Posted on August 1st 2017 by Jason Rawles
I’ve written blogs before about planning for a climb/walk/hike to the summit of Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales and higher than any mountain in England and Ireland too. It’s a wonderful mountain and I absolutely love it. There are also some podcasts under The Adventurer Club umbrella to help advise.
Yesterday I headed up with a pal and it was her first crack at the summit. I was involved in a few ‘things’ that led me to want to write this blog. Please do share this around and caveated with activities and decisions are at your own risk.
So, here are 5 tips for a safe(r) summit of Snowdon or Yr Wyddfa which is the Welsh name –
1. Do Your Research
Right from the beginning of the PYG Track an couple in their early 60’s started walking with us. Can we walk with you as we have no clue what to do? This was the essence of their request of me. They had done no research and while they had a chat with the hotel owner they just turned up and started walking in the same direction as the masses.
They heard on ITV Wales that the weather may be bad but that was kind of it. As we ascended the PYG Track on some of the tricker sections the lady had some very anxious moments upon realising this was their way down. Myself and my pal had other plans. We discussed with them and they decided to walk down the Llanberis Path with us as it’s a lot more gentle. They hadn’t done any research and had no clue what to expect.
Now, I appreciate you don’t know what you know until you know, but there are plenty of planning tools and plenty of information out there. Or, is it possible that with all these digital tools out there we are missing out a demographic?
The chap did say they should have done their research and thankfully they found me. They were clear to state they should have done more and would have had a poor time coming off the mountain after the rain and hail. They did not know their options.
It wasn’t all bad and in fairness they were kitted out well and had plenty of food and water…
Do your research.
2. Expect The Unexpected
I knew what wind to expect and what the consequences are of high winds. I also had a view of the weather conditions but the vicious hail storm that hit us wasn’t expected. In my rucksack, as an Adventure Guide, I have all kinds of extra kit to face the unexpected.
We got to the Snowdon summit (Hafod Eryri) visitor centre in time for a brew but soon after they shut. Quickly. Based on high winds. People who arrived as they were shutting were not let in. They expected it to be open and based their adventure on being able to get tea, a sandwich and perhaps even a fridge magnet. There were lots and lots of very angry people…
It’s not the fault of Snowdon Mountain Railway if you’ve expected it to be open. Information is out there that suggests it may not be open, or may shut, so there’s no excuse really.
Now what I am not saying is that you MUST carry a 4 man expedition tent incase your benighted but you should sensibly not expect things like visitor centre being open, the train to be available for the way down and the sun to always be shining etc.
Do your research, expect the unexpected.
3. Fuel Your Furnace
When you’re walking up hill (e.g. Snowdon) with a rucksack you’re burning a load of calories. I won’t go in to how many as it depends on a lot of factors but it’s a load more than a gentle walk along a river. People generally have heard of the phrase “hangry” which is hungry and (therefore) angry! I get that!!
But it’s also your bodies furnace. Not only will you lose energy and get angry you’ll also get cold and then make bad decisions. FACT! A lot of people around me yesterday were freezing even in the visitor centre while it was open. I literally saw them go from cold, to warmer, in just a few bites of grub. While it may be other considerations this is a big one.
My personal strategy is to snack little and often and then maybe dump in some more grub when we have a longer stop around lunchtime to rest. But, whatever your plan, you have to eat. It helps your body temperature, energy levels, happiness and decision making processes.
Do your research, expect the unexpected, fuel your furnace.
4. Don’t Forget To Drink
This is a big thing for me and happened again yesterday on Snowdon hence my note in this blog. Your body is made up of a lot of water and when you’re breathing heavier and sweating you’re expelling a lot of much needed fluid.
When I forget to drink I end up getting a cramp in my inner thigh. I feel it coming and know what to do but at times this goes against my advice of telling people to drink little and often.
I know what happened yesterday. Having spent so much time looking after others that I forgot my basic admin but thankfully had the foresight to recognise the sign and do something about it. Myself and myself had some harsh words and will remember for the future.
Reading above we also know we can’t always rely on Hafod Eryri being open and having done our research we know the weather (is it hot?) and how long we shall be in the mountains for…
I’m not telling you what to drink, you all should take personal accountability for deciding if it’s water or beer (e.g.) and having enough.
Do your research, expect the unexpected, fuel your furnace, don’t forget to drink.
5. Be Spatially Aware
Yr Wyddfa is a mountain. Snowdon has places of consequence if you do silly things. I don’t mean people purposefully do silly stuff but actions have reactions.
Yesterday a man was walking off the zig zags (coming off of Snowdon and we were heading up) and there was a blood curdling scream. A young girl scream. Having been on the summit hundreds of times you get to hear kids/people shouting but this was different.
Someone near me shouted for them to “shut up” as “kids are always shouting and screaming up here” and please note, these are not my words. However it’s serious as this was a genuine accident that needed others but the first reaction was people playing around.
Piecing things together, as I went to help, the girls dad (family of 6) were walking right along the edge as the path was crowded. He slipped and fell down towards Llyn Glaslyn. Thankfully he didn’t slip far as his face seemed to stop him. The dude was upset, his family were upset, and the girl who saw the slip was very very anxious and needed me to assist with a little down climb. They were helped on their way and they declined further support.
This section of the path was rammed and people were pushing, dogs were running around, and people not acting in a way that foresaw consequence. I mention dogs specifically as one ran past my pal brushing her leg, making her jump, on a path that’s just over a metre wide, with a drop of 100’s of feet on one side. Think.
The walk to the summit was also exciting as people were running down and slipping on their face. People pushing past each other and people just stopping on the path without thinking about what’s happening behind them. People bang in to each other and inevitably fall over.
It’s not hard to be spatially aware as you just have to think. I’m not even making any excuses for it.
Do your research, expect the unexpected, fuel your furnace, don’t forget to drink and be spatially aware.
There’s a lot more to this and it all rolls down to personal accountability. If something happens you have to look yourself in the mirror and know you did the best you could. Your actions could result in the injury (or worse) of others or put extra burden on volunteer mountain rescue teams.
Not forgetting your personal accountability actions are also relevant for things like environmental impact and littering along with ensuring you carry personal medication if required etc etc.
I want you to stretch your adventurer boundaries. You should #GetOutside as often as possible. But I don’t want you to hurt yourself, others or strain resources that are already stretched or volunteer.
Also, don’t forget, Snowdon has been here for millions of years and it will be here another year. You could always do something else…
Sources Of Information
A few sources of information to help –
OS Maps to help with your research and planning (including other routes/mountains)
The Met Office to help weather research
Snowdonia National Park website with information about the park
Jason Rawles website to MAKE CONTACT if you would like an Adventure Guide
Jason Rawles blog series Planning For Adventures
The ULTIMATE guide to walking up Snowdon by Walk Up Snowdon
Adventure is wonderful. Snowdon is beautiful. It’s accessible to the masses and as such attracts well over half a million people a year. Please do come and visit but remember this –
- Take personal accountability for your experience on the mountain
- Respect the environment
- Have fun 🙂
Please do make contact if you have any questions, thoughts or think this blog is a complete own goal? These are just 5 thoughts based on yesterday and a lot of people will have other views. Why not leave a comment?
Thanks for reading