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SNOWDON - THE HEART LAND OF WALES,
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This review is from: Snowdon - The Story of a Welsh Mountain: Biography of a Mountain (Hardcover)
The author, Jim Perrin, grew up within the spell of this magnificent peak, the highest in ancient Eryry, and also in the whole of Britain south of the Scottish Highlands. I grew up sixty miles away, but came to walk across it many times in my youth. Jim stands us in the one-time estuary of Afon Glaslyn, before the drainage schemes of the late eighteenth century 'the mountains' mirror', and presents to us the beauty and symmetry of its 'architecture', its summit a wonderful pyramid against the northern sky behind it, especially when covered in snow and lit by the sun. Supporting the peak are the four great buttress ridges where he leads our imagination on so many great rock climbs.
But this is much more than a climber's book; it is about a mountain wreathed in mystery, surrounded by legends, peopled by ancient people, and the old Welsh language still spoken by sixty percent of the surrounding countryside. He is sceptical of the young English 'pioneers' who arrogantly claimed the 'first rock climbs' in the early twentieth century, guided as they were by local shepherds who, with their ancestors, had been the real pioneer cragsmen of the mountain. Jim also takes us through the important botanical history of this now isolated post-glacial landscape, as well as outlining its fascinating geological past. The long imprint of human habitation and endeavour, ancient and modern, is outlined very well, up to the coming of the modern tourist and holiday climber.
The book is a biography of the mountain, and also the biography of one person's life-time relationship with it. It asks for careful reading, and I found an OS map useful in following the author's journeys. He also attacks, for me as a Scot living in Wales, the damage done to local toponomies by the early OS surveyors, often distorting or mis-spelling place names, not having any basic Welsh, or Gaelic either in my own case. This is also part of the mountain's modern history, and in some cases Jim Perrin cites the older renderings of these ancient names. Footnotes expand upon salient points, but are not essential to the reader. It has been criticised for lack of photographs, which was not a problem for myself as I know the landscape, but ideally Snowdon should be visited, carefully and discretely, and having done that illustrations become superfluous. The book is nicely bound and well presented, worth a place on your bookshelf if you are a lover of the British hills.