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Mountaineering group calls for reconciliation over use of ‘disrespectful’ English names

20 Jun 2024 5 minute read
“Dinorwig quarry galleries.” by ohefin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Stephen Price

A mountaineering group has called for an end to divisions between climbers and those advocating for Welsh only place names – claiming that original and newer route names ‘are not mutually exclusive’.

In a statement shared with Nation.Cymru, British Mountaineering Council (BMC) which represents climbers, hill walkers and mountaineers in Wales and England has said that they support the principle of protecting and retaining Welsh language names for geographic features in Wales, but that ’there is space for both’ languages and groups.

The calls were made following the promotion of an event to commemorate the North Wales Quarrymen’s Union and demands to protect Dinorwig quarry’s historic Welsh place names which have been replaced by English names such as ‘Dali’s Hole’ .

“Disrespectful”

The event holders are demanding that the memory of the quarrymen who shaped the landscape is respected, calling for the Ponciau and Sinciau (galleries and deep holes) to be marked with their correct names, as well as the names of the men who lost their lives in Chwarel Dinorwig to be etched in stone at appropriate places.

Organisers are also calling on Cyngor Gwynedd to engage with First Hydro (now called ENGIE) the quarry owner to secure agreement that the traditional Welsh names given to the parts of the quarry cannot be displaced by modern English names which were given by climbers in the last 40 years such as Mordor, The Lost World, Dali’s Hole and others.

The event has been organised by a Facebook group Eryri Wen which was founded by Eilian Williams, who said: “The new names given by the climbers over 40 years are considered by most people disrespectful – often taking names from fantasy films (Tolkien etc).

“It is only in the last two years that we have become aware of this as they are restricted to climbing guides and websites. Lately these sites have multiplied.

“Apologists say that this disrespect was not deliberate but the result of incomers not mixing with the natives and forming their own English speaking mountaineering social groups.”

“Some have suggested that both sets of names should be recognised but we reject that completely.

“This quarry is the place of our ancestors and history for over two centuries, and the land for millennia.

“We were offered to landscape the quarry but this was not felt appropriate as it stands as a monument to the toil and sacrifice of our families.

“This decision resulted in climbers moving in to use it for recreation. The least that they could have done would be to learn our language and learn the names of the galleries.

“We will press Cyngor Gwynedd and the board of UNESCO for action.”

Response

The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) has said that they support the principle of protecting and retaining Welsh language names for geographic features in Wales.

They have adopted the use of Eryri and Bannau Brycheiniog as the official names of these national parks in line with this principle.

Similarly, they support the retention of Welsh language place names for the galleries (known to climbers as levels) of the Dinorwig Quarries and other slate quarries used for climbing.

Dinorwic slate quarry. Photo by ohefin, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Distinction

They have said, however, that it is important to make a distinction between the names already given to certain features of the quarry by quarrymen (the distinct pits, galleries, industrial features) and those given for specific routes up the rock faces by climbers over the years.

They feel that the retention of Welsh place names and these newer route names are not mutually incompatible – some route names are in Welsh and pay tribute to the quarrymen, such as “Y Rhaffwr” or “Hogiau Pen Garet”.

In many cases, names for climbs were colloquially passed on to the galleries in the absence of information about the original names. In these cases, the BMC is committed to promoting awareness of the original names.

Interest

According to the group, many climbers are interested to learn more about the history and culture of the places they climb, and there has been an effort to ensure the original Welsh names are used in many newer climbing guides.

The BMC has said that they are committed to continuing to promote understanding and information-sharing between these two communities between which there is now a significant crossover – many of their members, volunteers and two of their staff members are Welsh speakers and feel passionately about this issue.

“Interlinked”

BMC access and conservation officer for Wales, Tom Carrick said: “Having grown up with the Welsh language and living in Gwynedd for most of my life, it saddens me to see the conflict between my native language and my sport, passion and career that’s all interlinked, there is space for both in my eyes.

“It’s important to remember our history, but also that climbing has brough a whole new industry into the area and new meanings to the lines and experiences that climbers have.

“Across the world we are not alone in this and I’m an advocate for the use of trying languages where I can.

“The names of Denali, Sagarmatha and Uluru have all taken to be used more widely in the same way that we encourage the use of Eryri and Yr Wyddfa, it’s great to see the encouragement of these names but through education and demonstration of the importance of our history and traditions not through division.”


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
24 days ago

A fellow from Electric Mountain called Dylan told me about the Penrhyn accident book and how that worked, I’d would like to know his opinion…

It is not disrespectful to go screaming obscenities through the air on a Zip Wire then…

Bryn bach
Bryn bach
24 days ago

Do these people have an impulse control disorder?
Stop renaming place names.

Riki
Riki
24 days ago
Reply to  Bryn bach

Yeah, we wouldn’t have to go back to the original had they not been renamed by the English to begin with.

