Mountaineering Course – wild camping

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This week just gone I have been working for the Joint Services again, at their mountain training wing in Llanrwst, JSMTW (L).  The course was a Summer Mountaineering Foundation, which lays the foundations and gets some of the pre-requisites for the Mountain Leader Award.  I was joined by members of various Regements, from Royal Gurkha Rifles, to Army Air Core.

Day 1: Navigation basics, including bearings, contours, distances, pacings, timings, etc. For this we headed from Capel Curig, over Crimpiau and Craig Wen.  Perfect terrain with lots of features to attack.

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Crimpiau

Day 2: Mountain day and basic scrambling. We covered Y Gribin ridge from Llyn Idwal, then went over Gylder Fawr and down Devil’s Kitchen.  The day was North Wales tropical, but our friend from Brunei didn’t agree.IMG_0871.jpg

Day 3: A long day on Snowdon, working on more advanced navigation using mainly contour interpretation.  On 1:50k maps.  We travelled up from Pen y Pass, across Lliwedd, and down the Rhyd Ddu path.  I then found out the Gwynedd council had given me a parking fine of £25 at the Pen y Gwryd car park. Cheers

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Carneddau Wild Ponies – Ffynnon Llugwy

Day 4: First day of expedition.  We travelled from Gwern gof uchaf to Carnedd Llewellyn.  Then descended the East side to camp in Cwm Eigiau.  We saw the plane wreck site of Canberra Wk129, a jet that crashed on the Summit in Dec 1957, the debris was spread about a mile across the hillside and on both sides of the impact ridge.  Truely an impressive site.  Many of the parts still remain there.

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Eastern Spur of Carnedd Llewellyn

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Day 5: It was one of the first times I can remember camping on a North East facing cwm, so I pitched my tent so that at 05:30AM, I could unzip my tent door and see sunrise.  A seriously cool way to wake up.  I put a brew on and enjoyed the hazy sunrise then went back to sleep.

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Looking towards Colwyn Bay from 820m on the Carneddau at 05:30AM

 

 

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Lightning and Thunder, Simultaneously. Mountain Leader Training

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A dull rumble shatters my already broken sleep, my ears prick up to full alert mode before I can say I’m awake. I lay there in my 1 man tunnel tent, like a translucent coffin, listening to the heavy rain starting to bang against the outer sheet, no pitter patter nonsense, each drop makes its own heavy thud.

Mountain Leader Training Ropework Day

Mountain Leader Training Rope work Day

2 days ago, I was on the Gribin ridge with my group, enjoying the role of hopping between each pair on a rope work day, ensuring that they were safe… keeping it simple. There were overhand knots going on left right and center, the sun was blazing, wind howling, the surroundings of Cwm Idwal giving a real mountain milieu, these guys are training to lead their own groups in the mountains, eager to learn, and a strong group. The day finished with with an ice cream, Magnum white. My ice cream being too sickly was the only objective danger of the day. I felt in control and on top of my game, totally comfortable in that environment.

A flash lights up my tent, alerting my eyes to the same sensitivity levels as my ears, before I realise what the sensation is, thunder cracks all around the tent, like a boomerang whooping 360 around you in a state of the art surround sound cinema. It’s close.

Navigating to Lliwedd

Navigating to Lliwedd

The day previous we set off with bags weighing in the region of 12-18 kilos, mine was at the lighter end, the guys with pyjamas and deodorant at the other. After some paperwork and organisation my group took turns to navigate from the Pen y Gwryd, over the horns, down to the lakes in the amphitheatre of the Snowdon horseshoe, up the other side and over the rocky ridge line of Y Lliwedd. My team, slightly different from yesterday were again strong, a few climbers, a few outdoor ed staff, and some more than adequately switched on learners. Finding a flat campsite at 6PM in cwm Tregalan in the shadow of the Snowdon – Lliwedd bwlch, was no drama.

3 or 4 hour Night Navigation

3 or 4 hour Night Navigation

Will’s team camped in the same spot making 14 of us, with about 11 tents forming a hamlet (of aluminium poles) at 450m altitude, surrounded by mountains in their June alpenglow. We readied for night-navigation with an excited anticipation of being out until 02:30, the weather was ideal, a waxing quarter moon shone down.

Quickly getting dressed, opening the tent, peering out at a dark dark sky, this time it is not a flash, but a intracloud luminosity. Lightning above us. The clouds are not far above our heads and the mountains to the sides are fully engulfed. Thoughts extremely rapidly change from how the clouds are earthing their charge separation to; we’re in a tricky situation here… Time to turn on the autocratic tone of voice that the trainees have not yet heard.

