Updated 11 Aug 2014
In 1960, when only 15, Robert Palmer went with
24 boys from his school to Wales, to climb Snowdon.
After 3 days in camp, on 2 April, while climbing the ridge
to the summit, 3 boys fell to their deaths.
These webpages try to give an insight into the tragedy,
and the Memorial Service 50 years later.
British Summer Time began on 27 Mar 1960.
Sunrise 0545 Sunset 1854 on 2 Apr 1960 in Snowdonia
Sat 2 Apr 1960
1330 5 boys + 1 master leave Pen-y-Pass hotel,
to start Crib Goch ridge walk to Snowdon.
1445 (approx) 3 Boys fall from Parson's Nose,
probably die immediately.
1700 Palmer and Ridgeway return to camp via Watkin Path, Palmer
phones his mother from public phone box in Nant Gwynant valley.
1730 Mother phones school headmaster, declares boys are dead,
first the headmaster knows of the tragedy.
1900 Mr Sutcliffe (master i/c) returns to
Nant Gwynant after fruitless solo search.
Sun 3 Apr
0900 Boys in camp begin search.
1315 Llanberis Police contact RAF Valley MRT.
1330 Dolgellau police contacted.
1335 Llwyngwril policeman sets off on bicycle.
1530 Llwyngwril policeman arrives.
1545 MRT decide not to call off their own exercise.
1930 Last search party arrives at base camp.
Mon 4 Apr
0500 Intensive search begun by MRT.
0830 Three bodies found at foot of Parson's Nose
still roped together.
Tue 5 Apr
Wed 6 Apr
Thu 7 Apr
Mr E Lloyd-Jones, coroner for N.Caernarvonshire, said:
- The accident must have been entirely due to the weather conditions
which overcame the party: it was enveloped by mist and the boys wandered.
- It was his personal opinion that when parties of as many as
five boys were brought to the mountains there should be at least
two men to look after them.
- Inquest verdict "Misadventure"
The foot of Parson's Nose.
The route from the A4086 road at Pen-y-Pass to
Snowdon would follow the dashed line over Crib Goch and
Crib y Ddysgl. In 1960 the 3 boys probably diverged NW and
at Clogwyn y Person, their bodies being found by the
Mountain Rescue Team at SH 617-554 marked.
Red dots mark recent incident sites on Snowdon.
A four segment panoramic image of Crib Goch facing east in
Snowdonia National Park, Wales. Date 26 August 2007
Extracts from the MRT log book pertinent to the accident on 2 Apr 1960.
The complete log book is held in pdf format by the webmaster
Opened 30 March 1960
Closed 31 Dec 1961
Index of Call Outs to Civilian Mountaineering Accidents
Month Date Time Group Place Map Reference Time Spent Names & Addresses Remarks Page
1960 April03 1530Z Parsons Nose 107/617554 Team on exercise John Etches All
Cader Idris area John Brenchley Found
36 extended one day Tony Evans dead 3
Sunday 3rd April
A fine morning, with rain later-
1315 Llanberis Police asked Valley if M.R.T. could help in
search for 3 C.C.F. cadets missing on Snowdon. Air Traffic
passed message to the selected contact of the Team whilst on
1330 Dolgellau Police
1335 Dolgellau Police could not apparently spare a
man telephoned to the Llwyngwril constable to pass the
message. [Llwyngwril 9 miles from camp & up hills 1 in 4.
Dolgellau to campsite about 7 miles along better roads!]
1530 Llwyngwril constable arrived pushing his bicycle!
1545 Despite the poor walkie talkie reception (wind and rain does
not help) parties were alerted. In view of the time & the
available light left it was decided that it was pointless to cut
short the exercise & get to the search area just after dark, &
NCO i/c passed this message back from 717087 (above Tal
y Llyn) to base for relay to the parties.
1930 Last party arrived base camp just after dark.
Packed up after a meal & travelled to the search centre.
2130 Pen y Gwryd. The civilian rescue co-ordinator, Mr Briggs
had gone out but NCO i/c spoke to him on telephone &
found that parties had been asked to report P.Y.G at 0500
for briefing. NRCC informed by Flt Lt Stewart.
[Information available On Saturday afternoon 2nd
April, a party of the Royal Masonic School, Bushey, Hertford,
C.C.F., who were camping in Nant Gwynant, commenced
the traverse of the Snowdon Horseshoe, in very bad
weather. The schoolmaster in charge, Peter Sutcliffe (28)
had the boys (16) roped together in two threes from the time
they left Pen y Pass, for training in rope management. He
led the first rope while the second 3 followed.
