While tourists flock to the highest peak in Wales, progress is killing the communities that live there.
Sam Roberts and Snowdonia folk call the tiny piles of grey dust on the summit the summer snow. These small heaps which rest briefly on the bare rocks before being swept away by the relentless winds are the mortal remains of climbers, walkers and other visitors who fell in love with Snowdon and whose last wish was to have their ashes scattered here.

"And why not indeed? I cannot think of a better place to be laid to rest," says Sam, a Snowdon warden who has walked these hills as man and boy.

Further along the craggy stone ridge are two small, wind-torn bunches of fading flowers, an offering to mark the spot where a climber fell to his death some years ago.

Hundreds of feet below this poignant reminder of how dangerous Snowdon can be are coaches spilling out day trippers from Birmingham, Liverpool and further afield. In a lay-by far beneath the peaks, they queue for service at a convoy of ice-cream vans and cold drinks vendors. Across the road, some mountain bikers are getting ready, and a group of fell runners make their final preparations. Cars with hang-gliders strapped to roofs are arriving, and half a dozen pony trekkers trot past.

For most of the 500,000 annual visitors like these to Snowdon, the highest point in England and Wales, the mountain and its foothills are a vast leisure park for recreation, enjoyment, walking and sightseeing. But behind the picture-postcard images of Snowdonia there are hidden and darker sides to this community in the clouds.

There are the old villages like Deiniolen which is wrestling with the problems of poverty and unemployment. And nestling in the folds of the hills are more communities devastated by the high unemployment that came with the closure of slate mines that were once the biggest in the world, employing up to 3,000 men each. These communities are also plagued by the problems of their young who have to move away from these Welsh-speaking heartlands to get work and a home of their own.

Away from the six tourist trails that converge on the summit like motorways on a city, there are the hard lives of people like shepherd John Lewis, whose family have kept sheep on Cadair Idris for more than a century. His daily life is a series of battles against weather, walkers and wardens.

This hidden side of Snowdonia has been captured on film by Graham Johnston for a six-part BBC2 documentary which takes a look at the area through the eyes of the people who live and work there - and who cope with day- to-day problems that are unseen by the hordes of tourists.

It is not just as a warden that Sam Roberts is passionate about his mountain. "I look on her as a fine lady who is often mistreated by all these people who walk all over her without being really invited. The lady is letting you enjoy her company for a while and if you respect her, everything will be all right.

"We do get a lot of visitors and people do complain that the roads get blocked with cars and people. What I say to them is that we are fortunate enough to live in paradise for 365 days a year, surely we can put up with these people coming here for just a few weeks a year.

"I have a sadness for people who cannot appreciate such beauty - and a sadness, too, for the loss of life that occurs and which is a constant reminder of how ruthless the mountain can be if you don't respect her."

Denise Williams, meanwhile, is bringing her family up in Deiniolen, a community that has suffered with the loss of slate mining and two thirds of its population are without a job.

"We are forgotten about; we lead nowhere. Villages that are in the tourist areas get everything, we don't get a thing. There is nothing here any more - people don't want to live here. The High Street is like a slum," she says.

Older people in the village, which is littered with boarded-up shops, recall the prosperous days of full employment.

"Everything was orderly in those days," says one former slate miner. "On Monday the wife used to wash all the dirty clothes; Tuesday was drying day and a time for baking loaves; on Wednesday there was all the ironing, and on Thursday they would be doing the cakes for Sunday, with apple tarts and wineberries. Every day was something special."

The area has attracted its share of incomers, too. Clyde Holmes has lived in the remote Cwm Hesgyn valley for 25 years.

"It is wonderful to bring a family up here. Children always appreciate a certain amount of freedom generally and that is what they had here. The usual stresses and strains don't appear so much. As they get older, of course, the children want to widen their horizons and in their teens it is not so ideal."

Clyde has spent years painting different views of the remote valley. "Look at the mountains, how eternal they are. We humans are just a pinprick really. When you live here there is a sense that everything around you will always be here."

'Visions of Snowdonia' begins on BBC2, Friday 16 May at 8pm

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