Mountain Leader Training Course April 2012

Sunday

I arrived at Plas y Brenin about 7 pm. It only took 2.5 hours to get here. I’ve been using the east and south sides of the M60 but have finally woken up to the north and west sides being quicker. I shaved half an hour off the journey and it makes Snowdonia even more doable.
I went to the bar and got a beer then the rooms were announced as being ready. I went and lugged the first load in. PYB is an old coaching inn en route to Anglesey and is very big and has lots of corridors leading hither and thither. My single (phew) room is at the back with a great view of the Snowdon horseshoe. Better than last time when I had to climb on the table to see out/open the window and all I got was the top of the kitchen. Nice and comfortable. A step up from the YH.
Went to check programme for tomorrow and met Angela from S. Wales and Heather who are sharing the room next door. They seem nice. Just Christopher to meet.
Got the rest of the gear in. There is loads of it because – usual mountain gear plus camping gear plus river crossing clothes plus study bag.
For dinner in the bar I had chicken and chips and salad. Chicken was deep fried and too dry. Chips too many but the salad bit was nice.
My room is quiet which is good. I can faintly hear the girls next door. Suspect it’s just luck I have a single room so must remember to request it next time.
Monday
Up at 7 am for a shower and bag packing. Down just before 8 to pack up my lunch of tuna sandwich plus apple and tiffin. Last time I came they had outsourced the sandwiches for lunches and they were rubbish. Many of us fed this back to them and they have changed the supplier to a nearer one.
Beans on toast for breakfast.
First off is welcome to the centre by Martin Doyle. As this is my 3rd time all I can say is that he looks older.
Then off with Mike Raine, author of Nature of Snowdonia. He is our instructor for the week. We go to the Gwynant room which is probably one of the lounges of the old inn.
Intros and remit of scheme. Then we collect bags and assemble under the canopy. We collect maps from stores and we are off. Weather is warm and sunny. Across the end of the lake by by the bridge.
We are going up Moel Siabod which I had thought of for a warm up yesterday but didn’t do as managed to distract myself. We do pacing and quickly cover 500m. Then on up the path through the woods. Once out of the woods we start on legs. Mike very relaxed about it all. Rather than follow each step to the letter with maps out we have to put them away while taking turns to lead.  The leader has theirs out! We are all quite well matched and we help each other a bit. We then have to relocate using the contours when the leader stops. We do this a good way up the hill. I am finding the walking hard work after my cold last week but Angela has asthma so needs to stop for occasional rests. This makes me feel better about stopping! Mike and Chris both have very long legs. Chris and Heather are DoE leaders but much nicer than the last ones I met here. Heather reminds me of Jennifer Saunders so am well disposed to her and she has a great sense of humour!
There are long scrambly sections which are hard work and more so when the rain comes and it gets slippy. I have a slide but on my front. Am told my nav is perfection! Well for that leg anyway! I get 2 legs to do to the summit in the mist and rain. I take a bearing before the mist really obscures it.
We stop in the shelter for hot drinks and then it’s back down. More huge rocks to clamber over but once done a fast route down. We all fall in the mud except for Heather.
A hafod is summer mountain hut and a hendre is a winter one from when the Welsh did transhumance.
Back to PYB just in time to watch the ML course members do their river crossing.
Lots of fun in the drying room as the ML people are needless to say extremely wet. Sticky iced bun and tea then class work on the camping trip. Shower then dinner. This is a slice of melon, steak and ale pie, carrots,  cauli and roast spuds.
We all attend a short lecture about things not to do in Yosemite, i.e.climb a huge, huge, huge cliff for 8 days. No, no, no. Felt sick looking at the photos.
Beer in bar. Chat to Heather and Angela. Gear all dry very quickly.
Tried ringing home but no answer. I have an email from Carol that the phone is not bloody working now. Grrr.
From Moel Siabod
Tuesday
Beans and hash brown for breakfast. Short session on weather. Forecast for today not great and hideous for the camp trip tomorrow. Bump into Helen who assessed me for WGL, she mentions tomorrow’s weather too.
