With the fair bit of snow we had last Friday here in Hampshire I decided to get out and have a bit of fun in our garden with my lad Finlay. We decided to build ourselves a little Quinzee snow shelter. We had built one years ago and Finlay wanted to see if he could remember all the steps.
The snow was coming down fast however we did not think we had enough snow to make a massive pile. Normally I would pile rucksacks, brash, logs or rocks into a pile, cover it in snow, pack it down and then pull out everything from the centre from what would become the door – we did not have anything like that so we managed to beg the use of my wife Alison’s pilates ball – did the job 🙂 Granted I would not have the ball out on a trip but needs must and all that – you decide what you want to put in the centre of your Quinzee (saves digging out a lot of snow as well).
We tried lots of different methods of collecting snow, from using a spade, the sledge, the rake and rolling up massive snowballs. They all worked to different degrees however the giant snowballs were pretty efficient.
Once we had collected enough snow we used the spade to pack the snow down really well and smoothed the whole thing down with our hands.
Both Finlay and myself took it in turns to dig out the ball – it did not take long and as the snow was well packed it did not destroy the walls of the doorway as it came out. At this stage I would normally be pulling out the rucksacks, rocks etc.
I also pushed a lot of twigs into the top of the Quinzee where it was thinnest to a depth of about 10cm’s. These twigs are a safeguard for when you dig out more snow from the middle.
Once insided we had plenty of room to enlarge the shelter. We used our snow shovel but I have done this with just a piece of wood before. As soon as a twig appeared we left that area alone and carried out excavating elsewhere. Soon we had a space big enough that either of us could curl up in. I do not like to make these Quinzees to large as a small space is easier to keep warm than a large one is.
Finlay finished the Quinzee off by smoothing off the inside walls with his hands, making the entrance smaller and lining it with conifer branches.
All the snow is melting now (48 hrs since we built it) however it is still standing and looking good. We could have spent a little while longer making the doorway smaller however hot chocolate was calling and we took our final snap and headed indoors.
It was a good project to work on with Finlay (some good Father and Son time) and I was proud to see that he stuck it out in some heavy snow conditions to the end.
Day 4 of our North Wales trip last February with my Sea Cadet friends found us once again on the slopes of Carnedd Llywelyn. This time we were joined by a number of newer instructors looking to get a taste of the mountains.
We started off doing plenty of nav work and re-visited Jacques ‘Peaks in Peaks’ art work – unfortunately one of the peaks had subsided in the time we had been away 🙂
Once we had gone over the summit of Pen yr Helgi Du we enjoyed a great scramble down, along and up the ridge of Bwlch Eryl Farchog. The views were stunning and everyone got the chance to test themselves out.
Once up onto the slopes of Carnedd Llywelyn we stopped short of the summit due to the snow and sheet ice. There was though a fantastic temperature inversion to observe all along the horizon and the summit of Tryfan could be seen just poking out of the low lying clouds.
We had a relaxing walk back off the mountains, passing by Ffynnon Llugwy reservoir where Graham managed to allow his Bothy bag to roll down into it – after a slight ‘dip’ it was blown back to the side for him to retrieve (all in the video below).
Day 2 of my winter trip to Snowdonia found me with Jacques on the Snowdon Horseshoe. We struck out early with a mind to tackle the horseshoe from the Crib Goch side first.
The day was slightly overcast to begin with and there was a smattering of snow high up.
As it was early there were few others around as we ascended Crib Goch. The wind was negligible however you had to watch out for the sheet ice.
I do love scrambling along the edge of Crib Goch – especially when you have good vis from it.
We were soon up onto Snowdon itself and as usual (well it is for me) the clag was right down. There was a small group of climbers sheltering in a bothy below the summit and from the laughs they sounded to be having a good time.
After a short break we headed off down the Watkins path before veering off down to West Peak. It was crampon time here as the snow was pretty hard packed here – one of my crampons kept coming loose so I think a new pair are in order.
The weather really cleared up for us as we motored over West and East Peaks. The views were spectacular and we were even spotted someone para gliding around East Peak.
Coming off the horseshoe I was knackered however I was so glad I took up Jacques offer of a trek round the horseshoe once again. In the right weather and with the right kit it is a cracking day on the mountains.
