Cairns on the Tŷ Nant Path on Cadair Idris. Photo: Natural Resources Wales

Cairns on the Tŷ Nant Path on Cadair Idris. Photo: Natural Resources Wales

National park wardens are pleading with walkers to stop making cairns on the mountains.

Snowdonia staff say footpaths and the fragile upland environment are being damaged by the custom of picking up stones and piling them up to mark routes.

And mountaineering’s official body backed the call to halt the building of these piles, saying it encouraged laziness in people as they no longer felt the need to follow a map.

The problem has become so severe that a demolition day is planned for cairns on the 893m (2,930ft) Cadair Idris in the South of the Snowdonia national park. Work has already begun to ‘rationalise’ some of the piles of stones in the northern part of the park.

Snowdonia National Park Authority said, over the years it has been the custom to build cairns on mountains to identify paths and junctions or dangerous places. But recently it has become common for walkers to identify the routes they have taken by placing a stone on a pile of stones to create a cairn.

Simon Roberts of the authority said: “It’s quite a problem on Cadair Idris.

“As the cairns are built, stone by stone, the footpaths are eroding and the fragile landscape is being damaged. Footpaths widen and the cost of maintaining the footpaths increase. But, even more dangerous, they can mislead walkers, especially in fog.

“Later this year, we will begin to rationalise the cairns, but in the meantime we are appealing to walkers to stop moving the stones on the mountains.”

Elfyn Jones, the British Mountaineering Council’s access and conservation officer for Wales, said: “Building cairns along the main paths on a popular mountain such as Cadair Idris is unnecessary and causes erosion of mountain habitats.

“It can also encourage laziness in people by not using a map and compass which can in turn lead them to a dangerous situation.”

Snowdonia warden Myfyr Tomos said: “On the Tŷ Nant footpath, within less than a mile between Rhiw Gwredydd and Bwlch y Cyfrwy, there are 102 cairns, and at the base of each cairn a very large hole where stones have been lifted from the path and adjacent land.

“Some of the stones are huge and the cairns are increasing every week. We need to ensure that future generations can enjoy walking the paths and mountains of Snowdonia and therefore reducing erosion by encouraging people not to move the stones, is a way of contributing to this.”

The practice is damaging paths and the upland environment. Photo: Natural Resources Wales

The practice is damaging paths and the upland environment. Photo: Natural Resources Wales

During the summer months, wardens in south Snowdonia will begin to tackle cairns on Cadair Idris. With the help of volunteers from the Welsh mountaineering club, Clwb Mynydda Cymru, the cairns will be reduced and some will be completely demolished.

Paul Williams, manager of the Cadair Idris nature reserve on behalf of Natural Resources Wales, said: “‘Building’ cairns has been of great concern over a number of years.

“The practice, by now, is totally unreasonable, creating scars on some of our most significant landscapes.

“The practice damages fragile habitats such as the moorland in the uplands and the scree, together with the animals and the plants associated with them. The damage can also cause new footpaths which expands erosion on our mountains.

“There are plenty of examples of this on the slopes of the Glyderau, Cadair Idris and Snowdon. A cairn should only show the summit of a mountain – where historical cairns are already there.”

Anyone interested in volunteering for the event can contact Simon Roberts at the national park office in Penrhyndeudraeth on 01766 770274.

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