This blog is not the one I had planned to type. I had been thinking that I would be telling you about a three day winter walk in Snowdonia, however the actual events are never exactly to plan.
The weekend before (3/4.12.11) was the BUMS Christmas meal on the Saturday, a good evening with friends, then Sunday was a trip to Parisella’s Cave on the Orme. The Parisella’s trip was cold and just avoiding the rain that was coming down all over North Wales. It primarily involved standing in a down jacket psyching myself up to have another go and to take the jacket off.
|Pete Wanless in the cave.|
|Pete Globe in the cave.|
I’d been talking to my friend Tristan about going on a walk and we decided on the next weekend (9-11.12.11) to go into Snowdonia, baging various peaks (inc. the Carneddu, Tryfan, Crib Goch and Snowdon) over the three days and to have a “play” in the snow.
Shopping and packing was done on the Thursday night, tent, crampons, ice axe etc. were in the bag (along with six malt loaves each for lunches). Friday morning involved me finishing an essay and we were off.
Setting off from Bethesda, the plan was to walk to the base of the Black Ladders at the Carneddu, turn left top out on Carnedd Llewelyn, then go roughly north-east to the bothy at Llyn Dulyn.
The walk to base of the Black Ladders is easy (and surprisingly warm) but with great views as these black, gigantic cliffs come into view and patches of snow and ice start appearing. It is some of the most foreboding scenery I’ve looked at. We turned to go up Carnedd Llewelyn, finding the aeroplane parts (the remains of a WWII bomber that crashed with the loss of all the crew) and almost magically frozen plants next to the stream.
|Looking up at the Black Ladders.|
|Black Ladders area.|
|The crashed aeroplane.|
|The frozen plants.|
We then topped out on Llewelyn, time for full winter kit was the decision. It was freezing, you couldn’t have your gloves off for more than five minutes if you still wanted to be able to feel your fingers. With ice axe out, crampons on and goggles on it was time to descend and reach the bothy. Although the sun had gone down about half an hour ago the moon was bright and visibility good. Nevertheless my head torch came out, I needed to navigate. Tristan, psyched, followed me into the darkness.
|Tristan in winter gear.|
|Me in winter gear.|
Knowing that there are dangerous cliffs around Llyn Dulyn I made the decision to descend early to ensure our safety. We started down a snow gully (roughly grade I possibly pushing to II in places), with fantastic thaw-freeze snow, the crampons were biting brilliantly. Tristan was above me with his mega-bright head torch, I was cutting the trail.
|Tristan up there.|
Then, about halfway down, I started sliding. I still don’t know what caused it (all I can think is that I didn’t have a crampon in correctly and stepped down). This wasn’t in the game plan. I grabbed my axe in both hands and rolled into an ice axe arrest. The axe ripped out of my hands and I was tumbling, my head torch ripped off, now I was tumbling in the dark. Up, down, left, right suddenly became meaningless, all I could think was ‘any second now I’m going to feel a smack on my head and it is going to all go dark’. Those thoughts were strangely disassociated from my body, I don’t remember being scared just pissed off that this was it. I didn’t want to die, especially now, I’ve had got/still have got too much to do.
I came to a stop, I don’t know how or why but I stopped. A wave of relief spread though me. A quick check, no broken legs/arms; good, left hand hurts; not good, there is lots of blood; not good. My forehead was bleeding and my left knee was sore. Looking up, I saw my head torch falling down the slope (minus the head band). I grabbed it and started yelling to Tristan. ‘I’m Alive!’, ‘Arrgghh, my hand/leg/head’, ‘Oh, F***’ and ‘S***’ were what I remember shouting. (Tristan says I also shouted ‘Hurry Up’, what a stupid thing to say to him after disappearing into the gloom. Good job he took his time, two casualties would have been a nightmare). Whilst talking once we were off the mountainside, I found out that Tristan reckoned I’d tumbled for about thirty metres.
Tristan had found my axe, planted in the ice, pick completely buried. It would have held me if I’d have managed to hold on (another reason to get stronger). He joined me, did a quick first aid check, and then we had to move. We had no signal, I was bleeding, we were in the cold and sitting on snow, not a place to stop.
I slid on my backside down the rest of the slope, with the angle easing every few metres, using a combination of ice axe and crampon spikes on my heels. We then started walking. I’m not entirely sure of our route, shock, adrenaline and head wounds don’t make navigating easy. I recognised the cliffs and outline of the mountains in front of us we were in Cwm Eigiau, as kind of planned. I knew there was a farmer’s 4X4 track near the base and the path eventually led to Dolgarrog.
About thirty minutes later we got some signal. Tristan called 999, asked for the Police then Mountain Rescue (the correct way to get help in the mountains). We got off our names, injuries but not our location before we lost signal. Our only option was to keep walking, to find the path, to get signal again.
After around four miles walking we had signal, we were about half way down Llyn Eigiau. The cavalry arrived, the yellow bird of hope, the Squadron 22 RAF Sea-king Helicopter. Waving it in with the head torches, it landed. I was determined to walk onto it, I’d already made it off the mountain, another hundred metres was going to be fine and a stretcher was not an option. Within minutes I was at Ysbyty Gwynedd, A and E awaited.
The fantastic skill of the staff in all the departments I visited cannot expressed in words. They were extraordinary. Once my clothes were off, I was x-rayed. Luckily I’d only broken my thumb and wrist on my left hand. My knee and face required stitches.
WARNING: GORY PICTURES!
|Broken Wrist and Thumb.|
|In the ward.|