I went to Wales to do some scrambling through a BMC subsidised course at Plas Y Brenin last weekend. It was my first time in Wales and at PYB. Both places I now intend on visiting again to walk, climb, scramble and attend various courses to get my Mountain Leader qualification and improve my outdoor climbing.
When I arrived in Llandudno Junction I had a few hours to kill before my lift arrived so after eating at a pub I went for a walk to Conwy Castle. I was greeted with the most beautiful sunset across the estuary. I just sat there in awe as the sun vanished.
I walked back to the station and my lift had arrived. I was sharing the bus with a couple of guys doing other courses so we chatted for the duration of the journey, which was about thirty minutes. They came from different backgrounds and it’s always good to talk to like minded people. No matter what background, we all shared a love for being outdoors and getting as much as we could from being there.
After checking in I had a quick look round and crashed. I’d had a long day and wanted to sleep. But the centre has so much to offer: use of the climbing walls, kayaking, a dry ski slope, mountain biking, a nice pub with a great view. And I have no doubt you could chat to anyone.
The next morning, after a filling breakfast, we met our course leaders and split into teams of 4. This meant there was a 4:1 ratio of instructor to students. That was an ideal number to learn and not lose the ability to ask questions in a crowd.
After a quick equipment check and debrief we were off to our playground for the day. Its hard to believe I have never been to Wales but after arriving in Ogwen Valley and looking up on some of the mountains I was in love. I spotted Tryfan and hoped I would get the chance to get up there. As it happens I didn’t but some of the surrounding scrambles were a perfect way to break into it. And I know I’ll be back to take on the north ridge at some point.
Chris was our instructor for the weekend. From Northern Ireland, he was friendly, good fun and full of chat. I seemed to bend his ear all weekend, asking questions about the ML mostly so that it became a running joke. He talked so passionately about the area, the fauna and flora, the wild life, the climbing and the scrambling that I ended up buying some books from the store that night. I wanted to learn more.
After going through some safety and route choice techniques we set off on our first route. Stopping every now and again to talk about spotting and foot placement, we made it to the top of the Y Gribin route and then the summit of Gylder Fawr for lunch.
The weather was starting to turn so we headed down, talking about how the descent was when most accidents happen so it was wise to check where and how you would get down. At the bottom we got onto the bus and headed back to the centre for a debrief and practice some ropework for the next day.
After dinner (a lovely three course meal) we had the option to attend a film night to help save the river Conwy. But I was knackered so went back to my room, did some route planning and fell asleep.
The next morning we met and had another debrief before heading back to Ogwen Valley for the day to do more scrambling and practice some ropework.
The plan was to make our way up and practice the ropework we’d learnt the evening before. This was important to know in case you found yourself in a tight spot and needed to get yourself or someone else down from a difficult route.
After making it up we stopped to practice anchoring and belaying someone down. Looking at the ABCs (anchor, belay and climber) as well as making sure sure the person acting as the anchor is in tight and stable. When we’d finished we ate lunch and headed over to Y Gribin to practice more ropework.
As well as anchoring we covered some abseil techniques (classical & south african) and how to use fixed and retrievable anchors. After we were finished we made our way down to the bus and back to the centre for our final debrief.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the weekend but I had a great time and fell in love with Wales like I fell for Scotland last year. I learnt some new skills, met some lovely people and cemented how much I want to work outdoors and set my life on that path.