CAUTION: Railway down Snowdon

Whilst I haven’t been up Snowdon, I was working today, and during the day there were two call outs, thankfully both ended well, for people who had followed the Railway Track down from the summit of Snowdon and come into difficulty over the infamous accident black spot of Clogwyn Coch.

I guess there are two things to note here. Firstly despite being spring in the valleys it is very much winter on the summit. As such you actually need ice axe and crampons for a safe ascent as well as a knowledge of there appropriate use. Secondly this has been one of the first incidents this year on Clogwyn Coch, which takes some very specific condition to become deadly.

The fact that we had two call outs today might well suggest that these conditions have occured for the first time, and therefore the route is changing into a potentially lethal option.

Following the railway track down Snowdon for the time being might be best avoided, however my guess is anyone reading this is more than aware of this. As it is often less experienced people who take this options as they feel they are following the easiest line down, forgetting that at one specific section the track totally banks out and becomes rock hard ice with an ever steeepen slope below that leads 500ft+ to a cliff below.

Please be careful.

Black Monday

Back in 2005 I spent a month in Scotland living (dossing) in a friends room at Glenmore Lodge, days spent skiing, winter climbing or walking, and nights spent drinking in the Lodge Bar. One of the common faces around the place was an old friend who used to live in Llanberis, Chris Walker who was working towards his winter ML. Early starts and long drives across Scotland to get to some classic peaks and routes climbed was the theme of those few weeks.

One day in particular we head up to the Liatach traverse, one of the most amazing ridges anywhere in the UK, and possible one of the best mountain scrambles I have done in winter. This sandstone landscape reminded me of what some of the US sandstone towers would look like if they weren’t in the desert, but is the arse end of Scotland. Chris was a great companion for these days, happy go lucky, with a cheeky side.

The route was challenging for a walk, but well within our abilities. The weather was reasonable and the views spectacular. I can’t remember what we talked about as we walked in the sky, in fact that winter seems to have past in my memory. It all came flooding back on Monday morning when I checked my email before heading to the Brenin for work. I was being invited to his funeral, the world stood still, like I am sure it has for many of the people whose life has been touched by this gentle man. It is this great day out on Liatach that I will remember Chris for.

He, just like another colleague was caught out by a small avalanche that swept both of them off the mountains they were on last wednesday. One has just regained consciousness and is now off the ventilator, whilst Chris and the person he was with sadly didn’t make it. My thoughts go out to his family and close friends, as like so many people you meet in the outdoors, your paths often only cross for short periods.

It has been a real annus horriblus in Scotland this year, my thoughts are with my other friends who are still up there looking and working in those same savage mountains. They often take on new meanings when you know of the darker side interacting with them.

Chris enjoyed many trips to Nepal, I have no idea whether he shared their believe in reincarnation, but I hope his spirit can live on.

We all roll the dices of life, we all try and load them in our favour but occasionally we get snake eyes.