In the days preceding my trip I had watched, with mounting trepidation, the weather forecast for Snowdonia. Jolly orange triangles took on sinister significance because they were the symbols for severe weather warnings, backed up by the words ‘heavy rain’ and ‘thunder storms’.
Tired from the nine hour journey by public transport I was grateful to be able to put up my tent during a break in the rain. And although the strong wind made assembling the tent difficult, at least it kept the marauding midges at bay. I dived into the tent just as the rain crashed down and pummelled the gossamer fabric throughout the night.
Damp birds welcomed the dawn at 4am, their voices competing with the roar of the downpour.
Convincing myself to leave the snug confines of the tent was not easy but I needed to meet up with the instructor and the other two students in the Plas y Brenin bar at 0900. It was only a 15 minute walk but I arrived soaked to the skin. We introduced ourselves and talked about what we wanted from the day. We probably talked for longer than was absolutely necessary, hoping that the rain would calm down.
In North Wales it is almost taken for read that if it is raining in the mountains you head down to Tremadog to go climbing.
As we pulled in next to Eric’s café the rain was, if anything, even heavier. We quickly formulated a plan for evacuating from the crag. If you are using wet ropes and metalwork while high on an exposed rockface during a lightning storm you are unlikely to be able to concentrate on climbing.
This first day was about teaching multi pitch trad leading. We decided to start on a route called Hail Bebe. It is given quite a lowly grade but as it resembled a waterfall more than a rock climb we thought it would present quite a challenge anyway. At the top of the first pitch we tied into an ivy festooned tree. Where I was positioned I soon realised that I was blocking the entrance to a hive which was hidden in the foliage. As the bees became more numerous and more agitated I moved to the other side of the tree where it was much calmer.
The black sky continued to empty itself on us but the midday thunderstorm did not materialise.
It had taken us much longer to complete the climb than we had anticipated so after a quick bite to eat we moved along to do Oberon, a harder grade but not very technical. I lead all the pitches on this climb just to speed things up.
We learned a lot, not least dealing with adverse conditions.
One of the students gave me a lift back to the campsite. It was 1900, quite a day.
Day two followed a similar pattern, climbing again at Tremadog. There was less rain and we took on harder grades finishing up with a complex abseil.