Having assumed that we'd had the last of the winter conditions in North Wales for the year, I was pleased to see some significant snow fall this week. The disadvantage of the internet-era is that I get very jealous when I see other people running around, so with time conveniently already booked off I went in search of the white stuff.
I woke in Beddgelert at 05:30 on Thursday morning, to glorious sunshine and a clear blue sky. I packed my stuff and headed up to Pen y Pass, with the intention of doing a loop over Snowdon on to Yr Aran and back over Y Lliwedd. The sunrise was fantastic, and it started as one of the nicest days I've had up there in a long time. I made a route-choice error in deciding to go over The Horns – visually stunning, but physically tiring as I had to break trail all the way.
The pace quickened at the Pyg Track, which was nicely compacted by previous traffic. At the bottom of the zig-zags the weather closed in and the wind picked up. I headed for the summit in total whiteout and very strong winds before giving up shortly after and returning to the bwlch. Navigation was a bit touch-and-go through waist-deep drifts, as visibility was non-existent and my footsteps filled with blown snow immediately.
On the way back down I met a mother and son who were in trouble and basically unable to get get off the hill without more support than I could give them, and so I called 999. We hunkered down for a while before the sea king from 22 Squadron arrived and dropped some MRT guys further down the hill. They roped up the pair and walked them down a couple of hundred metres, before we were all flown in one of the icon yellow Sea Kings to Ysbyty Gwynedd, where they were treated for hypothermia (and I got to check out the Mountain Medicine posters).
Everyone was OK in the end, but it could have been a lot more serious. I've shortened proceedings somewhat in the paragraphs above, but wouldn't want to trivialise them; you can get an idea of conditions in a video that the MRT have released. I don't wish to sound patronising, but the skill and professionalism of the MRT and RAF personnel was incredible, and something you really don't appreciate until you experience it first hand (which hopefully most of us won't!).
Finally, when I got to the hospital I realised that my GPS had been running the whole time – see if you can spot the bit where I waited with the casualties, and the part where I jump in a helicopter…
I was unsurprisingly exhausted after all the excitement / worry, and with a cruddy weather forecast I made my way home via the magical keeping-you-awake powers of sweet, sugary mini eggs.