We assemble and drive out to the car park next to Idwal Cottage. Up to Cwm Idwal with Mike pointing out rocks and plants. He is excellent on both. I am finding rocks more and more interesting but not sure if this is a massively cool interest to have. Suspect not but I don’t really care. We go up a bit and today we are concentrating on navigating over steep ground and it most certainly is. Hands on a lot of the time and levering ourselves up. We do some spotting, which is to adopt a brace stance so as to support someone up from you. Never pull someone up. Map work is limited to relocating. As yesterday I only get one of my relocations slightly out. We get up pretty high looking up at Glyder Fawr. Sandwich is cheese and coleslaw which is ok and fresh but needs more filling, apple and flapjack. We do route finding and then traverse back towards Llyn Bochlwyd. This also involves descending very steep scree. The technique here is to zig zag. The leader should line the group up before crossing so no-one can kick rock down on the leader and then each person crosses, lining up again before heading back out. When we did going up the scree Mike said we were to make no noise. This is a great tip to get people to concentrate.
Back along the river bank to the minibus. I waved to Damian at the YH but he wasn’t actually in sight.
We picked up a Frenchman just as we got going but I still wasn’t quite sure what the whole story was there.
Back for tea and bara brith, yum yum.
Lecture on the nature of Snowdonia but not delivered by Mike, although the slides were written by him. Good for consolidating knowledge.
Shower then Welsh beef roast dinner with immensely eye wateringly hot horseradish. Delicious.
Then the girls (Angela is 52 and Heather, who must be a little younger) and I put up our tents in a wide corridor. Lots of giggles. Chris joined us. He seems quite a serious young man, he gave me some load lightening tips and Heather who has loads of DoE camping experience was most helpful re packing.
Then we played with pans and worked out boil in bag cookery and eating. This will cut lots of weight. Dried food is even lighter but means more washing up.
Bar for beer and chat.
Striations where rock has been scratched on its travels
Llyn Idwal
Magnificent Mike!
Llyn Idwal
Mike, Angela, Heather, Chris
Heather, Angela, Mike, Chris
Wednesday
Biggish breakfast of beans, poached egg, toast, hash bown. Pack bag.
Meet up. Weather forecast just pants. I get Mike to sign his book. Unpack bag and start again, this time with the girls helping. Heather most adept at squashing! Eventually I get it all stuffed in. Coffee in girls’ room. Download Agatha Christie Passenger to Frankfurt mainly because Maureen and I talked about it the other day.  Once I’d got togged up we meet under the canopy to weigh the bags. Mine is the lightest at 13 Kg.
Into van to Gelli Lago where we park up. We set off and I get the first legs and on and up. It’s wet and windy and horrid. We soon stop for lunch, it seems soon because we had left much later than on the other 2 days. I get a leg to the col of Cnicht. It’s less wet now but I am very slow. There is a scrambly bit to summit. We try to walk the ridge but Mike stops this plan as it’s too windy. He says it’s 100 mph and not safe. We are all in agreement with this especially as Chris has been lifted off his feet and we carefully go down away from wind.
We camp at a lovely spot near a stream which is flat and soft. Heather and Angela and I help each other to put up our tents. We let the boys just get on with theirs!
I walk down some distance for a poo. Sorry to mention this but I have forgotten my matches to burn the loo paper so instead go au natural and use spaghnum moss. It’s cold and wet but soft and antibacterial!
We have a cup of tea in Chris’ hafod then we all go to our tents to warm up but I fail to do this quickly. I read my book on the phone. Passenger to Frankfurt is dedicated to my grandmother and there is something soothing about seeing her name as she is still much loved and often missed. It’s nearly 40 years since she died.
I put more clothes on and warm up a bit
Time for dinner. Angela says Chris has moved his tent. I use the water from the bladder, no, not that one, to heat up Look What We Found beef casserole. I heat it up under the flysheet as it’s raining again but really I needed to heat it for a little bit longer. I have it with half a pitta.
We camped about 4. Dinner at 7. Now nearly 8. The night nav starts at 9. Whoopee. Mike says to see it as a bit of fun. Good plan.
Midnight
Three hours of nav in big wet. Truly horrid. Mike said it was as bad as it gets. I am back in my tent fairly snug. I was anxious before we did the night nav as had thought we would do legs but we actually did it as a group. I was grateful for this as struggled to see as well as hear. Main lesson for me camping is to bring a big orange emergency bag to put the rucksack in. And don’t get caught out at night in vile conditions!
Thursday
7 am
It took me a long time to get to sleep. When my feet dried and warmed it happened. To sleep I wore merino pants, merino long johns, merino socks, merino t shirt, merino long shirt, micro fleece. And my buff. That came off but am warm now.
