not possible then give up on it.”
Nigel Jones, Newcastle-under-lyme
“For saving lives and reducing accidents I would be for putting signs up but look at what is written on cigarette packets and see how many people still smoke. If you want to say it will spoil the scenery, Snowdon is littered with manmade objects so a few signs wouldn't do real harm to the view.”
Steve Davies, Conwy
“Maybe a "Death Tally" sign like those on dangerous roads would help? These could be placed in all car parks in Snowdonia. Make them big, yellow and simple - hard to miss, easy to understand. Underline this with "These mountains kill regularly" similar to the Ben Nevis initiative. But please, absolutely no signs on the paths, just the approaches. p.s. Respects to the family of C.C. Michael Todd who died on Bwlch Glas yesterday (11/03/08)”
D Fleming, Staffs Moorlands
“On the footpath to the main path up Ben Nevis from the local Youth Hostle there is a sign that says 'This mountain kills people'. I found this very helpful when instructing my children about mountain safty.”
Farley Peter, Birmingham
“I cannot believe the absurdity involved. Even if there were notices, how many that SHOULD read and take note, will actually do so? Not many if any..... Those big headed enough will still venture out when and where they shouldn't no matter what. I see all too often, folk climbing mountains like Snowdon or the Glyders that shouldn't be there. Like once, a middle aged chap, no map or rucksack and didn't know where he was! There was a girl once climbing Snowdon with her partner, she had stylettoes on! So how about prosecuting those who do not show they have taken sufficient precautions and have to be rescued by MRT's?”
Mike Beaumont, Coventry
“Of course lots of folk will take no notice but ask yourself what would you do to if it were your own child thinking of setting off on the Crib Goch route - would not a sign with a photo of the ridge make them think twice if they were ill prepared or experienced - after all its not as if it is the only route to the top. Anything that can save one life and the heartache caused is worth it. And as for no signs on the hills argument - would that apply to footpath signs?”
Roger Pollard, Shipley
“Have you heard the expression 'give them an inch and they'll take a mile'? Why not just make it mandatory for hill walkers/climbers to hire a certificated guide to acompany them. They could then be taken by the hand where the track gets a bit rough, and helped over rocks and streams. We could spend millions paving the tracks, and installing handrails at the scary bits. This would not only help the employment statistics in the region, but also open an avenue of litigation in the event of a turned ankle or skinned knee. An oportunity there for the legal profession. I have been hill walking/camping as a hobby for almost fifty years, during ten of which I travelled the Scottish highlands on horseback (hobby horse). I have had my share of accidents, breaks and sprains, some of which were due to my inexperience(that's how gain experience), some just to a bit of bad luck. But such is life. I wouldn't have had it any other way. Part of the joy of going to the hills/wild camping is getting away from rules and regulations, of officials looking over your shoulder,just waiting to see if you transgress in some fashion. I would contend that there is even a spiritual need to get up high in the land, to feel above the many (so often petty) restrictions of modern life. We must take a stand against these politically correct, health and safety numpties, and stop them spoiling our ever decreasing freedoms. Once they get in it's almost impossible to get them out. Almost.”
David Glen, Glasgow
“Yet again the incompetent, incapable and downright stupid are whining about health and safety issues. There will always be casualties on the mountains, experienced or otherwise, that's what happens, they're a dangerous place. Unfortunately, in this safety cushion culture we now live in, some people can't accept that and want everything smoothed out so they don't trip or handrails put in to help them past a danger. Get a life! I'd love to go to the top of the matterhorn but I can't climb and also have a dodgy knee but I certainly wouldn't expect them to put chairlift in or carve stairs to the top. Sam Roberts, the head ranger at Pen y Pass, once told me that 85% of all accidents and fatalities on the Snowdon range were seriously ill-equipped tourists/walkers with no experience of the mountains. I once spent 5 hours on a beautiful sunny day at the base of Crib Goch doing some photography, and during that time I turned away over 30 people who wanted to go up onto the ridge. Nearly half thought it was Snowdon, all of them were devoid of any proper gear and most had never been on a mountain before! Where was their common sense? What kind of half-wits were these people? If I see any signs put up I'll tear them back down.”
Tony Grice, Nantwich
“Why is is that we feel the need to erect signs on mountains where, sadly, a small number of folk are killed each year - some of them through accidents to which they may have contributed by mis-judgement or lack of knowledge or skill - and for some just bad luck - yet we allow folk to carry on killing/injuring thousands on the roads and don't bat an eyelid. Crib Goch is probably far safer than driving! I don't recall any signs on the M6 saying 'dangerous road - driving along here might kill you' etc. How stupid can you get - once you have the signs you will then have folk sueing 'someone' in the event of an accident 'cos these days 'somebody will have to be held accountable' - then you will need insurance and so on down the slippery slope of total nannyism or the landed gentry who 'own' these hills will start closing them down.”
Laura Pringle, Chorley
“As a ML and a Scout Leader, I am continually bombarded with what appears to be totally useless rules and regulations. This comes into that category! I spent several months getting qualified to go into mountainous areas, and am fully prepared to take the consequences of my actions. I do not need signs to tell me that there are "mountains ahead". As somebody has already said there will be handrails on the routes to the summits of the mountains. What ever next stairlifts!! If this trend continues, I can see that that the mountains will be littered with signs. This will not stop the stupid, mis-informed, and ill prepared going into the mountains. On occasions I have been in Snowdonia, fully equipped, only to find people in shorts and sandels walking to the summit. All to often, it is these people who I have to bring down either badly injured or in body bags!! No amount of signs will stop these people.”
Chris Anthony, Ashford, Kent
“Information about the routes and their difficulty should be signed clearly in the car parks - along with guidance about appropriate footwear, clothing etc. But please, please leave the paths themselves free of warnings!”
