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An incident on Snowdon

Updated: Oct 6, 2020

Stan leading the expedition members Mike and Phil towards the first scramble, with Snowdon just peaking through the mist. The miners track towards the top lake can be seen  just disappearing behind Stan's head

Stan leading the expedition members Mike and Phil towards the first scramble, with Snowdon just peaking through the mist. The miners track towards the top lake can be seen just disappearing behind Stan’s head

I took a couple of my RC model glider friends, Phil and Mike, up to our climbing hut (Tal-y-Braich) the other week end with the intention of climbing Snowdon, Yr Wyddfa, to give it it’s Welsh name. This was almost a lifetime’s ambition for Mike. They were both a little nervous of heights so I was unable to take them anywhere very exciting like across the infamous Crib Goch (Red Ridge) and I was not very keen to use the easy way, up and down the P-y-G track, as I have been that way far too many times before. Stan, my Alpine walking mate, kindly offered to come along and provide some back up.

I planned to approach along the Miners track to the big lake, a nice warm up walk, and take them over Lliwedd, past Bwlch Ciliau (Pass of the Arrows) and then up the steep path on the south face of Snowdon. I hoped this would give them a real feeling of the mountains without overloading them with excitement.

We arrived at the car park just before 8.00 am and although I knew it was Sunday I was very surprised to find there were only a few parking places left at that time but we were able to pay our £10.00 (wow!) parking fee and find a space in a corner.

The approach went well with the two newbie’s enjoying the views and it seemed no time at all before we were on the scrambling section up onto Lliwedd. Now I hadn’t been on this route since I came down it with a friend from Canada back in 2008 and the scramble seemed quite a bit steeper than it did back then, sorry newbie’s. Never mind, with the help of Stan and myself they seemed to cope very well and I am sure they enjoyed it in retrospect (if not entirely at the time).

A short stop at the summit of Lliwedd, 2,947 ft, was enjoyed and we began the scramble down the other side, not so steep here and the few short steps were negotiated quite well although a little slow, but time was no problem the weather was good, generally improving and it wouldn’t be dark till after 10.00pm.

All is going well and now we only have to finish the final climb up the South face of Snowdon to the summit at 3,559 feet. As we walked I glanced back towards the others and noticed they were silhouetted against the 900ft cliffs of Lliwedd, what a great picture. I grabbed my new camera from its pouch on the shoulder strap of my rucksack and ran a few steps forward to get into the correct position for taking the shot. Now I am usually fairly sure footed but suddenly my feet seemed to get trapped among the boulders and with my upper body now going at a fair rate of knots I launched into a flying position. But I wasn’t airborne for long my flying lesson came to an abrupt end as I smashed the camera down onto a handy rock! I looked at the camera with horror, I had searched and saved for this camera for several years and there it was in bits among the rocks.

My knees were smarting and my hand hurt and I noticed with even more horror that the ring finger on my left hand was at right angles to where it should have been.

I was extremely upset and the expletives came thick and fast, I found it very frustrating that I could not think of anything I could shout that was bad enough and sufficient to vent my anger. As I took a pause for breath Mike tentatively asked if I was ok and gasped as he saw the finger. “Err do you want some pain killers” someone said. Strangely enough I wasn’t in a lot of pain but decided that this was because of the adrenalin coursing through my system and it would probably hurt soon, so I gratefully accepted the sympathy and Paracetamol they were offering.

Well this has changed things a bit, Stan more or less took over straight away and we discussed the best way down, I didn’t fancy going back the way we had come because of the bits of awkward scrambling with only one hand. It seemed obvious we had to go over Snowdon and down the P-y-G track and that would have the added advantage of Mike and Phil completing their goal.

I immediately went into a sort of self preservation mode and set off at a slow but very positive plod up the track towards the summit of Snowdon.

Slowly and deliberately I kept up the pace with Stan watching and staying close behind me but I was worried, despite my slow pace Mike and Phil were having trouble keeping up. To be fair the track was a little more awkward in places than I remember it and I guess Mike and Phil must have felt a little deserted with their confidence taking a bit of a blow under the circumstances. Thank goodness the weather was being kind to us. I kept asking Stan to keep an eye out for them and he assured me they were still in view most of the time.

A short pause before the summit

A short pause before the summit

It took about an hour to get to the marker stone at the top of the track where we had a short stop for a breather and photo. I suggested to Stan I would be ok alone now and would he go back down to Mike and Phil to make sure they were all right. I told him I would go over the summit; only about a couple of hundred feet away now and then make my way slowly down the P-y-G track and back to the car park, I assured him they would probably catch me up.

So there I was wandering up the last few feet to the new café, it’s a strange feeling being alone among 100’s of people, especially if you have an injury. I wandered through the back entrance of the very crowded café and without stopping carried on out through the front entrance, carefully protecting and supporting my injured left hand with my right, concerned that someone in the crowd would jostle me.

The front entrance takes you out onto the station platform with no proper exit onto the mountain; the only way out from the train is through the café. Fortunately I was able to walk past the standing train, noisily blowing steam everywhere, to the end of the platform, then sit down and bum slide down onto the track then walk along the track to where I could rejoin the path down. I knew the train driver was watching me and I expected some kind of rebuke but none came. I guess hundreds of people do the same every day and the staff have become a bit blasé.

I continued down to the pinnacle that marks the junction of the paths and dropped down to the right and on down the P-y-G track. As I ambled on down at a steady pace I began to feel rather proud, I wondered how many 75 year olds would be able to climb Snowdon? Especially with a broken finger, lucky it wasn’t my leg or foot as that would have involved the Mountain Rescue and I would never have lived that down at the club.

Then I remembered that Hilary Clark had climbed Snowdon into her 80’s and in fact Stan who I had left in charge of Phil and Mike was also 80 years old so it is going to be a while before I break into any record books.

I carried on down to the junction with the Miners track where I decided to make a change to my plan, and go down the Miners track instead, as the more level track would make the walking much easier for me. I knew this was breaking the rules because if something went wrong they wouldn’t know where to look for me, but in this, the age of technology and mobile phones I decided that when I got onto easier ground I would send them a text. Oops, mistake, when I got to the miners track proper I attempted to send a text only to find there was no signal, I think my brain had stopped working, I should have known there would be no signal, I was down in the middle of the Snowdon horseshoe surrounded by millions of tons of rock, of course there is no signal. Never mind although it is much further this way I don’t expect to be far behind them.

I was wrong, as I walked the last few hundred feet or so I saw Mike walking towards me, they had been back about 40 minutes and he was obviously relived to see me, I felt very guilty but soon the team was reunited again with Stan driving my car down the pass heading for Bangor A & E.

The A&E Department at Bangor Hospital is a wonderful place if you have an injury, the staff are fantastic they give the impression of really caring for their patients as many WMC members can confirm.

We were back at Tal-y-Braich in time for dinner at sunset and I would like to thank Mike Trickett, Phil Smith and particularly Stanley Norton, for looking after me when the tables were turned. The finger seems to be improving and I don’t think there is any lasting damage.

Those of a nervous disposition may not wish to view this photo, but click here if you wish to see the injured finger!

P. S. If you enjoyed this, you may like to read my book, “Pete’s Himalayan Adventure”. The updated digital version is for sale and can be purchased from the link below for £3.50 proceeds go to Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Team

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