It rained a bit in the night but it came a time when the rain and wind stopped and all I could hear was the stream flowing steadily and now the birds are singing. Lovely.
Heather says things like “oh my giddy aunt”and “better out than in”!
6 pm
Back at PYB.
Today breakfast of 2 muesli bars, a bit of cake and a cup of tea. Angela had a terrible time in her £10 tent and I don’t think Heather and Chris liked their Jack Wolfskin tents that much as they seem to be hard to get in and out of without wetting it all. Angela ended up with her sleeping bag in her orange plastic survival bag as her tent had let in so much wet.
We packed it all away. Mike asked us what had worked best, my tent. What had worked worst, my gloves. What we wished we’d brought, whisky. What we wished we hadn’t, I said moisturiser but also wet wipes. I used everything else except a spare top but should have brought spare hat and gloves.
Mike said we needed to see where we had tramped about last night so we went back up. This time with full packs so it felt really heavy until we got into it.
It’s a pretty little lake where we retraced last nights’ steps. Mike split us into teams so Angela and I worked together. We had to go to 3 spots and we did this fine. Then we got another 3 and this took us down and up to our lunch. Whilst the day had started off fine and dry, when the rain came it only went away for short intervals. But at least we could see where we were going.
Lunch with the others. Pitta with smoked cheese, peanuts, dried fruit, a small cake and a bit of shortbread.
We got another section to do which had some slippy sections. Really felt the contours starting to make sense.
Then it was the walk down and back. Some even slippier bits. Back into lowland and a bog which Heather and I managed to stick our feet and ankles into, a short road section took us back to the bus.
Mike stopped the minibus on the way back near a river so the thing we had all been joking about was now going to happen as we knew it would. The river crossing made the ankle wetting seem like a raindrop. Mike showed us 3 techniques. In a line behind each other holding on to each others’ hips. In a circle. In a V shape. Needless to say we were in up to our knees and yes the water was cold.
Back to the drying room which we filled. It has blow heat and a powerful dehumidifier extractor. All should be dry tomorrow.
A lovely shower. Sorry to continue with the bottom saga. Whilst the spaghnum moss is soft etc. it also has bits of old grass in it which I’d not noticed while concentrating on keeping warm dry and on the map. All these had managed to stick themselves into my bottom, all’s well now.
Beer before dinner.
Dinner of melon, chick pea curry, rice, carrots, green beans, raspberry fool.
2 more half pints of beer and a Penderyn whisky. Lots of laughs. What nice people.
In the drying room most stuff is doing well just not the boots.
Dolorite
More dolorite
Managed not to step on this
Glorious weather!
Friday
Slept like a log. Woke at 6 and then dropped off again. Breakfast of beans, poached egg and toast. Collected lunch and off to the lecture room. We practised knotting and the principles of belaying indoors. Then out along the road and across to some rocks. We looked at how to identify good anchors – size, solidity and shape. Tapping lets you feel vibrations if the rocks are loose and many were. Heather and I got up the hill in turns. Then we lunched. Time to belay each other down a bit. I found knotting didn’t exactly come easily to me. But well impressed with how effective the system is. Even when I just dug my heels in with Mike pulling hard, he couldn’t shift me! Then we did the confidence rope which is a bit like leading a dog on a lead and I was told I did this well. Not sure what Chris thought!
Then back to the centre for paper work and more rope work crossing a river (imaginary).
Time for farewells. Just glad to have been on training with such nice people.
Final bara brith. Took me a while to pack and get everything to the car. Set off at 5.30 and home for just after 8.  Despite a big holdup in Llanwrst for traffic lights. They went green so being at the front of the queue I set off only to find an enormous lorry heading straight for me (slowly) around the bend. I and several others had to reverse back up. They all went off down a one way street but I didn’t know where it went to so stayed put. The lorry came round. I then went to go off again as I was in the way and various other cars all following the lorry were most abusive to me. Considering that I had the right of way and the lorry hadn’t this was a tad irritating. The course must have chilled me or knackered me entirely because the abuse didnt even bother me that much.
Apart from that an uneventful journey in the rain. Much colder over here only 4.5 degrees.
Chris, Heather, Mike
Chris, Heather
Chris and Heather
Angela
Saturday
Boots still not completely dry!

