Today me and Andy are heading for the mountain known as ‘Elidir Fawr’  which translates to English as ‘Big Elidir’ which it fitting a it is one of the largest mountains here in North Wales. There’s a number of different opinions on why the mountain is called this, however my favourite is that it is named after a Welsh warrior and chieftain of North Wales ‘Eliffifer Of The Great Army’ though there’s also a theory that the name could derive from the old Irish for ‘Big Hillside’ which is far less cool than the idea there was a dude so impressive they named a mountain after him. The exact meaning is lost to the mists of time. It would be pretty awesome to have a mountain named after you. Though compared to some of the mountain names that exist like Yr Wyddfa ‘The Tomb’, Am Bastier ‘The Executioner’, Pen Llitherig Y Wrach ‘ The Peak Of The Slippery Witch’ a mountain called ‘Dave’ probably wouldn’t sound so cool. Anyway if the mountain was actually named after him it’s fair to assume Big Elidir was probably a badass of large proportions. 

The Quarry

As Andy hasn’t explored around it yet I decide I’ll walk him up through the workings of the Dinorwic Slate quarry which scars the sides of Elidir Fawr before we summit, this quarry was owned by the Vaynol Estate and in operation between 1770 and 1969 that’s 199 years! Which totally explains the workings being absolutely huge. We start walking up from near the slate museum and make our way up the steep trail that follows the old cart trails, passing a ruined wheelhouse, still with the huge wooden spool with rusted snapped cables attached, and mine carts lying to the sides of the track, rusting away in the North Welsh rain. The whole area is covered with huge spoil tips which look like they could collapse at any moment, there are counterbalanced inclines with rails for the mining carts, and soon we pass the miners barracks many of which that still contain graffiti from the miners who lived here in these cramped conditions. It’s hard to imagine several people sharing the severely small houses, it must have been pretty grim up here. And the higher into the quarry you go the more well preserved the ruins are. The workings are made of ‘benched galleries’ and over the course of time different areas of the quarry were worked or abandoned, with some huge amphitheatres carved into the side of the mountain. 

The quarry also contains the well known climbing route ‘Snakes and Ladders’ which i’ll write another piece on at some point. Despite the many safety warnings and the fenced off areas this does not seem to deter local and visiting climbers who can often be seen beyond the fences on the rock walls. Some parts of the quarry beyond the fences are clearly very dangerous with huge drop offs into the darkness. Rusted ladders and mining cart tracks are subject to frequent warnings by the local mountain rescue team, and there’s no doubt they’ve had to rescue people from here before. You really don’t want to be falling into any of the big pits round here, you would probably never be found again. 

Making our way through the workings we pause to take some stunning photographs with the mid day sun reflecting off the almost endless amount of slate chippings. We have to be careful in the area we are walking over, the spoil is stacked high and loose and if it gives way is very sharp and can easily cut into flesh. Though no rock slide is good, I think a slate rock slide would probably cut you to ribbons. That lovely thought in mind we keep pressing on through the workings. 

There is a trail that heads up the mountain but we decide to make things a bit more interesting, being as always using the paths isn’t the sort of thing you do as a mountain leader once we meet the stream coming down the valley we have come to and crossed the bridge we head up a steep sloped glacial valley, which is easily spotted due to its distinct shape. You can see how the glacier would have carved away the sides of the valley and the bottom of the valley is really marshy and fillled with insectivorous sundew plants. Soon enough we make our way up the sides of the valley, which is a bit of a workout we rejoin the trail and begin the ascent of Eiidir heading up a steep ridge to the summit which makes for some stunning photos. 

A valley showing the signs of glacial movements.

Half Mountain Half Battery 

The unusual thing about Elidir Fawr is that it’s used as a huge power station, a type known as pumped storage. As we approach the summit we can see down to the lake part way up the mountain. The power station uses electricity from the grid to pump water from the reservoir at the foot of the mountain to the lake further up. When there is a shortage of electricity the water is released from the top lake and powers turbines on the way to the bottom reservoir, which in turn power a generator. Essentially this means this power station acts as a huge battery. It’s cool hiking up here and a little weird thinking you are also walking up what’s essentially a massive duracell. 

The Summit

The summit of the mountain is really worth the effort getting here and at 924m it’s one of the highest mountains in the area and as it is not Snowdon it also tends to be really quiet up here, which I love. I don’t come out in the mountains to share them with loads of people , and I am sure as hell not waiting in line for a summit. We reach the summit in the fading light and get some cool views of cloud formations and even great views out to the coast from the top shelter. If you haven’t been up here yet id say it’s one you definitely want to add to your list. 

If you want to know more about the slate mine or the ‘Electric Mountain’ why not visit the slate museum in Llanberis or check out ‘LINK’

You get more a sense of how huge this landscape is if you look very closely in the middle of the ridge those two dots are a pair of hikers.
Some serious views here.