Nant Ffrancon Pass, Gwynedd

Filming schedule

The Abominable Snowmen: filmed 4-9 September 1967

Deborah Watling as Victoria Waterfield

Collection of photographs taken from Doctor Who: The Abominable Snowmen (1967), which was partially filmed in the Nant Ffrancon Pass, Gwynedd.

The Abominable Snowmen (six parts)

Original BBC1 broadcast: Saturday 30 September to Saturday 4 November 1967
Director: Gerald Blake
Starring: Patrick Troughton as the Doctor

Extensive location work for Doctor Who in the 1960s was a rarity; episodes were generally recorded on a weekly basis at the BBC studios in London for around 40 weeks of the year, and since stories overlapped in production there was little opportunity for the regular cast to venture far afield for outdoor sequences.

The Abominable Snowmen was scheduled to start production in autumn 1967 after the team's summer break, and as such it was possible for director Gerald Blake to take the series' stars - Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling - away for a week's location shooting in Wales.

The venue chosen to represent the barren Himalayan foothills of Tibet was the glacial gorge of Nant Ffrancon Pass ("nant" meaning "river") near Llyn Ogwen lake and the town of Bethesda in northern Snowdonia.

The BBC film crew headed up from London over the first weekend of September, planning to film from Monday 4 to Friday 8 September. However, apart from the night-time opening scene of a Yeti attack on the camp of an explorer called Travers and his colleague John, poor weather meant that the crew shot very little material over the first two days, with this night shoot completed on the first day.

"We were miles from anywhere," Frazer Hines - who played Jamie, the Doctor's faithful Highlander companion - told Doctor Who Magazine. "It was very cold. For my close-ups, I put on a pair of fireman's trousers and tucked my kilt into them because I was freezing. I also remember the Yeti trying to chase us and finding they weren't able to climb up the hills. They just sort of walked in one spot until they slid and rolled all the way down!"

On Wednesday 6 September, another BBC film crew from the local magazine programme Wales Today visited to cover Doctor Who's first foray outside England, with Glyn Owen chatting to Patrick Troughton; the finished two minute report was screened for BBC Cymru viewers the next evening.

Work continued through the week on extensive outdoor sequences, all of which had originally been written for recording in studio rather than on 16mm film on location. These scenes included material outside the mysterious Yeti cave (the interior of which had already been filmed at the BBC's Television Film Studios at Ealing) plus material such as the Doctor and Jamie dealing with a Yeti outside the TARDIS in Episode Four.

"My father, Jack Watling, was also in that episode," Deborah Watling, who played the Doctor's other companion Victoria, told the Radio Times in 1973. "At one point, Frazer and I were meant to be running downhill away from the Yeti when my dad, playing a professor, met us. [We] charged down the mountainside to be confronted by this incredible figure with a grey beard and white hair. I couldn't believe it was Dad and just stood there until the three of us collapsed in giggles."

With an extra day of filming to make up for the time lost to the weather, the BBC crew completed work on Saturday 9 September and returned to London to start rehearsals on the next two episodes. During their Welsh sojourn, both Frazer Hines and Gerald Blake shot silent 8mm colour home movies of their time at Nant Ffrancon. The area which had been seen in the 1958 film The Inn of Sixth Happiness was to be visited the following April by the film crew of Carry On... Up The Khyber.

Episode synopsis: The Abominable Snowmen

The TARDIS materialises on a mountainside close to the Detsen monastery in Tibet in 1935. The Doctor attempts to return a holy relic entrusted to him by the local monks three centuries earlier, but finds himself accused of murder by an English explorer called Travers.

In fact, the fatal attack was the work of the Yeti, robotic versions of the legendary creatures somehow connected with a strange cave discovered by the Doctor's companions, Jamie and Victoria.

Return to the Doctor Who in Wales map.

  • Region : North west Wales

How to get here

Nant Ffrancon is a steep-sided glacial valley dropping to Bethesda between the Glyderau and the Carneddau mountain range.

By car: the Nant Ffrancon Pass is the long steady climb of the A5 road between Bethesda, Gwynedd, and Llyn Ogwen in Conwy.

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