Mountain Leader Training Course April 2012


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.
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


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


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.
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!


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.
More dolorite
Managed not to step on this
Glorious weather!
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
Boots still not completely dry!


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

Walking Group Leader Assessment

Sunday 2nd October
I got to Betws-y-Coed in under 3 hours having stopped for pasta salad lunch at services. I parked up and Kate arrived about 5 mins later her journey having taken as long for a much shorter distance. We exchanged a toasted sandwich maker and a chocolate bar and set off for a bit of shopping. I got a Mountain Leader First Aid kit and a half price shirt in Cotswold Outdoors only it wasn’t discounted at the till.
We went to one of the 2 street facing hotels and Kate had a panini with goats cheese and red onion, I think that’s right and I had some bara brith. All fine.
Really we just chatted and caught up with each other and generally had a nice time. Lovely.
Kate then whizzed off, I got my money back and headed on to Capel Curig.
Because of courses lasting all day, rooms at Plas y Brenin are not available until 8pm so I waited in the bar swotting up on mountain leadership and ordered an omelette.
I didn’t have to share my room which was good as the assessment itself is stressful enough without any added extras like having to wear clothes in bed or talk to someone when you just want to concentrate.
The room was very warm so I stood on a chair, climbed onto the 2 foot thick window sill and opened the window wide. I’m overlooking the air and heat system this time!
I did some more swotting and so on.
Monday 3rd October
Up at 7 and ready for breakfast at 8. First you grab a plastic bag and select biscuits, fruit, cake and filled roll all neatly labelled and laid out. The sandwiches have been bought in and doesn’t look as nice as the ones they used to make.
Breakfast of muesli and fruit. Then toast and a poached egg.
Pack my leader rucksack and attend the welcome to PYB lecture. There are 3 of us on the course, Ricky from near Dartford and C a walk leader, we follow our course leader who is Helen. We go to the Cromlech room for intros, also to John who is assessing us for this first day. The 4th person Tim never shows up. We hand in our log books and home papers.
Fine and dry all day.
Off to Penmaenmawr and park on Mountain Road which straightaway makes me feel comfortable as I did some of my training there. Then it’s nav nav nav all day taking legs in turn. I am ok. Each leg we lead or follow we just get ok i.e. no clue as to whether we are right or wrong. This takes a bit of getting used to but for me starts to work to make me get it right.
John gives us individual feedback by the van. My nav is good but my flora is less so, which has been obvious to me. I’m not quick to identify plants and need to know more than just names. But my laminated cards are good.
John drives us back for freshly made cake and tea. I’m now on lemon and ginger.
I get my bag ready for the night nav, read a bit more. Then dinner of melon followed by veg pancakes and nice sauce with loads of veg all v fresh and lots of it. I don’t eat too much as we are about to be exercising once more.
We gather at 8pm and John drives us for all of 2 mins so still in Capel Curig. It is a hard 3 hours we spend locating features but at the end John’s feedback to me is that my nav is nearly Mountain Leader standard. ML is next in the hierarchy of awards from the Mountain Leader awarding body. It’s hard work but some laughs too when I slide down slowly just missing the stream.

The bar is shut when we get back after 11 pm so we have a hot drink together. I shut the window up a bit in my room as it’s got colder.


Tuesday 4th October
This day we get Helen. She is very nice and reminds me a bit of mountain friend Ann. I eat a bigger breakfast of muesli and then egg, beans on toast and hash brown. Hungry after night work!
Helen goes through our leader rucksacks questioning gently. She has a pleasant but thorough manner and is a sucker for gear which amuses me, she is very interested in my folding walking poles.
Then it’s off out to Dolwyddelan which puts me at ease as we park just where I did when here with Carol and the first bit of our walk is the same as Carol and I did.
During lunch I give my 5 min talk plus laminated cards on the YHA. It’s cold in the strong winds.
Back at the bus we get our feedback. I am ok with nav but just need to be more self confident. I think this is assessment strain. It’s actually fine doing my own legs but really hard to follow the others and that’s part of the test.
Back for scones and butter. Jam optional. We are all really tired and now have to do a route planning exercise. Again I’m in luck as it’s a walk to Llyn y Fan Fach which is an old favourite of mine.

Dinner of veg pie and lots of veg followed by raspberry pavlova yum. This evening we can socialise so I sit with the guys in the bar watching extreme mountain biking which is strangely balletic and beautiful. Such reckless control. I drink beer and Laphroiag. The rain is here so window completely shut now.