Jack
Jack
23 days ago
Reply to  Bryn bach

Climbing routes have no original name, they’re an imaginary line up a rock face, a path of least resistance/ coolest moves. They’re named jovially, after references, people, jokes, or a description of the climb. Many are named in welsh. They’re a history of climbing, that mark the landscape no more than chalk marks. Check the BMC website, most crags retain their original names (granted many dont) but the route names aren’t overwriting anything. They’re nicknames. More welsh route names needs more Dringwyr Cymraeg.

Iago
Iago
24 days ago

It’s important to remember climbing route names aren’t replacing Welsh place names. Climbing route names relate to a series of hand and footholds on a rock face.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
24 days ago
Reply to  Iago

Mention the Everest climbers and their relationship with the place…hand and foot holes a life often depends on. mental maps and muscle memory…more funny yellow metal !

Jack
Jack
23 days ago
Reply to  Iago

I don’t think most commenters know what a climbing route looks like or how they’re named, it’s not like you can see them or they’re real, it’s just an imaginary line on a cliff 😅

Evan Aled Bayton
Evan Aled Bayton
24 days ago

The silly fake fantasy names should be dropped. This problem is more widespread. Many new developments in England have made up names like “The Grange” or “The Croft” without any understanding of what these words mean in the hope of making a mediocre modern BRICK house sound like a country dwelling.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
24 days ago

It’s not just in England. There is a fairly modern development in Tresaith that has been named Ravenscroft ffs. I’m old enough to remember it as just a field, and a little later as a caravan park, which was bad enough, but now it’s a collection of awful ticky tacky houses. How on earth 1) planning consent was obtained and 2) how that name approved I’ll never know. I guess you could say that I’m an advocate of ripping up all LDPs and implementing strict rules of development only for local needs. As regards the use of foreign terms, they… Read more »

Last edited 24 days ago by Padi Phillips
Frank
Frank
24 days ago
Reply to  Padi Phillips

These housing developers give new sites English names to attract the English not the Welsh!! The English are coming here in droves and buying up new housing developments off plan before a brick is laid.

Last edited 24 days ago by Frank
Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
23 days ago
Reply to  Frank

Tell me about it! Hence my comment about LDPs being ripped up and only development for local needs being allowed.

Jack
Jack
23 days ago

The fantasy names are routes, the imaginary lines up the rock, the paths the climber takes on the cliff, youd almost never be able to point them out unless you knew it already, even if you spotted the chalky hand holds. Crags are often named in Welsh, as they’re often already known. Routes are only named once they’re climbed in a particular manner, it’s a nickname for a way up, and there’s so many that they’re mostly comedic descriptions, references, in-jokes, a way to mark your piece of climbing history on the Web pages and books. These names hold history… Read more »

Riki
Riki
24 days ago

Disgusting, using the term British and still being anti British! (Just like British airways) The Language of Cymraeg let’s not forget is Brythonic. Both languages? IMO, No! Why? Because English only has its place in Wales because it was forced, people keep acting as though we just decided to start speaking it. A country can only have one common language and binds the culture together, either English wins out or Cymraeg does. I’m not saying people can’t speak it, just that English should not be put on a pedestal like it was a benevolent gift bestowed upon us.

Bobby
Bobby
24 days ago

It’s good to see some sanity injected into this debate. Would this Eilian Williams organising the rally on Sunday be the same convicted of racially aggravated offences in 2022?

Mai
Mai
24 days ago

This principle of respect is long established with Uluru re-gaining its indigenous place name displacing the foreign and colonial etc. I keep thinking of those heathens that renamed a centuries old farm name by Llandysul into Happy Donkey Hill. Just NO!

Annibendod
Annibendod
24 days ago

Mae’n tirwedd Gymreig. Ond enwau Cymraeg sydd eu hangen. Just stop for heaven’s sake!

Mair
Mair
24 days ago

So – it seems that the climbers agree with the principle of Welsh place names where they were given.

As far as I can tell, the route names aren’t the name of a physical feature, more of a map of a way up a rock face? Although I’m no climber, it seems that those names aren’t displacing anything?

Owain Glyndŵr
Owain Glyndŵr
24 days ago
Reply to  Mair

Do you they refer to the immediate area by the Welsh name? I doubt it very time 🙄🙁

Clive Wyn
Clive Wyn
24 days ago
Reply to  Owain Glyndŵr

According to the article they’re open to doing so and moving in that direction?

Matt
Matt
24 days ago
Reply to  Clive Wyn

Most climbers open to doing so. Indeed some guidebooks have already got the original ponc names in them.

