Updated 11 Aug 2014

Snowdon 1960

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Tragedy on Snowdon

    In 1960, when only 15, Robert Palmer went with 24 boys from his school to Wales, to climb Snowdon. After 3 days in camp, on 2 April, while climbing the ridge to the summit, 3 boys fell to their deaths.
    These webpages try to give an insight into the tragedy, and the Memorial Service 50 years later.

Outline Timetable

British Summer Time began on 27 Mar 1960.
Sunrise 0545 Sunset 1854 on 2 Apr 1960 in Snowdonia
Sat 2 Apr 1960
1330 5 boys + 1 master leave Pen-y-Pass hotel, to start Crib Goch ridge walk to Snowdon.
1445 (approx) 3 Boys fall from Parson's Nose, probably die immediately.
1700 Palmer and Ridgeway return to camp via Watkin Path, Palmer phones his mother from public phone box in Nant Gwynant valley.
1730 Mother phones school headmaster, declares boys are dead, first the headmaster knows of the tragedy.
1900 Mr Sutcliffe (master i/c) returns to Nant Gwynant after fruitless solo search.

Sun 3 Apr
0900 Boys in camp begin search.
1315 Llanberis Police contact RAF Valley MRT.
1330 Dolgellau police contacted.
1335 Llwyngwril policeman sets off on bicycle.
1530 Llwyngwril policeman arrives.
1545 MRT decide not to call off their own exercise.
1930 Last search party arrives at base camp.

Mon 4 Apr
0500 Intensive search begun by MRT.
0830 Three bodies found at foot of Parson's Nose still roped together.

Tue 5 Apr

Wed 6 Apr

Thu 7 Apr
    Mr E Lloyd-Jones, coroner for N.Caernarvonshire, said:
  • The accident must have been entirely due to the weather conditions which overcame the party: it was enveloped by mist and the boys wandered.
  • It was his personal opinion that when parties of as many as five boys were brought to the mountains there should be at least two men to look after them.
  • Inquest verdict "Misadventure"

The foot of Parson's Nose.

The route from the A4086 road at Pen-y-Pass to Snowdon would follow the dashed line over Crib Goch and Crib y Ddysgl. In 1960 the 3 boys probably diverged NW and fell
at Clogwyn y Person, their bodies being found by the Mountain Rescue Team at SH 617-554 marked. Red dots mark recent incident sites on Snowdon.

A four segment panoramic image of Crib Goch facing east in Snowdonia National Park, Wales. Date 26 August 2007

Mountain Rescue Logbook

Extracts from the MRT log book pertinent to the accident on 2 Apr 1960. The complete log book is held in pdf format by the webmaster

