Image this… you’ve just walked 15km up a 900m mountain, battling 40-50mph winds, in temperatures barely above freezing and a wind-chill of -5oC. Now picture the heavens opening and contents of your tent is slowly filling with rain…
… You’d probably think that things couldn’t get much worse! Well as Joe and Ollie were about to experience, you’d be wrong!
This was not what the start of the HSX January weekend had been like, far from it in fact.
The purpose of the roaming weekend is to visit a new upland area every year, testing our wild camping skills in deepest, darkest January. This year Joe happened to suggest visiting the Cadair Idris range of mid-Wales, an area he knows well from his work with The Outward Bound. Given its proximity to the Snowdon and Glyderau range, this part of Wales is a hidden jewel not frequently visited by hoards of tourists, giving the team the perfect opportunity to get away from it all!
It was for this reason that Joe suggested bringing HSX up to this region to get some quality mountain day logged for the aspiring mountain leaders and introduce members of the Cambodia expedition into typical HSX terrain. Joe and his house mate, Dobby, had stupidly suggested that all 30 people stay at their house on Friday night, which proved to be a tight squeeze leaving elbow room only for breakfast the following morning.
The group was split into three teams comprising of a Cambodia team, a team with the younger HSX members, supported by Antarctica member Chris and Dave, lastly a mixed experienced team with Joe and Ollie. The Cambodia team would be doing a walk on the south side of Cadair Idris and latter two teams where doing a linear route along ridge that flanked Cadar’s east and west flanks, swapping van keys at the half way point, before camping out that night and driving home in the morning.
Conditions were great throughout the early morning with sunshine but a strong southerly wind, insisting that softshell jackets be worn by all. All of the teams walked across each other paths where stories of how the smallest member of the team had been blown around were exchanged, as the thick clouds sprouted up all around them, darkening the sky and adding to the brooding backdrop. However this did not curb anyone’s enthusiasm as the Antarctica team members helped teach the importance of confident navigation skills to the younger members of HSX.
Everyone made it to their campsites just as darkness was descending and the rain was beginning to hammer down. Utilising what shelter was available the teams sheltered in the ruins of sheep folds or huddled around Llyns’ (welsh for lakes) seeking protection from the wind.
This is where our story re-joins Joe and Ollie. Just as Joe was settling into his sleeping bag, looking forward to a goodnights sleep, a strong gust of wind caused the tent poles to snap, resulting in the tent collapsing all around him, fabric flapping in the wind. With Joe’s resolve weakening, so did the teams enthusiasm for sleeping out on the Cadair Idris, with no space for the extra bodies in the already packed tents. The team, after being wrapped up in their warm sleeping bags, regrettably had no choice but to get up and trudge back to the van, heading for the sanctuary of Joe’s house.
However, with the keys to the house with Dobby, some 4km back up the mountain, Joe and Ollie had to dig deep and jog up the mountain in the horizontal rain to get the keys for the house. After what felt like an eternity, Joe and the rest of his team finally reached the relative warmth and comfort of home.
The other two teams, more protected from the wind, soldiered on through the howling gales and rains. Emerging into the clag the following morning less than impressed about how the weather had treated them, but well pleased by how HSX’s new Vango tents had stood up to their first test. The younger members of HSX were strangely smug about having survived their first “mini-epic” and looking back on the experience as a great learning curve of how to cope with long hikes, minimal sleeps and floating roll mats, the members of the Antarctica team took it all in their stride, having done this countless times!