back to archiveTHE WELSH 3,000'S WINTER CONDITIONS FEB 1986
This was a challenge David Newbould of Origin photography came up with. At the time Dave was
working as a senior instructor at a centre in west wales. I was one of his instructors. Dave suggested
the idea to me, Duncan - a youth leader and Dave Smith another instructor. On a cold winters day
1985. On top of Glydir Fawr we all agreed.
After my contract as an instructor came to an end I was admitted to the local psychiatric hospital in
Denbigh with severe depression. I had moved into a flat in the local village with a friend. We could
not afford to eat and often went hungry. Also the flat had no heating at all so we slept in our clothes
under a mountain of blankets and coats.
Anyway as Feb 1986 approached I was feeling a lot better and I rang David Newbould to query
the date for this walk. Dave gave me an approximate date only a week or two away looking for a
window in the weather. After talking to a young lad who regularly ran off from the ward. He just
said ‘'go for it''. I thought I would never forgive myself if I didn't even try. So I made my escape plans
in conjunction with bus times. I had not got permission to leave the ward as I was sectioned. But I
managed to slip the doorman and headed into Denbigh to catch the bus --- I missed it!!! So deciding
to do the same again tomorrow only leave earlier I headed my way back. I was picked up 100yrs
further on by a bunch of nurses out looking for me in a car. I told them I just left for a walk and was
heading back anyway.
The next day I did the same and caught 2 buses and one train to arrive at Llanbedr village railway
platform. As I got off the train David Newbould was there in his car to greet me. Having rung the
ward he found id gone AWOL and calculated train and bus times to be there. He said he would take
me to the flat. But I was not to turn up to the centre as technically I was ‘on the run' and that I would
not be able to hide at the flat with Liz as she could get into trouble. We arranged a secret meeting in
the village for the following day for him to give me instructions. He then took me to the flat.
Liz was there with her younger brother and our friends. We had a party that night. Sue lent me her
winter jacket; Dave H his boots - which were a bit small; so I forgot thick socks and put on some thin
thermals; and Liz lent me her rucksack.
The next day I left and hitched to capel curig to purchase an ice axe and crampons out of the last
of my savings. I could only afford the axe. I hid for a further 2 days before turning up at pen y pass
youth hostel for the night before. With my final few pence I brought a tin of beans and a mars bar
for breakfast. I rang Dave n to ask him to bring some spare crampons.
6am I fell out the yh doors and into the car park to meet up with the rest of the team. Someone had
stolen my breakfast at the yh. So Dave gave me a mars bar to eat. I also signed a disclaimer so they
did not want to look responsible for aiding and abetting an escape. Once that was done we set off.
Just before we reached crib goch I started feeling weak. I thought I would only make the first range.
I was over heating so I took off sues jacket and continued in a thermal and fleece. Things got easier
and we speeded up. Yes today was the real window in previous snowy days with cloud. As we
reached the top of crib goch the sun was rising. We traversed grib goch in next to no time and crib
y ddysgol and Snowdon were easily digested. The decent into Nant peris was steep. But ok. In the
llanberis pass we were met by the backup van with tea and flapjacks. We moved on. Elyryr Fawr
was a long long haul up. I stopped several times. On finally getting to the top of this hill and after a
stop coffee, fag and cake. We continued fresh again - I had just passed through my pain barrier. We
speeded up again. Y garn was steady then the Glydirs . By the time we were up tryfan it was dark.
This time Dave smith was slowing down. He had only just hit his barrier. The descent off tryfan into
ogwen valley was surprisingly easy and quick; we sat down and slid most of the way using our ice
axes as breaks. On reaching ogwen valley car park the rescue team met us asking what we were
doing, it was 9.30pm. Dave Newbould told them our plan and we were advised against doing any
more. This was our longest break of ¼ of hr. Duncan had severe sores due to his new plastic boots
so he got his old faithful leathers out of the van. Dave smith had a complete change of clothing and
Duncan and I ate flapjacks and drank thick creamy mushroom soup.
We moved on. Pen yr ole wen covered in ice and snow was made easier by some ice steps carved
into the snow all the way to the top. It was about ½ way up David Newbould stopped and decided
to go back to the van- whose lights we could still see below. He asked me if I wanted to go back with
him - I didn't. We carried on up with Dave Humphries who joined us as a freshman at ogwen to help
keep us going. We reached the top. It was only now -20 degrees I put sue winter jacket back on. We
continued with Dave smith our leader and navigator. We missed out yr élan after Duncan stated he
would not make it to the end if we did it. Carnedd Llwelyn and the rest. Often wading through drifts
above our knees. I was starting to worry about being left behind as smithy forged on ahead leaving
us following his head torch a long way ahead of us. I called on Dave Humphries help to stay behind
me. We did not stop more than 2 minutes at the rescue hut as if we had I know myself at least would
soon seize up and be unable to move and I said so.
Finally we reached the top of the last slope and with relief could see the van lights at the bottom. I
saw a light traveling at speed down the slope. I agreed; I could walk no further; I sat down and again
using my ice axe slid down. I could hear Duncan and Dave Humphries calling me to stop. But I didn't.
When I reached the bottom I just lay on my back on top of my rucksack. Dave Newbould appeared
to take my sack and help me cross a river to the van. Dave smith had actually tripped over and
spiked his face with his ice axe; fallen down the slope and had been taken to hospital. As I sat in the
van friends tried to undo my boots and gaiters. Impossible they and I was frozen over. A duvet was
wrapped round me and I had a cup of coffee. All celebration drinks were banned. Eventually Duncan
and Dave Humphries appeared. Dave had had to cut steps and physically help Duncan down. That
night / morning we all returned to the outdoor centre to sleep. A friend gave up her bed for me.
The next day I could hardly walk and could only literally just crawl up the stairs back to the ward in
the hospital. The police were happy as they said in the first place when they heard id gone missing it
would be better than any therapy the hospital could offer. The drs and nurses were not so pleased.
And said I must have a death wish.
2 weeks later I was discharged. And I have to say even now in 2013 that was the best thing I'd ever
done in my life.
I am writing this all down as a record of what we did as I don't think it has been logged elsewhere.
Thank you for your time reading this. I hope it hasn't been too boring.
Would love to know of any other attempts made in winter. Our time was 21 ½ hrs. pen y pass car
park to aber. Foot of last hill.