MOUNTAIN RESCUE
TEAM
LOG BOOK

Opened 30 March 1960
Closed 31 Dec 1961

    Index of Call Outs to Civilian Mountaineering Accidents Month Date Time Group Place Map Reference Time Spent Names & Addresses Remarks Page 1960 April03 1530Z Parsons Nose 107/617554 Team on exercise John Etches All Cader Idris area John Brenchley Found 36 extended one day Tony Evans dead 3 Sunday 3rd April A fine morning, with rain later- 1315 Llanberis Police asked Valley if M.R.T. could help in search for 3 C.C.F. cadets missing on Snowdon. Air Traffic passed message to the selected contact of the Team whilst on exercise. 1330 Dolgellau Police 1335 Dolgellau Police could not apparently spare a man telephoned to the Llwyngwril constable to pass the message. [Llwyngwril 9 miles from camp & up hills 1 in 4. Dolgellau to campsite about 7 miles along better roads!] 1530 Llwyngwril constable arrived pushing his bicycle! 1545 Despite the poor walkie talkie reception (wind and rain does not help) parties were alerted. In view of the time & the available light left it was decided that it was pointless to cut short the exercise & get to the search area just after dark, & NCO i/c passed this message back from 717087 (above Tal y Llyn) to base for relay to the parties. 1930 Last party arrived base camp just after dark. Packed up after a meal & travelled to the search centre. 2130 Pen y Gwryd. The civilian rescue co-ordinator, Mr Briggs had gone out but NCO i/c spoke to him on telephone & found that parties had been asked to report P.Y.G at 0500 for briefing. NRCC informed by Flt Lt Stewart. [Information available On Saturday afternoon 2nd April, a party of the Royal Masonic School, Bushey, Hertford, C.C.F., who were camping in Nant Gwynant, commenced the traverse of the Snowdon Horseshoe, in very bad weather. The schoolmaster in charge, Peter Sutcliffe (28) had the boys (16) roped together in two threes from the time they left Pen y Pass, for training in rope management. He led the first rope while the second 3 followed. After going over the Crib Goch ridge they became separated in cloud; Sutcliffe left 2 cadets & went back to look for the other 3. He missed them on the ridge (probably on First Step of Crib y Ddisgl) but when he returned they had caught up. He retied to his two & the two ropes of 3 continued, and became separated once more. This time it was thought that again the following three had taken a slightly different line on a rocky section & so after a few minutes wait, Sutcliffe continued to the Summit of Crib y Ddisgl (3493'), & the Snowdon. Since there was no sign of them he then returned onto the ridge of Crib y Ddisgl but did not see them. He returned to their base at Nant Gwynant with the other 2 cadets & when the 3, John Etches, John Brenchley & Tony Evans did not arrive later, reported in the evening that they were missing. On Sunday the weather was still not good but parties organised by Mr C B Briggs B.E.M. (of Pen y Gwryd) searched the whole area without success. Llanberis Police asked for assistance of RAF Valley M.R.T. after lunch, & another search was planned for the Monday.] Monday 4th April 1960 0500 More intensive search planned by RAF MRT. Walkie talkie inter communications arranged. A. Cwm Tregalen Kinnes (R/T) + Nant Gwynant sch. party (CCF) B. Cwm Brwynog, under Clogwyn du Arddn ets. Hardman (R/T) Foster + other non climbing civilians. C. Cwm Dyli - Glaslyn under Llwedd Jones Watmore (R/T) + all those remaining after main search parties made up. D. Upper Cwm Glas - Paslyfern from above Cyrn Las - Pearson Mackenzie (R/T) + sundry civilians scramblers. E. Experienced rockclimbers then set out approx 80 ft intervals climbing & traversing the flanks of Crib y Ddisgl - Parsons Nose from Bwlch Goch from Glaslyn screes upwards - (on screes C.C.P.R. Barlen + 9 boys then hyter-) Cpl Pibworth (R/T) Parker Staton J/T Gordon A Baines SAC Dempster Clark Pomfret Cpl/T Bray FS Lees (R/T) on crest then down into Cwm Glas - J Jackson T Derbyshire SAC Cartledge SAC Newby G. Newby P Crew R Orgile Cpl Hughes (R/T) Tregenza on screes again (those without ranks civilians several from CCPR Plas y Brenin) [This involved actual rockclimbing as distinct from "scrambling" where hands are used to steady a person over easy rocks, as on most of the crest of the ridge.] F. Sgt McMichael & Barclay as link R/T at 642552 then started moving up onto Crib Goch. G. Also link & transport at Llyn Llydaw - Broome Grant. 0830 (approx) Pearson & Cpl Hughes found 3 bodies with head injuries which would have been instantaneous, at the foot of the rocks to the East of the Parsons Nose, left of Square Gully; it appeared that they had fallen together from near the top of the Clogwyn y Person arete, where in descent it steepens & becomes rockclimbing rather than "scrambling" 107/617554. It looks as though they lost their way on the upper ridge in error.
    Clogwyn y Person Arete
    Messages passed to recall other parties to help stretcher carry - large numbers available eventually, including Llanberis & Beddgelert Police (total 3) & Mr C B Briggs. Bodies carried down to Ynys Ettws & Llanberis Pass etc. (All wearing thin shorts - much heat loss in bad weather) Team returned to Valley in late afternoon Remarks NCO i/c MRT The Team members worked very hard & efficiently; pity the fat Dolgelley constables didn't! Improved methods of contacts are being suggested to higher authority but all involve money - eg with several W/Ops established & sufficient drivers we could have a continuous W/T watch with N.R.C.C. - as it is we only have one w/op & depend on luck & odd policemen being at home when off duty. (A policeman with more imagination & initiative would have asked a passing motorist for help & a lift from Dolgelley to the campsite.) The accident was a sad & avoidable story. We hope Schools will learn from these mistakes - our often mild mountains change suddenly in bad weather. The Civilian Mountain Rescue Committee the controlling body in GD (voluntary) are being approached with suggestions to prevent reoccurrence. 26/5/60 NCO i/c MRT Remarks Office i/c MRT Flt Lt Stewart of N.R.C.C. had a chance to study the difficulties encountered during a "call out" at first hand. It is hoped that some improvement in the system of contacts will be made. Remarks O.C.F.W. blank Remarks Station Commander blank [page 16] Remarks Officer i/c MRT This matter of clueless School parties has been to the fore in a number of recent accidents. I have written an article for the Times Gd or a similar publication likely to be read by Schoolmasters, as it appears the majority of this class do not read books on Mountaineering, or articles on Mountaineering Safety which are published from time to time in climbing journals. Well done Lees for your prompt action in this call.

Conceived, written and copyright © 2010, Robert Palmer, All Rights Reserved.

Compiled, formatted, hyperlinked, and encoded 2010 by John Palmer, .