Before reaching their tents, which are just 20m away, Will is already bellowing at the top of his voice, “Get out of your tents, now” “Get up”, “….ing move”. I join in to deliver the same message in much the same way, like commanding officers in a war zone coming into contact, concise, accurate, directive information. The tents are wriggling as bodies battle slumber with adrenaline. Will and myself leave the hillock we’re shouting from, it’s been about a minute since the last bolt landed a few hundred meters away, we’re due another. Running low to the middle of a large flat area we all spread out, crouch down, and I think about how it’s impossible for me to directly and actively be in control of protecting my group from the sky.  [info on what to do in a electrical storm]

As I tie up my boots holding sockless feet, zip up my jacket, and watch my open tent and sleeping bag fill with the torrents, another bolt lands very close indeed. The thunder is simultaneous. The lightning stays alight for more than a flash, maybe 0.3 sec, then the scarring on my eyes stays for longer. I look around the group, Will and I unable to communicate with all of them, but just leading by example in what to do. Everyone copies us, our posture and patience.

The sky over Moel Siabod is now looking brighter, just 10 minutes after the first burst of electricity. Another flash goes off, with thunder less than a second or two after, but clearly it’s moved on top of Snowdon and out of our home for the night. As the brighter sky creeps towards us, I can see a smile of relief on Will’s face, I return it with nervous laughter. Still the storm carries on, but always moving North, the lightning to thunder time differential growing.

After a fair while, we pack down our tents with a sense of urgency, and navigate the best way down the hillside. A great course with excellent feedback, and a glitch in the weather on the final day! We head through the old quarry workings. I wonder how many storms the miner’s confronted. T

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A more friendly looking storm – 10 hours after our very rowdy wake up call

3 Peaks Challenge – Snowdon Climb – Miners Track

Snowdon and Lliwedd from Miners Track
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As in my last post I said during periods of heavy rain, it doesn’t usually last long, and we can be outdoors and getting adventurous within a couple of days normally.  I was right, and putting up with the last week was fine as today we were beautifully rewarded with an outstanding morning.

Pictures say a thousand words, so take a browse through below, the Miners Track up and some of the Pyg track on the way down.  Flora fully out at the moment, loads of saxifrage, wood sorrel, butterwort, milkwort, dog violets, harebells, the list goes on… even on the crazy busy paths you can see these Arctic alpine flowers doing fairly well.

[Oh, and to the ignorant douchebag deliberately letting his dog chase sheep on around the Glaslyn today, thinking it was funny and arrogantly dismissing my advice two or three times, get educated and read this… Dogs Guidance It’s illegal, they’re someone’s property, livelihood and are animals with feelings too.]

Anglesey

Early Bird gets the worm. Inversion over Anglesey 5AM

Pen y Pass Car Park 5.30 AM

Plenty of Parking at Pen y Pass, even on a bank holiday (5:30 AM!)

Crib Goch

Crib Goch from the Miners Track, still reflection

Snowdon and Lliwedd from Miners Track

Snowdon and Lliwedd from Miners Track

Old Mine Works - Snowdon

Old Mine Works

Lliwedd

Lliwedd, from steeper section of Miners Track. Beautifully clear morning

Scrambling up the Miners Track - Snowdon

Scrambling up the Miners Track – Snowdon

Approaching the Pyg Track Junction

Approaching the Pyg Track Junction

Money Tree - North Wales

Money Tree – North Wales

Towards Llanberis from the Finger Stone

Towards Llanberis from the Finger Stone

Snowdon Summit RIdge

Snowdon Summit RIdge

Snowdon Train Track

Snowdon Train Track

Snowdon Train Up

Snowdon Train Up

Snowdon

Snowdon Summit Cairn

Triangulation station, on Summit Cairn

Triangulation station, on Summit Cairn

Pyg Track

Pyg Track

The descent

The descent

The Llanberis Pass looking North West

The Llanberis Pass looking North West

Nearly back to Pen y Pass

Nearly back to Pen y Pass

Snowdon Sign Posts

Snowdon Sign Posts

Insectivorous plant

Insectivorous plant

Right on the Pyg Track!

Right on the Pyg Track!

24 hour challenge!

24 hour challenge!

Crazy blisters from badly fitting running shoes

Crazy blisters from badly fitting running shoes for 24 hours

3 Peak Challenge is available for booking now at http://www.terryjameswalker.com/walking.html