Wales Snowdonia Trip
12-15 November 2018
The students expressed an interest in going to Wales after the summer holidays so it was decided that we should go before it got too cold. The trip was part of the DofE Award programme and the main objectives of the trip would be to; function as a team, learn camping and hiking techniques.
During the expedition section of the DofE programme the students will need to plan and partake in an assessed expedition. We are hoping that there will be another three training expeditions to help the students reach the required level and gain the skills. The car journey took eight hours and when we arrived in Wales, the group were tired and agitated. Luckily we arrived just before dark and we managed to get a view of Snowdon and the surrounding hills. The group were a little surprised at the scale of the task ahead and very excited. Mount Snowdon is the highest mountain in England and Wales. We travelled to the campsite in Nant Peris (Old Llanberis) and when we arrived it was dark, the wind was blowing strong and it was raining heavily. As a group we attempted to put the tents up and although we succeeded three tents got broken in the process due to high winds. We had repair kits so we sorted the issues and then the students made the tents their own. By this time we were hungry so we went to Llanberis and found the famous climbing café called ‘Pete's Eats’. Everyone enjoyed a meal of chips, egg and beans and we checked out all the photos of climbing in the local area. It was great to see the excitement and positivity in the students. I checked the weather and it was clear that our only chance to get to the top of Snowdon would be the following day. After having a few games of pool in a local pub we returned to the campsite and after a couple of hours the students settled to have a few hours sleep in some loud wind-blown tents.
We woke up and the ground was dry and the wind had settled. We all stood and looked up the valley (Llanberis Pass), towards Mount Snowdon and although there was a cloud layer covering the peaks, it was clear that the sun was shining due to the orange and pink glow. I was confident the clouds would lift further and visibility would improve. We all had breakfast, got our packed lunches sorted and threw our kit into the bus. All of the students had managed to get their waterproofs and boots and although staff helped, the students were quick to get themselves sorted and follow instructions. We headed to Pen-Y-pass, at the top of Llanberis Pass, the start of the Pyg Trail and the Miners Track. This would be the start of our hike. The planned time, including rests for the group was just over six hours, to the summit and then back to the van. I took the group through some important instructions and handed out safety equipment. We checked out the map and I explained the route. The students and staff were excited and there was enough visibility at this point to see about 2000m ahead, so we could see the Pyg Track.
Off we go! We began walking and we managed to move together which was fantastic. Throughout the first hour there were the standard layer changes and drinks stops, but eventually the group found their flow and we moved along the trail at a good pace and crossed the ridge into the Cwm. We steadily approached the steep section of our climb. We looked up and we couldn’t see the summit because it was hiding in the clouds and we knew that soon our visibility would be reduced significantly. The views and mountain scenery were stunning. Clouds were flowing and pouring into the valley and the sun created an orange glow on the mountain side. The students were excited to take photos and send them to their friends and family.
We carried on walking and began to move up into the clouds. As we got higher, the wind increased and we experienced downdrafts and strong gusts. The students crossed the rocky sections with no trouble and soon we found ourselves on the summit ridge, in complete white-out (100m max vis). The wind was strong and the temperature was considerably lower. The students had all brought jackets, thermals and good waterproofs so they were not fazed by the conditions and they appeared to be enjoying every minute. The cloud was blowing horizontally around us as we climbed the summit ridge. We followed the tram way and soon the students got a glimpse of the top. It was an amazing experience getting to the top and everyone was so happy. The sense of achievement was fantastic and the students could not believe it. We all took photos and then we sheltered behind the station and had a bite to eat.
I explained that we were only half way and that we needed to be extra careful on the way down, “It isn’t over yet!”We sat for ten minutes and then we had to get moving, it was cold and I didn’t want people's body temperatures dropping too much. We headed down and again moved as a group - the downdrafts were so strong that we had to brace against the wind. We could hear the gusts coming which gave us time to hold on. We emerged from the clouds once more to amazing views and found the miners' track, which we followed back to the bus. That evening we all ate a big meal and relaxed together. The winds and rains returned and we felt slightly smug that somehow the clouds had parted for six to eight hours, just so we could get to the top and down in relative safety. The students are already asking when we can go and climb Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike. Hopefully, this is our new summit team. Thanks to Codie and Hannah (Staff), I could not have done this trip without them.