Crack of dawn at PYB


Wednesday 5th October
I wake feeling anxious. After a smaller breakfast just toast and poached egg and beans we set off smartly. It’s been raining and more predicted but I’m too hot in my waterproofs already. Helen drives us to Rachub, just outside Bethesda . I’m thrown by getting a 1:50000 map to work with and make a mistake straight off as does Rick so we are both kicking ourselves.
It’s not wet but very windy so we stop in a hollow for a break and Helen quizzes us on emergency procedures. We keep going leg by leg and at lunch in a sheltered dip R gives us his 5 min talk on nature and myths.
Then back to the bus and early back to PYB for testing on the overnight experience. R gets the Trangia and I get different types of stoves most of which I have never seen but thank god I have some sense to work them out!
Then we go for showers and I pack up my things in the room. We meet back in the bar where fresh Eccles cakes are waiting for us and Helen meets us one by one to give us our results. Rick goes first and soon returns having passed. Then I go in and Helen shakes my hand and gives me my good news. I am elated and feel like crying after all the mental, emotional and physical investment I have made. My nav is good and my paperwork is excellent.
I take my leave and set off for home. One very happy bunny.
I celebrate with some more Laphroiag at home.
I have joined the MLTA for CPD and registered to do the Mountain Leader. Onwards and upwards!


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

WGL training 17th Feb 2010

Last day. We do some more class work, then out in the minibus to a moor that is amazingly bleak next to a frozen reservoir. Bitterly cold. We charge off and work out how to correct an incorrect map i.e. showing a path that doesn’t exist. Practise with GPS, very useful and gives me confidence to get on with mine.
Lunch on a freezing tussock, then Steve clearly frozen, yomps us all off and demonstrates aspect of slope. Still not sure have quite got the hang of that one. We are all so cold it is surprising we are smiling in the photos.
Thaw out in the bus and back to PYB for more lectures, shower, then pack up and finish off with evaluation and feedback. My feedback is Good, Good and Do more camping!! What more?!
Good byes all round and then 3 hours and I am home. The snow is falling as I take my bags in the house.


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

WGL training 16th Feb 2010

Tuesday, no more Dave. On to Steve. We do more classroom work and then out to take turns leading a leg. Davy races us up a hill and most of us are panting, he isn’t but then he is militarily fit. As I get my leg to nav to, 2 women of a certain persuasion appear and want directions. I am convinced they are Steve’s stooges so am on my best behaviour and show them where they are. Very good practice as we have just negotiated a tricky non path.
I tramp the group across the heather just for fun. We finish up having to do a steep descent.
Back to PYB for more lectures, tea, cakes, showers.
We get a special early dinner because we are going out night navigating. Steve drives us about 2 miles down the road. It is frosty. We tramp up a hill again going far too fast straight after eating 3 courses. Then we send 2 ahead to walk on a bearing and direct from behind.
Once we work out we haven’t walked for long enough to reach our river, we continue and then find it. Our next stop is a spot height which we find by aiming off. Am very impressed that the techniques work. We aim off to a wall and descend back to the bus. Hannah gets stuck in the freezing bog, but no problem as the drying rooms are very efficient.
We only did a couple of kilometres but it was great that the principles worked and we achieved our aims and found the places on the map, fab.


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

WGL training 15th Feb 2010

Arrived at Plas y Brenin on Sunday 14th, after a good journey taking just over 3 hours. I checked in, unpacked my bags in my twin room with just me in it. I have a brand new en suite and the rooms are warm and comfy. No TV which is great.
In the bar, I chat to a woman who is going to do kayaking and eat a burger and chips and salad, well I didn’t eat the chips, very nice home made burger.
Go to bed quite early after orienting myself around the rabbit warren on the place, it’s an old coaching inn for travellers from Dublin and has a staircase and selection of corridors at every turn. It’s been a mountain training centre for over 50 years.
In the morning, go to breakfast, eat various things on toast and fill a plastic bag with rolls for lunch, all labelled with day and contents and all very neatly filed, also fruit and a piece of home made cake.
The only criticism I have is that the coffee is pants, yes all the food is included which is great but they could do with a proper coffee machine.
Go to Introduction Lecture with the Director of the Centre and meet Lorraine who is in the WGL group. We all hive off with our trainers who are Dave and Steve. Follow them across the road to our training room in Berwen. Steve says he’ll see us next day and leaves us with Dave.
We are Lorraine, nurse from Cardiff; Cath, a DoE scheme leader from school in Surrey; Hannah, the same; Peter, retired construction firm owner from Brecon; Davy, who old deaf ears here thinks is called Steve, about to leave military intelligence after endless years; and me.
Dave the trainer does some talking and then we’re off in the minibus for about half an hour up to the north wales coast but inland a bit to spend the day practising our nav.
Cold and wet all day, we get to use the group shelter to eat our lunches, bit squashed but keeps the wind off well.
Then back to PYB for a shower, a bit more lecture, then tea and cake, then more lecture, then dinner of roast beef – very nice. Then more lecture. Working us hard.
A swift drink in the bar then bed.


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