New equipment will help climbers protect Cwm Idwal’s rare plant species

Temperature Sensor National Trust Images

New temperature sensors being installed at Cwm Idwal will help to protect the National Nature Reserve’s rare plants from damage during winter months.

The Cwm Idwal Partnership, which includes Natural Resources Wales, National Trust Cymru and Awdurdod Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri (Snowdonia National Park Authority), has been working with the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) to upgrade temperature sensing equipment in Cwm Idwal’s high cliffs to help prevent accidental damage to rare plants from winter climbing.

With temperatures dropping and snow accumulating on the mountains of Eryri, many mountaineers are excited at the prospect of being able to ice climb once again.

However, despite the snow, the ground underneath is often not frozen – and using ice axes and crampons on unfrozen turf can severely damage the rare plant species that live there.

Rhys Wheldon-Roberts, Cwm Idwal Partnership Officer representing all three organisations, said:

“This project has been very successful over the years, and I’m so pleased these upgrades will mean the continuation of the project for many more years to come.
“Cwm Idwal is home to some of Wales’ rarest plant species, including arctic-alpine species such as the Snowdon Lily and Purple Saxifrage, but it also attracts thousands of visitors who enjoy the area for recreation. This project is a fine example of how conservation and outdoor recreation can work together to care for and enjoy our environment.”

Sensors placed at high altitude in the cwm record the temperature of the air and ground at various depths and this information is transmitted down to the Cwm Idwal Information Centre. This information can then be communicated to climbers allowing them to make informed decisions in judging whether conditions are appropriate before they start their journey.

Tom Carrick, BMC Access and Conservation Officer, said:

“This is really exciting to have this joint projected updated, the new data will hopefully be much more reliable and can be used to help protect high alpine plants in Cwm Idwal. Although it might be tempting to get out and winter climb whenever there is snow on the ground, this data should become a daily check like looking at the weather forecast before heading out winter climbing.”

The project, initially set up in 2014, has been very popular with winter climbers visiting Cwm Idwal, but almost 10 years later the equipment needed to be updated. New equipment will also allow historical temperature data to be displayed.

Alison Roberts, Specialist Advisor for Responsible Recreation, Natural Resources Wales, said:

“Most winter climbers are aware of the need to minimise the impact of their activity on sensitive and fragile habitats. The real time data collected will assist us in communicating responsible access messages more effectively to those utilising the sites and help protect the nationally rare and fragile vegetation that’s found at Ogwen.”

The temperature data can be viewed on the BMC’s website and at the touch screen at the Cwm Idwal Information Centre.