After going over the Crib Goch ridge they became separated
in cloud; Sutcliffe left 2 cadets & went back to look
for the other 3. He missed them on the ridge (probably on
First Step of Crib y Ddisgl) but when he returned they had
caught up. He retied to his two & the two ropes of 3 continued,
and became separated once more. This time it was
thought that again the following three had taken a slightly
different line on a rocky section & so after a few minutes
wait, Sutcliffe continued to the Summit of Crib y Ddisgl
(3493'), & the Snowdon.
Since there was no sign of them he then returned onto the
ridge of Crib y Ddisgl but did not see them. He returned to
their base at Nant Gwynant with the other 2 cadets & when
the 3, John Etches, John Brenchley & Tony Evans did not
arrive later, reported in the evening that they were missing.
On Sunday the weather was still not good but parties
organised by Mr C B Briggs B.E.M. (of Pen y Gwryd) searched
the whole area without success. Llanberis Police asked for assistance
of RAF Valley M.R.T. after lunch, & another search was
planned for the Monday.]
Monday 4th April 1960
0500 More intensive search planned by RAF MRT. Walkie talkie
inter communications arranged.
A. Cwm Tregalen Kinnes (R/T) + Nant Gwynant sch. party (CCF)
B. Cwm Brwynog, under Clogwyn du Arddn ets. Hardman (R/T)
Foster + other non climbing civilians.
C. Cwm Dyli - Glaslyn under Llwedd Jones Watmore (R/T) + all
those remaining after main search parties made up.
D. Upper Cwm Glas - Paslyfern from above Cyrn Las - Pearson
Mackenzie (R/T) + sundry civilians scramblers.
E. Experienced rockclimbers then set out approx 80 ft intervals
climbing & traversing the flanks of Crib y Ddisgl - Parsons Nose
from Bwlch Goch from Glaslyn screes upwards - (on screes
C.C.P.R. Barlen + 9 boys then hyter-) Cpl Pibworth (R/T) Parker
Staton J/T Gordon A Baines SAC Dempster Clark Pomfret Cpl/T
Bray FS Lees (R/T) on crest then down into Cwm Glas - J Jackson
T Derbyshire SAC Cartledge SAC Newby G. Newby P Crew R
Orgile Cpl Hughes (R/T) Tregenza on screes again (those without ranks
civilians several from CCPR Plas y Brenin) [This involved actual
rockclimbing as distinct from "scrambling" where hands are used to
steady a person over easy rocks, as on most of the crest of the
F. Sgt McMichael & Barclay as link R/T at 642552 then started
moving up onto Crib Goch.
G. Also link & transport at Llyn Llydaw - Broome Grant.
0830 (approx) Pearson & Cpl Hughes found 3 bodies with head injuries
which would have been instantaneous, at the foot of the rocks to
the East of the Parsons Nose, left of Square Gully; it appeared that
they had fallen together from near the top of the Clogwyn y Person
arete, where in descent it steepens & becomes rockclimbing rather
than "scrambling" 107/617554. It looks as though they lost their
way on the upper ridge in error.
Messages passed to recall other parties to help stretcher carry
- large numbers available eventually, including Llanberis & Beddgelert
Police (total 3) & Mr C B Briggs. Bodies carried down to Ynys
Ettws & Llanberis Pass etc.
(All wearing thin shorts - much heat loss in bad weather)
Team returned to Valley in late afternoon
Remarks NCO i/c MRT
The Team members worked very hard & efficiently; pity
the fat Dolgelley constables didn't! Improved methods of contacts
are being suggested to higher authority but all involve
money - eg with several W/Ops established & sufficient drivers
we could have a continuous W/T watch with N.R.C.C. - as it
is we only have one w/op & depend on luck & odd policemen
being at home when off duty.
(A policeman with more imagination & initiative would have
asked a passing motorist for help & a lift from Dolgelley to the
The accident was a sad & avoidable story. We hope
Schools will learn from these mistakes - our often mild mountains
change suddenly in bad weather. The Civilian Mountain
Rescue Committee the controlling body in GD (voluntary) are
being approached with suggestions to prevent reoccurrence.
NCO i/c MRT
Remarks Office i/c MRT
Flt Lt Stewart of N.R.C.C. had a chance to study the difficulties
encountered during a "call out" at first hand. It is hoped that
some improvement in the system of contacts will be made.
Remarks Station Commander
Remarks Officer i/c MRT
This matter of clueless School parties has been to the fore
in a number of recent accidents. I have written an article for the
Times Gd or a similar publication likely to be read by Schoolmasters,
as it appears the majority of this class do not read books on
Mountaineering, or articles on Mountaineering Safety which are
published from time to time in climbing journals.
Well done Lees for your prompt action in this call.
Clogwyn y Person Arete
Conceived, written and copyright © 2010, Robert Palmer,
All Rights Reserved.
Compiled, formatted, hyperlinked, and encoded
2010 by John Palmer,