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Snowdonia April 2012

April 9th to 13th

Monday

Set off a bit late and had to return to collect my phone charging lead. Eventually got going and stopped at Morrisons in Oldham for diesel and a few supplies. Stopped at the services for a coffee and landed in Llanberis about 2 pm. It was so very wet that I decided to drive to Betws y Coed but it was so busy there I went on up to Dolwyddelan and walked across the bridge and back. Still very wet so back to Betws where the rain stopped for a bit. A quick spurt into Rock Bottom to buy cards, a book and some boot proofer.
Then it was time for the YH so I drove round to Idwal Cottage which is one of the very first four YHs that were set up and is next to Lynn Ogwen nestled into the mountains. It’s a four star hostel and does seem nice. No meals are provided here so it’s all self cookers which is how the YHA used to describe us. The warden is Damian and I’ve arranged to give him my route plan each day.
I then self cooked  chicken curry and rice and peas which was nice and have chatted to a couple, he American, she Portuguese and a family from Cornwall mum dad and two teenage girls.
No signal so rang home on pay phone.
It’s gone very quiet in the sitting room!
Dolwyddelan in the rain

Tuesday

Last night turned into a farce. Sarah the Portuguese and somewhat sulky madam it has to be said although perhaps just very tired and Michael the American skipped off so I gave S 15 mins and went to room 6.  I was just brushing my teeth when Michael came in. We worked out I had been allocated the wrong key and room as his card had a little m for man on it. I suggested he could go in with S if he wanted but we decided to stick with the status quo as S was already asleep and neither M nor I wanted to remake beds. M skipped into bed v quick and I went and changed in the loo. If you don’t move when sitting on loo the light goes out so you have to wave.
I don’t think either M or I slept very well.
Today I let Damian know what had happened and it turned out I needed to be in the right room as tonight room 6 is full of men! He was most apologetic but I said M and I thought it was funny and how the YH originators would be turning in their bunks!
D said he would move my things to room 7. M was quite nice but had a beard which is not my fave thing! Of course my actual friends with beards are different (just in case Nigel reading this).
Breakfast of coffee muesli and yoghurt. Gave route to D and set off.
Start of walk up Pen yr Ole Wen is very steep involving clambering up big outcrop and so it continued. The book I have just read said this is one of hardest ascents in Snowdon land! And it was. Wish I had read that bit before I started out. It’s 1 in 2 most of the way. Lots of scrambly bits and hard to keep on path. I reached the snow and kept on for a while but it got slippery and after a few slides and some hailstones and having strayed off the path a bit I decided to return. I got to 820m which was still not bad. After I’d got past the snow section tracking my own footsteps in proper Ray Mears style, I stopped for lunch in a rocky hollow looking over to Cwm Idwal and the Glyders. Finding the path on the way down was easy apart from some sections where I had to go down on my bum. It made me realise I had not actually used the path for a lot of the ascent which had made it harder.
Nearing the end I came across a group of people being assessed for ML using a confidence rope. They were from Bedfordshire and I wished them well.
Back to the YH by 3 and D said I could go in so had benefit of early shower.
Self cooked a dinner of mutton stew, rice and peas. Very nice. Drank a bottle of beer working my way through the range from Conwy brewery. Read books in the peaceful sitting room and went to bed about 10. Big sneezes and feel v snuffly.  No more bedroom farce as I now have a girls’ dormitory and 4 bunks to myself.
Llyn Ogwen
Helicopter over on Tryfan
Weather coming
Down to Llyn Ogwen
Across to Llyn Ogwen with Llyn Bochlyd behind left and Llyn Idwal behind right
Bridges over outflow of Llyn Ogwen

