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Do Snowdon’s goats speak Welsh or English?

The weather last weekend was dominated by high pressure it was cold, clear and still; sounds carried considerable distances, the voices of people traversing Crib Goch could be heard on the lower paths. The Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team received a call from the police following a 999 call from an informant on the Miners’ Track reporting calls for help, supposedly from someone in distress high on the Crib Goch ridge. Following intensive investigations by the Team Co-ordinator and first hand reports by members sent by Land Rover to the shores of Llyn Llydaw the incident was soon closed as nobody was found to be in distress. The call out was logged as information based on ‘good intent’.

Walking along the Miners’ or PyG tracks from the car park at Pen y Pass toward the summit of Snowdon you may well see some of the wild goats which roam this area of Cwm Dyli and the Llanberis Pass.

These wild animals are now referred to as feral goats. Several centuries ago they were domesticated animals and herded for their meat and milk. Herding them had become uneconomic many generations ago and they were allowed to roam freely in the high valleys and over the surrounding summits. Modern sheep farmers are happy to allow the goats to graze the more isolated and steeper sections of the slopes and cliff faces, they are far more sure-footed than the Welsh mountain sheep that might well become stuck if they venture on to such ground in search of succulent vegetation and cause problems for the farmers whilst trying to retrieve them.

Most visitors walking along these paths are oblivious to the goats, even though their white, grey or black fleeces make them quite prominent once one’s eyes have become accustomed and able to distinguish them from sheep. However, goats usually remain well out of sight on the steeper sections and the more isolated parts of the cliffs. These animals are essentially very wary and shy away from walkers on the footpaths. You are far more likely to hear them before your eyes can distinguish them on the rocks. Goats are noisy, they bleat loudly, calling out, possibly warning others about the approach of human beings who also can be quite noisy- talking to and shouting at each other or laughing and giggling as they wander along the footpaths.

It has yet to be proved that goats mimic the human voice but they make a damned good attempt; be assured when on a quiet, clear, sunny day you may think that you hear the plaintive sound of a call for help, listen carefully the “hheeelpp” may well be a goat, though whether they are calling in Welsh or English has yet to be established and your evidence might well be significant to future research!!. It’s worthwhile to look and listen carefully, you may well find the source of the sound and view these elusive animals, possibly not too far from you. In early spring you may well have the added advantage of listening to the adults calling to their young kids. Viewing them is quite a delightful event and one that will remain with you for a long time and make your day on the hill more enjoyable and memorable.

Finally, if you do hear such a sound and consider it necessary to report the incident to the police, be aware that it might be the call of a feral goat and discuss the matter with the police or team co-ordinator.

‘Mountainsafe’ accounts are intended to highlight the need for careful planning before venturing on to the mountains, taking care to adopt all safety advice and then enjoy the mountains safely.

John Grisdale Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team


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The Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team, is a registered charity. Address : The Treasurer, 34, Glanffynnon, Llanrug, Gwynedd, LL55 4PR
(Charity registration no. 513913).
Email : info@llanberismountainrescue.co.uk

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