Driving up through the Llanberis Pass to Plas y Brenin on Friday afternoon I was looking at the snow free peaks and seriously considering re-branding the weekend the Big Winterless Walk – there were the occasional, miniscule patches of snow but certainly nothing visible to get excited about.
My consolation was that the goodly folk of Plas Y Brenin would have this covered, their experience and planning providing the very highest level of expertise that would surely make up for natures’ deficiency in the providing the white stuff for our inaugural “Big” event.
The Big Winter Walkers were greeted by a wall of red Joe Brown goodie bags as they entered reception and eager faces vanished to their allotted rooms after signing up to their chosen mountain day, skills session, navigation practical or low level walk. Most excitingly, the forecast had changed to include the words “wintry showers” up high – could we hope?
Saturday morning dawned cold and dark grey with rain falling from thick clouds. Walkers were introduced to their instructors and with the help of the expert stores team were fully equipped and ready for action. Snow was found, crampons were worn, ice axes were braked and as everyone descended happily back to the minibuses the cloud cleared offering views of the routes ascended. Those coming down from the Carneddau were treated to spectacular views of Tryfan and beyond.
After the legendary Plas y Brenin tea and cake there was a masterclass in layering along with gear workshops available in choosing an ice axe, choosing a pack, fitting boots and crampons and walking with poles. The award winning catering staff had a wide range of food on offer to suit all tastes and with full bellies and wind-glow (from the weather NOT the food) the lecture room was full to brimming ready for the evenings talk: Working with Legends – a Brief History of Outdoor Equipment by Mike Parsons.
Now, you may not have heard of Mike but if you happened to have owned a bit of original Karrimor kit back in the 90’s or have an OMM item of clothing or equipment in your outdoor wardrobe then you have Mike to thank for the design and manufacture of that piece. His technical expertise in textiles and technical construction across clothing and rucksacks is unparalleled having worked with Joe Brown, Don Willans, Dougal Haston, Alex MacIntyre and Pat Littlejohn to name but a few. In fact, Pat himself joined the evening and having brought an original Karrimor pack crammed full of kit that he and Mike had worked on across the years offered an impromptu “aftertalk” on the design and concept of them.
Alas, the forecast for Sunday was awful but more snow had fallen up high overnight so the Walkers who had signed up for mountain days had a fantastic snow filled walk up in high cloud with it lowering in the afternoon ending in just a smattering of rain as the day drew to an end.
Winter weather to order!!
The Joe Brown team would like to say a very big thank you to all of the Plas Y Brenin team for all of their hard work in creating such a great experience for everyone.
And to all of you Big Winter Walkers; THANK YOU for joining us up here in SNOWdonia. The winners of the unofficial competition for furthest travelled goes to three ladies from Cornwall. The prize draw to see who will win the Joe Brown 50th Anniversary Axe will be completed shortly and we very much look forward to reading your feedback sheets to see how we can make it even better next year.
See you then!
For further images, Karl Midlane - Plas y Brenin Instructor, has put together a Facebook album, found here:
For more information on the great courses on offer at Plas y Brenin, please visit their website: http://www.pyb.co.uk/