Wednesday

Slept much better although  wake feeling  like I have a cold. Take 2 paracetamols. Usual breakfast but the kitchen is organised chaos with the females of the party of 11 who arrived last evening making a regimented set of packed lunches. I sort of hate them but I’m a bit grizzly today. I manage a loathing of grandfather who boils both kettles at once until I ask him if he needs both. Perhaps he did as so many of them. Also loathe big man who just does nothing but get in the way.
I can only cope with self cooking if don’t talk to anyone as easy to be distracted with so many people moving about.
I drive to Bethesda on the old single track road and get paracetamols, Welsh whisky, a newspaper and a box of tissues in Spar.
Back at the hostel I give Damian my route plan and he will move my bag into 3rd and last room of my stay. This is a single room.
I set off to Llyn Idwal so named because Idwal was pushed in by his step brother and drowned. The brother inhabits the Twll Du or Devil’s Kitchen. I take the right hand path and meet a fellow hosteller who has been up and down the kitchen in 2 hours. It takes me 2 hours to get to Llyn Cwn (dog lake) at the top of the kitchen! The steps are giant sized and near the top it starts to hail, the devil is serving up a very chilly meal. I meet a man and boy. Man is wearing a leather biker jacket and jeans. I remember wearing the same in Blackpool during a torrential downpour. We then went to Flamingoes club and my jacket was so heavy when I took it off and it dripped into pools on the floor. At the lake I have a short break and then turn right.  The hail comes hard and fast but I am dry, it’s just noisy. Up to Y Garn for lunch. Chat to man and 2 sons who are doing huge long walk. Poor boys. Then to  family of mum,  dad and 2 boys who are doing my route in reverse. Dad is wearing a lot of money! Haglofs and Arcteryx.
I find the path down which is steep at first but once that’s over it’s an easy and pleasant walk down and the sun comes out.
Back at the YH at 3.30 for a shower and my new single room which is small and has a divan bed in it! Damian has kindly made up my bed again.
I read the paper and realise that I have not much idea of what is going on in the world. This is mainly because of Terry Wogan. When he retired from breakfast on Radio 2 I started listening to Today on Radio 4 but this just made me cross and I need something nice to listen to on my drive to work. So I forked out for a digital radio and this is great I now have Radio 4 Extra in the morning but the downside is no 2 min snippets of news so any that does drift my way is usually a surprise. Suspect it’s actually fine not to clutter head up. There’s enough going on in our lives anyway.
Suddenly remembered I’d not checked back in with Damian. He is very helpful and suggesting good routes for me.
Had the kitchen to myself mostly which was nice. Tonight beef and veg casserole with carrots and pasta. I am eating camping food so the mains are Look What We Found meals then pasta and rice in ready cooked in pouches plus extra veg is tinned. All working out well for me. I wanted food that would be easy and not stress me out in the communal kitchen madness.
For me using my own cutlery etc. works well too as don’t have to think about other people’s hygiene or rather their total lack of it.
Tonight will have a Celebration beer.
I went to bed early as the head cold is gripping me.
YH Idwal Cottage
Gate leading to Tryfan and the Glyders
Llyn Idwal and Cwm Idwal
Part of the Devil’s Kitchen
Across to another big mountain
East ridge of Y Garn
Big ‘un, will check to see what it is
I just liked the clouds
Army helicopter

