Summer Mountain Foundation with Welbeck DSFC

I was delighted to be approached by Welbeck Defence Sixth Form College back at the beginning of March about delivering an SMF (Summer Mountain Foundation) course for a group of their students. Welbeck actually brought the whole of their Lower Sixth form over to Capel Curig to spend a week in the mountains of Snowdonia. With so many students, there were a total of about 27 walking groups. Some were doing a DofE assessed expedition, but only 4 groups actually completed the SMF course due to the need for instructors approved by JSMTC (Joint Service Mountain Training Centre) and other logistical reasons.

Views of Tryfan from Pen yr Ole Wen
Views of Tryfan from Pen yr Ole Wen

I spent the first day with my group on the Carneddau. After being dropped by minibus on the A5 just short of Tryfan, we spent a little while at the side of the road looking at appropriate kit and clothing to be taking into the mountain environment. Once moving, we headed up to Ffynnon Lloer and the eastern ridge of Pen yr Ole Wen. With the sun on our backs, and wonderful views over Tryfan and the Glyders, the scramble up the ridge was a real hit. A leisurely lunch at the top allowed the energy levels to recover before making our way over to Carnedd Dafydd, where we took time to talk through emergency procedures in remote areas.

We returned to the Carneddau for the second day, slowly making progress up the long slog that is the southern ridge of Pen yr Helgi Du. We then dropped down to the saddle to the east for a lunch break before climbing back up Pen Llithrig y Wrach. The plan had been to make our way across to Craig Wen and Crimpiau, but the ground proved to be incredibly wet and, after a fair amount of climbing already during the day, we decided to head back down.

Resting on the Cantilever
Resting on the Cantilever

Maps of the Glyders show an obvious traverse along the tops but, up until now, I’ve never actually walked it myself. So it was a treat to be asked to take the group along this way on the third day. Starting at Ogwen Cottage, we made our way to the back of Cwm Idwal and up the ‘Devil’s Kitchen’ before turning east to take in the tops of Glyder Fawr, Glyder Fach and Y Foel Goch before descending into Capel Curig. After a couple of clear days of visibility, it was actually quite useful to have a bit of cloud come in from time to time, as it emphasised the importance of the compass. Up until today, all the navigation had been done on a group basis, so each individual got to do a number of navigational legs through the day. I’d already discovered that this was a group with an interest in posing for the camera, so it didn’t take much persuading to get this group shot on the famous Cantilever.

The fourth and fifth days were scheduled to be an overnight expedition but, with weather warnings of heavy rain combined with high winds at sea level, it was felt too dangerous to head up into the mountains. As a result, we spent the next day on the Moelwyns, practicing some micro navigation. Although beyond the requirements for the SMF course, most of the group were starting to get to grips with contour interpretation. The biggest fact of the day was, as forecast, the weather. Although the wind was not as bad as expected, the rain was relentless and most of the group got drenched feet very quickly. In fact, a couple of the lads felt they couldn’t get any wetter and decided to dive into any puddle or stream they came across. The most entertaining part of the day was a section of ground which seemed to be floating. It may sound weird, but take a look at the video!

In in all, I had a great week with my group. It’s a real privilege to work with such young people that can strike a healthy balance between learning and having fun. Thanks for letting me share the week with you all!

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