So I’ve been with the University of Portsmouth’s Mountaineering and Climbing club since my second year at uni, and we like to do various trips throughout the year, one such being a gallivant up to Snowdonia for a spot of walking in mountains.
So we get there after a long minibus journey with a playlist that quite literally pulls you back through time, we bed down, and the next morning we arise to do some mountaineering, with the helpful sound of Will Ye No Come Back Again on bagpipes to rouse everyone. Up, breakfast, to the minibuses, and out on the track. And crossing the track, because there are an awful lot of narrow gague railway lines winding their way through North Wales. Twas a gorgeous day lower down, and I had the pleasure, along with another colleague, of being our standard bearer, flying the wonderful Union Jack which I have flown in many different locales. Our merry group proceded up the hill, taking in gradually better and better views, and being hit by more and more wind. Fortunately this year, it was noticably clearer than last time round, with significantly less ice. But then again, the wind was severe. So much so that, disappointingly, after a while I had to stow the flag in order to prevent it from becomming a garrotte. I digress…
At approximately lunchtime, we reached the base of what was an extremely busy summit. This is where the main feature of the whole trip happened – my ploughman’s lunch, of course! Naturally, being me, any old lunch would n’er do, so I came equipped – two different cheddars, tomatoes, mayo, pickle, a decent amount of baguette, and a chopping board in which to serve it all upon. That about did the trick. What I did not factor for, however, was the wind. Well, chasing the lid to my spread and my napkins across a mountain did add a dimension of entertainment, it can’t be denied. So, overall, pretty happy with lunch, although I did spill some pickle on my flag, but anyhow.
Lunch happened, got packed away before the gale could attempt to take anything else from me, and we then proceded to the summit. Although it was a bit hazy, it must be said that’s the nicest view I’ve had from the top of Mt. Snowdon in, well, ever – I’d been up the top twice before, once when I was about thirteen, and the other in the previous year with the club, both times of which visibility was none existant, and the second of which everything was coated in a wonderful layer of ice and almost certain peril. If you can get up there in good visibility, I would highly, highly recommend it. Highly because it is very high. So then, that was that, and we now had to navigate our way down. And this is where the fun begins…
Had the wind been less akin to standing beneath the first stage engines on a Saturn V rocket, but colder, we would have likely taken the ridge, a route which would have led us the way which put us straight back at the bunkhouse. However, the ridge is called the ridge for a reason, and we also cared about not getting ourselves swiftly propelled into the Irish Sea, so we didn’t do that. Instead, rather, we found ourselves descending what turned to be quite the treacherous scramble, after which the group found itself in a fairly substantial valley. At this point, the fastest way back to the bunkhouse would have basically been back and up over the mountain again. Did we want to subject our club members to that, after le grande downhill scramble? Nah…
The only other option, therefore, was to head down the valley in the opposite direction, which would eventually lead to a road. And so, plan B it was.
I should mention at this point a couple of things we came across on the way down from here – the first of which being the sight of a rescue helicopter, winching some poor soul from the top of one of the distant peaks. This, and bumping into a couple of hikers who were asking for the whereabouts of another individual who was presumed lost in the area. One must appreciate just how changeable mountain conditions are, particularly at this time of year (late Februrary). We never did find the whereabouts of the latter, but it is but one of undoubtedly hundreds of examples of where what started as enjoyable adventurous activities took a turn for the worse. Thankfully, this did not affect us, but it was thought provoking nonetheless.
We carried on, and although we were sheltered from the heavy gale, what was once wind now became rain, and so it was imperative that we found shelter of some kind. Funnily enough, the two hikers we had bumped into turned out to be very nice people, and were going the same way as our group. Long story short, they were nice enough to offer our drivers a lift whilst the rest of us took cover outside a nearby youth hostel, so they could come back with the minibuses and life could return to normal. This gave a nice calm moment to share some homemade brownie and chat with my colleagues.
So in due course, we all got back to the bunkhouse, and were very grateful of this couple who had decided to help us. Our drivers had offered to cover the fuel costs in fact, but I am informed that they declined, stating that the money would do more good going to Mountain Rescue, which is a charity funded organisation. And so, now seems as good a time as any to give them a shout out, because they are quite literally life savers. The whole experience left us with much to ponder at the pub over dinner that evening, and later on when we bedded down that night.
Last day – there were two options on what to do, and somewhat uncharacteristically for me, I chose the option that was slightly easier, because I wanted to limit kaputing my shoulder to only Wednesday, rather than to Saturday. Mostly my fault for not realising my left shoulder strap was too tight, but I digress…
So the option that most people went for was to climb Moel Siabod, another quite tall mountain. I can tell you what it’s like because I did it last year – going up it’s a lot of fun, there’s a boulder field close to the top, and absolutely cracking views. That was one group.
My group, on the other hand, did Geocaching, a mobile app based activity where you are given coordinates to find a Geocache. Basically, this is a small container with usually a message from everyone that’s found it, or other items at times. And this turned out to be really nice, because it was over relatively flat ground, with quite stunning mountain vistas, and the weather was quite bloody spectacular that day as well. We found three; one literally in the car park where we stopped, one in an oddly picturesque graveyard, and the last under some rocks by a lake. In addition to finding the Geocaches, it was actually a really pleasant time to unwind, and generally converse with everyone I was with. Conversation subjects included the best type of biscuit to dunk in tea, and the finer aspects of the pun, amongst others. A successful second day by my book.
Overall, I’d rate this trip a success. The way we had to get back from Snowdon was not ideal, but it was the most responsible thing to do at the stage we had reached. It goes without saying therefor, the importance of proper planning and preparation.
To sum up, Geocaching is really relaxing, my ploughmans was brilliant, and we should support Mountain Rescue!