EGU21-10398, updated on 07 Sep 2023
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The timing of deglaciation from mountain summits to cirques in Wales: 10Be and 26Al exposure dates from Cadair Idris

Philip Hughes1, Neil Glasser2, David Fink3, Jason Dortch4, Reka Fülöp3,5, Klaus Wilcken3, and Toshiyuki Fujioka3,6
Philip Hughes et al.
  • 1The University of Manchester, School of Environment, Education and Development, Geography, Manchester, UK (
  • 2Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, SY23 3DB, Wales, UK
  • 3Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, PMB1, Menai, NSW 2234, Australia
  • 4Kentucky Geological Survey, University of Kentucky, Lexington, USA
  • 5School of Earth, Atmospheric and Life Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW, 2522, Australia
  • 6Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH), Burgos, 09002, Spain

Cosmogenic 10Be and 26Al exposure ages from 20 erratic samples collected from Cadair Idris (893 m), a mountain in southern Snowdonia, Wales, provide evidence for the timing of deglaciation from summits to cirques at the end of the Late Pleistocene. The summit of the mountain is characterised by intensely modified frost-shattered surfaces that have long been identified as a representing a former nunatak. Numerous glacially-transported quartz boulders on the highest ground indicate that ice overran the summit at some point in the Pleistocene. Two quartz boulders, one with preserved striations, sampled at c. 856 m near the summit of Cadair Idris yielded consistent 10Be and 26Al paired exposure ages of 75 ka to 60 ka (using a high-latitude sea level 10Be spallation production rate of 4.20 at/g/y, scaled by the Lal/Stone scheme). A glacially polished bedrock quartzite outcrop at 735 m gave an age of 17.5 ka. Immediately below this, cirque and down-valley recessional moraine ages, covering an elevation of 480 m to 350 m ranged from 10 to 15 ka respectively.

These results confirm that Cadair Idris was overridden by the Welsh Ice Cap during marine isotope stage (MIS) 4, when ice was thicker than at the global last glacial maximum (LGM) in MIS 2. This is consistent with findings from northern Snowdonia. The highest Welsh summits, including Cadair Idris, emerged above a thinning Welsh Ice Cap (British Irish Ice Sheet) during the transition from MIS 4 to 3. The summit area above ~800 m then stood as nunataks above the LGM ice sheet surface in MIS 2. The Welsh Ice Cap then rapidly thinned over Cadair Idris at ~20-17 ka based on ages from high-level ice-moulded bedrockThis is supported by more new ages from high-level paired erratics and bedrock samples on several other mountains throughout Snowdonia, leading to a phase of alpine-style deglaciation. Valley glaciers initiated their retreat up-valley from ~17 to 14 ka after Heinrich Event 1. A later phase of glacier stabilisation or still stand formation produced classic cirque moraines near the rim of a present cirque lake basin (480 m elevation) yielding 10Be ages of 13-10 ka during the Younger Dryas.

How to cite: Hughes, P., Glasser, N., Fink, D., Dortch, J., Fülöp, R., Wilcken, K., and Fujioka, T.: The timing of deglaciation from mountain summits to cirques in Wales: 10Be and 26Al exposure dates from Cadair Idris, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-10398,, 2021.


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