Jack
Jack
23 days ago
Reply to  Owain Glyndŵr

They do actually, most northern welsh (and half the southern welsh) crags have a welsh name, it just so happens this quarry has English names for the different walls as its unlikely anyone who first went would know what each section was called, that’s the point of the stones theyre erecting. The routes are imaginary lines, a path, that’s only christened when it’s completed in a particular style (no falling, no pre-placed safety gear, no pulling on ropes) by the first person to do so. Many have welsh names, check out the BMC website, a few in England and Spain… Read more »

Matt
Matt
24 days ago
Reply to  Mair

The route names simply refer to route up the cliff. They don’t displace anything. You have a route name, with a description attached to it and you use that to climb up the cliff. Also, yes most climbers do agree with the principal of Welsh place names. I’m a climber and I certainly do.

LocalLad
LocalLad
24 days ago
Reply to  Matt

Reading my fellow trekkers and climbers real views on their various face book and other platforms would give NC readers sleepless nights ! The “ Park “ is seen by many as a mass playground and 🅿️. ……

The “ locals “.
The “ language “
Their view of their fellow 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 day trippers etc

Their spellings and made up names
Eg – Tuv Van for Tryfan all there for the seeing.

A few better exceptions of course but these mainly city public school hurrah high lads exhibit the manners of their families colonial past.

Huw
Huw
23 days ago
Reply to  Mair

In examples where the names are not being replaced, any new ones are still exclusively English.

Gair Ola ✊🏼
Gair Ola ✊🏼
24 days ago

We have had to put up with a range of silly names across Eryri .eg / Fairy Glen, Devrils’ Kitchen, Elephant Mountain , Roman Bridge ( all over the place ) Swallow Falls, The Rivals Pixie Place etc etc …

Caravan Parks in adition and Farm Parks again often have school playground names drawn from Disney !

Can you imagine this happening in France or in England if the names of the Maninogi or “ Sam Tan “ appeared ?

Frank
Frank
24 days ago

Why don’t we do the same as the English by giving English place names a Welsh version?

Andrew Thomas
Andrew Thomas
23 days ago

Shall they rename all place names in England into Welsh names? How would they react to that I wonder!

Glen
Glen
23 days ago

It’s the inevitable consequence of turning rural Wales into one big adventure playground in the name of tourism.

Jack
Jack
23 days ago
Reply to  Glen

Is the alternative not all the young welsh speakers leaving to English speaking cities due to lack of jobs? Niche tourism is more sustainable than mass tourism. You’re also assuming it’s only off-comers and Englishmen doing these sports when there are many locals in the field, many fighting the issues of anglo-monolingualism and overtourism.

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
23 days ago

Clearly the BMC are missing the point. Welsh names in Wales should be the norm

Jack
Jack
23 days ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

That’s not how climbing routes work, do you expect everyone in Wales to have a Welsh nickname too? Routes are imaginary paths up the rock that aren’t overwriting anything. Check this article by a Welsh Speaking local climber https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/features/the_historical-linguistic_arena_of_the_dinorwig_quarries-15844?fbclid=PAZXh0bgNhZW0CMTEAAabW_FXQAj_qv7_3X28FdikJLfUkBTJ32PaqQ5RncqU_1PJ45LG50Ubdol4_aem_ZmFrZWR1bW15MTZieXRlcw

Zarah Daniel
Zarah Daniel
23 days ago

Would they consider it respectful to do this in ANY other country? Would they take an area rich in local history and culture in Italy, not bother to learn any of that culture and history, and then give their own names to things? Absolutely not. Lots have said that the climbers have only given names to routes or climbs, so – areas that wouldn’t already have a name, but the article makes it clear that they named many areas because they “weren’t aware” of pre-existing names….yup because they never bothered to find out. Even when they named climbing routes, they… Read more »

Jack
Jack
23 days ago
Reply to  Zarah Daniel

I’ve climbed in Spain and france and many of the routes there have English names as they were set up by English speakers, but many are also in Spanish and French due to locals climbing there. I’ve seen one or two welsh names of routes in England and Spain too. The routes are (ironically) not set in stone, they’re not a real feature, just a climbing pattern, a path up the rock, many have welsh names and many more don’t, they often relate to the history of the creation of the route. But often there’s so many they are given… Read more »

AJones
AJones
23 days ago

Centuries later we are still battling to preserve our language. How sad. You would imagine that all people would like to help us.

Jack
Jack
23 days ago

There’s an article from the BMC (by Eben Muse, a Welsh speaking climber from Eryri, is an access manager for the BMC, and a personal friend) who’s got a more climbing-informed view. https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/features/the_historical-linguistic_arena_of_the_dinorwig_quarries-15844?fbclid=PAZXh0bgNhZW0CMTEAAabW_FXQAj_qv7_3X28FdikJLfUkBTJ32PaqQ5RncqU_1PJ45LG50Ubdol4_aem_ZmFrZWR1bW15MTZieXRlcw

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