A Wintery Day on Moel Siabod

Knowing that today would need to be a shorter day on the hill, in order to allow time for traveling back to Oswestry, we decided to make Moel Siabod our target for the day. I’ve taken groups from the school up this particular mountain before, but never in winter conditions and not by this route.

On the way up to the summit of Moel Siabod
On the way up to the summit of Moel Siabod

We took farm tracks to the old mine workings to the north east of the mountain, as we made our way towards Llyn y Foel. Although we could see the snow above us, our walk in was very green. The biggest clue under foot that winter had arrived was the frozen ground. Having arrived at the lake, we took a break for food and drink, and an opportunity to adjust clothing before we started going up the mountain rather than around it’s base.

Rather than heading up the Daear Ddu ridge, on the eastern flank of Moel Siabod, we took the line of the gully just to it’s north. The loose rock which makes up this route had been mainly covered in snow, making much of it easier than it is in summer conditions. However, we found ourselves cutting left and right in an effort to find the deepest snow, in which the going was generally easier. I was very aware that having a large steep climb ahead of us reaching into the clouds was quite imposing, so we started to break the ascent into smaller, more manageable chunks.

Practicing 'Leap Frogging' during our descent
Practicing 'Leap Frogging' during our descent

Like yesterday, kicking steps at the front of the group was physically demanding, but this time I didn’t have Ali around to do it for me. It’s always really important to make quality steps for a group, as it makes them feel much more secure and it becomes more like climbing a ladder – for them anyway! I found myself regularly checking behind me that everyone was feeling okay, but everyone seemed to be smiling through the puffing and panting.

Having topped out, it was only a short distance to the summit where everyone was keen for a group photo before taking shelter in the group shelters for 10mins for lunch.

With the visibility down to about 20m, it was important to make sure that we headed off from the summit in the right direction and kept close tabs on our progress. So, without much to visually focus on, the group used each other as markers. By taking a bearing from the map and sending a member of the group out to the limit of visibility (ensuring that they stood in line with the bearing), the rest of the group were able to walk to their position and then repeat the process – a technique called ‘leap frogging’. It was an ideal opportunity to practice this skill, which can make the world of difference in poor visibility.

This weekend has been a real treat. Great mountains, in decent winter conditions and shared with fantastic company! Thanks to everyone for a brilliant couple of days.

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