Guiding in Snowdonia

Guiding in Snowdonia

Jake // February 12, 2019

The Bronsons came to me with limited experience but were set on making the trip an adventure! Tony had a bit of hillwalking experience in the past while Jo had never tried it. They came to me with the goal of wanting to summit Snowdon together but didn’t know if they were physically capable and were unsure of the risks involved. Snowdon on the surface looks likes an easy climb on a good day but things can quickly turn for the worse if conditions change and you are not prepared. If you are unsure consider hiring a guide or joining a larger group so there are people to help you if something happens.

I recommended making a weekend of it, with ideas of alternative adventures if they weren’t ready for Snowdon. I always have multiple contingency plans so my clients always head home with big smiles on their faces. We decided on a hill day in a wilder spot away from the crowds which would also be perfect for landscape photography – a keen hobby of Jo’s, before climbing Snowdon on day 2.

On the first day I picked them up from their BnB and took them to Bethesda, where we would be heading out onto the hills. I chose this location as it’s protected from the weather and you only have to walk a couple of kilometres before you are out in the wilderness. It’s very unlikely you will see anyone else as most tourists go for the big summits such as Snowdon or Tryfan. 

It was a really nice day, the weather held nicely and they were able to take some nice photos of the stunning landscape. The day also acted as a bit of a training day, as they had expressed an interest in learning what it takes to be safe and independent in a similar environment. Although I had provided a kit guide upon booking I went into greater detail, including gear I was carrying on their behalf in case of an emergency and procedures to follow should the worst happen. We also covered clothing options and how to layer clothing correctly. Many people start the day with too many layers, Tony and Jo didn’t believe me at first either but the layers quickly came off as we climbed higher. A saying I always come back to is Be Bold, Start Cold. We also talked about food options and water replenishment, sharing my not so pleasant stories along the way. Luckily for them we would have tap water for the entire trip. Lunches were provided on this adventure, we discussed why certain items were chosen and the importance of keeping hydrated and nourished while out on the mountains.

They enjoyed the remoteness of the experience. A bonus of hiring a guide is that they can take you to places you wouldn’t consider yourself. There are many hidden gems out there if you know how to find them. At the end of the day they were dropped back to their accommodation. As the leader I was confident with their fitness level and I was happy to take them up Snowdon. We would make an early start to give us a few hours of leeway in case they struggled towards the end. Next for the big day! Snowdon is an easy climb in a technical sense but its a physical challenge taking over four hours to ascend for a normal walker. I picked them up and checked their kit to make sure nothing was forgotten and luckily we found a parking space in the Pen-y-Pass car park. 

As a leader I make sure the group moves at the pace of the slowest walker and I used my knowledge of the route to choose the best places to stop for rests and made sure the group took on food and water at regular intervals. The biggest risk on Snowdon on a nice day is losing focus due to exhaustion and slipping, which could at points result in a fatal fall. That’s why it’s important to remain hydrated. At points I was forcing them to drink water but they reaped the benefits.

Tony started to struggle as the route got steeper to his own admission, not as fit as he used to be. I encouraged him to keep going and we were able to keep a steady pace and after what seemed like an eternity for him eventually we got there. A real achievement! It was super crowded at the summit, which is why I try and steer clear of Snowdon most of the year and take people to more remote areas unless clients ask for a specific summit.

Next the desent – people don’t just pay us to guide them to the top but get them home safely. The way down from the summit is always the most dangerous from a leaders perspective as people will often be exhausted from their summit and there are far more opportunities to slip and fall. We made it down safely, they were absolutely wiped out but thoroughly enjoyed the day.

On a day when there were so many unguided walkers on the summit a question you may ask is why you need a guide to take you up Snowdon at all, it’s just a path right? On this particular day the conditions were nice and the visibility clear they were also fit enough to summit and descend safely. Unfortunately many of the people summiting Snowdon each year are woefully unprepared for an environment where weather can change on a dime. That’s why Mountain rescue mounts over two hundred rescues a year in the area and sadly not everyone is brought down alive.

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