On day one we took on the challenge of Mount Snowdon itself. Standing at 1085m above sea level, this was no mean feat. We split into teams and took 4 different routes to the summit. One route, the PYG track stands for Pen Y Gwryd and was named after the hotel at the bottom of the pass which was much used by earlier mountain walkers. Half the group took this track all the way to the summit and it provided a great challenge of strength and stamina. The other half of the group decided to push themselves even further by taking the pass over Crib Goch. This is one of the toughest routes to the top of Snowdon. Along with endurance, this route also demands nerves of steel as you navigate across the knife edge of rock along the ridge.
The whole team made it to the summit of Snowdon and back to the car park at Pen y Pass in great time. Everyone felt a great sense of achievement…that and muscle ache!
On day two we took a hike around Llyn Idwal lake. Although leisurely by comparison to Snowdon, this was still a challenge thanks to high winds, low cloud and a lot of drizzle. At one point we had to cross a river using the rocks that litter the whole area, but one explorer couldn’t resist taking a very cold dip in the water. Good job he had his spare socks!
That afternoon we took a trip to Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue (OVMRO) to see how they operate and what they do. They are a team of 50 volunteers, many of whom are qualified to a high standard of first aid. They also have a number of search managers and swift water rescue technicians. It costs around £55k to run their unit for the year and they only get £1k each year from the government. The rest they have to raise themselves.
The OVMRO is one of the busiest mountain rescue teams in the country, assisting the police and ambulance services with rough terrain search and rescue in Northern Snowdonia. Its members are on standby 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year; giving their time free of charge assisting fellow users of the great outdoors who have come to grief.
We were all amazed at the dedication and expertise that these volunteers offer for free to anyone in need and the sheer volume of equipment and man power that it takes to rescue just one person. It really reinforced the need to be prepared in all situations and take care not to put yourself in unnecessary danger. As one of the rescue team said, if the weather is too dangerous then the mountain will still be there tomorrow.
We all had a great time testing our mountaineering skills and stepping out of our comfort zones. New friends were made and we uncovered the true spirit of Explorer Scouting. I’m sure that we will all remember this experience long after our muscles have stopped aching and I hope that we can return again next year.