Having a boyfriend who is one of a very select few currently on the British Mountain Guide Training Scheme definitely has its benefits – I get trailed across mountains, up rock faces, down rock faces and just generally to the middle of nowhere to experience the wilderness in a way most people will never get to do – and it costs me nothing! Most recently he was based in North Wales doing some seriously intense training, and I was delighted to be invited down to sample some Welsh mountaineering delights – little did I know I was to become a guinea pig for the week!
Having never been to Wales before, and firmly devoted to the Scottish mountains, I wasn’t really sure what to expect – but the north of Snowdonia is really pretty special – it’s amazing that it’s so close to the coast but in a short drive you can also be in the mountains – which actually feel a bit more remote than their Scottish counterparts.
My week kicked off with some climbing on a very wet crag at an old, disused lead mine near Bethesda – fortunately the route was pretty easy and I was able to climb in my boots because it was definitely far too wet for rock shoes! Then after supper, and once it got dark, I was treated to my first ever night-navigation experience – I couldn’t get my head around why anyone would want to go tramping around the hills at the dead of night but, as I soon learned, it is so as to demonstrate the ability to navigate in the mountains in any sort of condition – snow, thick fog, darkness…
More climbing and scrambing were in store for the next day – this time at Glyderau – another wet and slippy day was in store for me, but I ticked off a few classic routes and saw some out-of-this-world rainbows!
I was allowed a rest day before being thrust back into the thick of it – I actually thought I was going to get some nice chilled out crag climbing at Little Tryfan – which is an awesome climbing venue – instead I spent the day dangling on the end of a rope getting ‘rescued’! Which was actually pretty fun, and quite a cool experience – I’m not sure I know many people who have spent the day doing that with a Mountain Guide! My only complaint was the hideous bruises my climbing harness left – all in the name of fun I suppose! I was treated to a delicious pub supper after though – so, all good!
On my last day – after an afternoon’s shopping – for expedition kit (!) we headed up to Tryfan for a night scramble – wet, slippy and just generally grim, I was too exhausted by this point to really care how much of a drop was below me – I just let my little pink head torch show me the way to the summit! Once there, we took a lesser known descent, which I’m sure I slipped down a million times and then onto more night-navigation – it was at this point I thought I might burst into tears and as time ticked on and I knew I wouldn’t be getting fish and chips for supper, it was time to head home – once we had navigated our way back to the car of course!
What a week – I was so glad to jump in my car and do the 500-mile drive back to Aviemore – that was the easy part! For me, a week with the trainee British Mountain Guides in North Wales was definitely one of the hardest mental and physical experiences I have ever had – they are serious guys and they seriously love what they do – such an honour to have been part of their training, but with thanks and gratitude I’ll stick to my high heels, sushi and a once-weekly jaunt into the hills – safe in the knowledge that I was spared the overnight expedition experience!