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!


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