Thursday

Woke up at 7 trying to decide whether or not to walk because being full of cold. In the end took Damian’s suggestion which was for a less high circuit than the Glyders.
I set off at 10 and got to Llyn Bochlyd before 11. Then it’s a short and stunning ascent to the Bwlch or col. At this point it would have been straightforward to climb up to Tryfan but I decided not to as this was not the plan. I continued to sneeze my way round Tryfan, heading towards the N.
I climbed up and got onto the Heather Terrace. This is not at all like the quiet suburban terrace that it made me think of.  Well it was quiet.  it’s a path that winds round the base of the flanks of the rock giant of Tryfan. My walk was more interesting rock wise now that I’ve been learning about the geology and I could actually identify volcanic tuff, an odd name. The Heather Terrace is well named, at times it’s very lofty and you know you are high but it’s not too airy and not exposed as Tryfan provides good shelter.
I lunched on the Terrace, this sounds ridiculous now. I lunched perched at a great height overlooking Cwm Tryfan. For Kate – every day I have had garlic pitta filled with salami, Emmenthal cheese, spring onion and cherry tomatoes. And fruit and a thick slice of malt loaf.
I kept going along the terrace which was hard work requiring much concentration. Some climbers dangled but I only met one other walker who overtook me.
Took various photos of rocks as these have now more interest as I’ve been reading about geology. I think I’ve more hope of observing the rocks than birds that disappear before I’ve even focussed on them or small yellow plants and mosses and lichen that all look much the same.
I carried on gently mostly dropping down until Tryfan spits you out of a chute. I cut across the flattish bit to the road surprising some goats.
Then instead of going straight back along the road I crossed over and up behind a farm to go the whole length of Llyn Ogwen on the far side. It was a bit boggy but ok with care. I passed an old WW2 pill box and was a bit surprised that it was there as would be hard for the Nazis to reach it, there must have been an expectation that they would come that far but I wonder what they would have been aiming for? I saw another one on the Llanberis Pass too, memo must ask Mr Mel Jones about these. Then back to Idwal Cottage. There was a car parked next to mine filled with chavs and I didn’t like the look of them and hoped they weren’t hostellers although I was also trying to be open minded, I tried but failed. It was 4 pm so I went in the YH with the key code and watched the chavs from my window and they then drove off. I’m sure I stopped them before they were up to no good, and probably no good with my car.
Shower this time in the middle one which only has the pinprick setting on the head, no place for gel and not vv hot. The other showers were better and have place for gel etc. the showers and loos all have lights which go off if you don’t move which is a little distracting.
Tip for hostelliing stay in a base, go out early and come back early then you get first showers and first use of kitchen.
My friends, the family from Cornwall came in and we had some laughs. They are very nice and dad gave me a walk to do. The youngest one has an infected ingrowing toenail so can’t walk.
Dinner of pasta, beef bolognese and sweet corn.
Got D to give me a stamp to paste in my YH booklet and am now drinking Conwy Celebration beer as it was a great mountain day with no wet stuff and sunny.
I used GNSS on my iPhone with Memory Map to record the route. Surprisingly efficient.
Musings
My skin is dry and have splits on fingers. Need NuSkin.
Great not to drive and rely on feet, this has been excellent base.
Bruce said lots of things that made sense to me and my life for a good 10 years or so but then he lost me for about the last 10 years and the last 3 or 4 albums. Drivel and Dust being the nadir.  Wrecking Ball is back with me. I know this because I can hear the songs in my head although have not heard them all week plus he’s making sense again for me. Travelling over Rocky Ground in more than one way.  Hot  Damn! Looking forward to playing the album in the car.
I have now learnt more about the Girl Guide movement than I ever wanted to. Enough to drive me to drink. Had half litre of Jennings Lakes beer too.
Llyn Bochlyd
Back to Y Garn
I think this is some Pitts Head Tuff with a quartzite banding
Towards the sea
Back to Llyn Bochlyd
At the top of the Tryfan col
Across to some of the Carneddau, I think
Blue ridge mountains of Wales
Across huge Cwm Tryfan
Climbers on Tryfan
And another one
The A5
This is flow-banding
Heading down
A dear baby goatlet, running away!
Catching some rays
Llyn Ogwen
Tryfan, sadly photo not level
Cwm Ogwen
Pill box

Friday

Got up early and said goodbye to family from Cornwall. Finally exchanged names. They are Sarah, Steven, Danny and Lauren. They have been referring to me as the little lady. Little I can understand as they are all very tall. Thankfully they omitted the word old. As for the last bit they must be visually challenged.
Damian not in reception and am sorry not to thank him and say goodbye. Send my wishes to him via Jeroen who is standing in.
Steve takes photo of the little old lady.
Cold streaming today and feel crap with it.
Set off for Beddgelert and go to see his grave. Buy some cards to torment Chris with. I went in the church and a man was hoovering in there. He said something to me and I had to ask him to repeat it several times on account of the deafness. He said it was ok for me to come in and I’m afraid in my best snottiness I said “I should think it is, it’s a church.” That really was my mother speaking….
I went to a recommended ice cream cafe Cafe Glandwr on grounds they probably would do nice coffee if Italians. Cafe is nice and I am right.
Catch sight of steam train at station but decide not to travel on it.
Then set off for home stopping for lunch on the way. Arrived home about 4.30. Damian later sent me an email, he’s a very nice guy and really helped to make my walks interesting.
Outside Idwal Cottage
Paraglider at Beddgelert
Beddgelert church
All lies here!
Poor poor Gelert!
All aboard!

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map with me and my navigation partner, Cath.