New temperature sensors have been installed on Welsh crags and mountain areas in a joint effort by Cwm Idwal Partnership, National Trust Cymru, Awdurdod Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri and the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) to protect rare plants and to help climbers to make informed decisions about when and where they climb.
The project centres on Cwm Idwal in Gwynedd, an area famed for its winter climbing routes and also where rare species of plants such as the Snowdon Lily and Arctic Mouse Ear are known to grow. Sensors have been used in the area since 2013, but have now been updated with newer models with improved accuracy and battery life. Cwm Idwal Partnership Officer Rhys Wheldon-Roberts said of the upgrades:
‘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.’
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
Arctic-alpine plants like the Snowdon Lily grow only in a small number of areas within Eryri, and are particularly vulnerable to climbers’ crampons and ice axes when the turf beneath snow is not properly frozen. Sensors placed at high altitude will monitor the temperature of the air and ground at various depths, with the information then transmitted to the Cwm Idwal Information Centre where it can be communicated to climbers, as well as being accessible on the BMC’s website.
Access and Conservation Officer for the BMC Tom Carrick said that it was important for climbers to consider this information as part of their planning process.
‘The important thing for us now is to spread the word about this technology to as many people as possible, so ice climbers know it’s there.
‘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. Winter ice climbing is safest and most enjoyable when the ground is properly frozen. We all want to be safe, and we want to protect these rare Alpine flowers as well.’
The temperature sensors are placed at 600m and 850m altitude within the Devil’s Kitchen area of Cwm Idwal, and inform climbers of ground temperatures at 5cm, 15cm and 30cm below the surface. The reading provide not only an indication of safety for winter climbing, but also help climbers to make informed and responsible decisions. Cwm Idwal’s climbing areas are situated within a National Nature Reserve, and irresponsible behaviour by climbers that damages fragile vegetation could result in formal restrictions being put in place.
‘These sensors are a really good example of how conservation and leisure can work together,’ said Wheldon-Roberts. ‘It’s a win-win for everyone.’
The BMC’s downloadable White Guide to North Wales is a free resource for winter climbers with information on how to enjoy the area, whilst minimising the potential damage to protected habitats and fragile environments.
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