Ken Hooper, Highworth
“No no no! it's bad enough that people feel compelled to talk incessantly on mobiles while out walking & that we now find tarmac paths everywhere. Please can we leave some part of the UK untouched by creeping urbanisation? I would have no problem with signs with warning photos at the start of the most popular routes, eg car parks, but please lets leave the mountains alone.”
Linda Woodham, Kingston
“Whoever wants to put up such signs mearly want to reduce or cancel out their resposibility for other peoples stupidity. As your contributor points out, "Wet floor" signs are a permanent feature in UK rest areas on UK motorways, whether or not wet floors are present. A path up Snowdon may be safe in summer and not in winter, but the notice suggested is permanent.”
Michael Forster, Orgeval, France
“i agree with putting some sort of warning sign at the bottom of mountains, as i too often see groups of people turn up at sites in trainers and teashirts, so if putting up a sign may make them stop and think,if they save one life or prevent them needing rescued then i cant see how anyone can object.”
Gerald Carlton, Hereford
“Signs will not deter those who choose to ignore such instructions whether it is on the basis of "it's authority" or just downright stupidity on their part. Just witness the amount of parking on double yellow lines or mobile phones used when driving to see how much Joe Public takes any real notice of advice and regulation. This is similar to the moronic signs seen in my swimming baths which read "danger, wet floors". Well I never , was I born with a pair of eyes and some common sense or what? Do I really need a sign to tell me what is self evident - do I embark on an activity without investigating what is involved beforehand and if I don't am I stupid enough not to turn back when the situation scares me or deteriorates. Before long we will all have a minder hold our hand in every task we ever undertake all paid for by the government i.e. me and you Mr & Mrs taxpayer. Just make those who are deliberately reckless and foolhardy pay for the rescue services and if they come a cropper they are the author of their own fate. (All you social workers throw your hands up in despair now, we need protecting from ourselves). I can see the safety rails being installed on every ridge and precipice in the hills even as I type.”
John Smith, Stoke On Trent
“As far as I remember the last time I went up Crib Goch there was sign on Bwlch y Moch which says something like 'Caution Crib Goch' on the stile when the Pyg separates to go up there. There are arguments for and against signs but anything that stops deaths must be important but if you're inexperienced and unaware of the dangers how likely are you to heed the warnings if you're determined to go up there?”
David Hadsley, Hitchin
“Surely education is better than signage? A clear web link outlining the difficulties certain routes represent would be far more beneficial and allow people to make an informed choice. I liked the idea of colour coding the routes as they do in ski resorts as proposed by another contributor.”
Colin Shearer, Holkham
“It is one thing to erect a sign warning of the dangers ahead. It would be entirely another to erect a sign advising that rescue operations beyond the warning sign would be charged for . For some people, the prospect of being hit in the pocket is the only warning they will take seriously.”
Christopher Mike, Malmesbury
“well well, here we go again the nanny state, why not go the all the way and put along the pavements signs that if you don't look both ways vehicles can kill. Sir Chris Bonnington said some time back that mountains are neutral, meaning we are responsible for our own safety and if we go on to the high ones and are not ready then tough luck, if you survive then hopefully you will learn. Phil Anderson”
Phil Anderson, Hadfield Glossop
“Perhaps the cost of providing weatherproof boxes at strategic places "With information sheets,highlighting the routes and the dangers" might be a better idea.”
Leslie Armstrong, Coventry
“It might be worth reviewing any evidence of the effect of signage before embarking on this activity. Is there evidence that signage actually does decrease risk? Or, is there any evidence that signage actually increases the risk, as a warning sign may act as an endorsement to continue along the route (even a danger / caution sign may just confirm to walkers that it is an okay route). There is always the risk of desensitisation to warning signs (if you survive one 'danger' area, the rest might just be treated as trivial, if you get through one 'expert' area, one might now consider themselves expert).”
Tam Hennessy, Marlow
“I agree that signs should be put up in certain areas of snowdon. I climb Snowdon on a regular basis and as an example on my last trip me and my partner came across a group on the pyg path who where not equiped properly and had no experience of the mountain yet they where determained to climb Crib Goch untill I pointed out just how dangerous it is up there. also earlier in 2007 I saw a man fall from Crib Goch to his death you have to ask yourself would a sign in the right place have put a doubt in his mind and maybe he would of took a different route.”
Steve Latham, Rhuddlan
“While as a rule I'm strongly against this, mountains like Snowdon are different in attracting many people who are totally clueless. Ski areas after all have signs that indicate 'expert terrain'. If people ignore warnings, OK, but signs may save a few lives and injuries and pose less strain on the rescue services. A few photos of what lies ahead on Crib Goch could be salutary!”
Jonathan Wilkinson, London
“Anything that saves lives is a good thing, the problem with signs is will/does anyone take any notice of them. We all see speed limit signs when driving, how many of us then actually slow down to the limit. Very few I suspect. For those that smoke, does the warning on the packet make you put that cigarette out. I doubt it. Human nature being what it is, people may read the signs, but its quickly forgotten, and they carry on with their walk. I don't have the answers, but i don't think signs will make a big impact on the problem.”
Steve Middlemiss, Barrow In Furness
“What absolute garbage! Yet another mindless step towards the nanny state! The hills and wild places are no venue for signage. Anyone going to the hills accepts the inherent dangers as part and parcel of the experience, should plan their route in advance and be aware of any hazards and take every reasonable precaution to avoid them ... or becoming another mountain rescue statistic. If they don't then that's their lookout!”
Andy Crawford, St Andrews
The views expressed by contributors to this discussion are not necessarily those held by go4awalk.com.