An advance group of us – Perry, John, Jacques, Jenny and myself all headed up a few days before the main group arrived. For our first day we headed out into the less touristy part of the Snowdon range – the Carneddau Mountains.
Our aim was to take a slow hike up towards Carnedd Llewellyn doing a bit of nav training, scrambling and winter work. All the winter work we planned was to play about in one of the lower snow fields where it is perfectly safe.
I went on ahead of the group at the beginning to find a good spot or two for photography. Jacques soon caught up with me and started playing about with some ice in a pond.
Firstly it was just a case of seeing if he could move the whole sheet with his poles but then as usual – he stepped on it 🙂 We found when it broke that it came out in quite neat triangles.
Jacques soon had a little range of ice peaks made up so I decided to make up a little video with him – titled by Jacques as ‘Peaks in Peaks’.
From the ice pond we were soon scrambling along ridges, throwing snowballs and watching Kestrels hovering overhead – quite dramatic scenery and hardly any another souls around.
Once below the summit of Carned Llewellyn in a gently sloping area we had a little play with some crampons and ice axes.
The return home was just as slow as the ascent as everyone was pretty tired out from this first days hike however we were treated to some great views and a fly past by the RAF.
I put together a short video of the day below.
Daty 2 of the trip found Jacques and myself completing the Snowdon Horseshoe in ‘slightly’ wintry conditions – more of that in the next blog.
The beginning of this year was the end of an era for the Adventure Training team in London Area Sea Cadets: our bosses Perry Symes and Graham Brockwell were standing down from their roles as Area Staff Officers after many years of hard work.
So to celebrate we headed off to the Brecon Beacons here in the UK for a ‘Dining Out Weekend‘.
It was a weekend of many parts – once we had settled into our bunkhouse at Gilfach Farm it was time for a ceremony of handing out certificates to those students who had recently passed their Basic Expedition Leadership Award.
Kev Lomas awarded Perry and Graham a cuddly neck teddy each to carry about for the weekend. Then it was off to the pub to get some dinner (a beer or two) and to plan for the next day.
After a good breakfast I had a wander outside and was greeted by a cracking view of Pen Y Fan in the distance. She had a light smattering of snow however the skies were clear.
We were soon off in the cars and mini bus heading for our start point at Cwm Gwdi car park (old soldiers may remember this camp). This spot allowed us easy access up onto Pen Y Fan without all the masses you will find on the route up from Storey Arms.
The majority of the group were outdoor instructors and all had worked with Perry and Graham in one way or another over the years . Today though the emphasis was on ‘doing your own thing’.
Alan and Dave Lewis went for a low level walk as Dave was carrying an injury while the rest of us set off up the Cefn Cwm Llwch track on the northern slopes of Pen Y Fan. The going was wet underfoot at first however we soon climbed above the snow line.
We snaked along the path, well spread out, enjoying the views and chatting as we went along. I decided to record my very first Live Facebook video on this part of the walk. The videos were not top quality because of the weak signal and wind noise but I enjoyed making them.
I spent most of my time scouting out good photography positions and ordering the lads to pose for me 🙂 Kept me happy and I think everyone liked that they could for once go at their own pace and do their own thing.
The final bit of the track up to the summit was quite icy but safe enough if you took your time. Once on the top it was like Piccadily Circus with all the folk coming up from the Storey Arms. We soon got the pictures taken and Ben found time for a few push ups before we set off.
It was at this point we broke up into three groups. The first set off at breakneck speed to ascend Cribyn and Fan Y Big. I bimbled along with the middle group but soon left them, ascending to the saddle below Cribyn. After a break on Cribyn I descended off the hill on its Northern slope down the Bryn Teg track where I met the third group being led off the hill by Jacques.
Soon the teams met up again and while Jacques sped off to pick up the minibus James produced a rugby ball from his bergen (there was not much else in it). I asked him why he had not produced it on top of Pen Y Fan and he said he forgot (would have been an excellent photo opportunity). Anyway the guys had a good half hour mucking about and doing the odd ‘Dab’ on the side of a bridge.
The Saturday evening was spent in the Red Lion pub in Llangorse enjoying a slap up meal. We were given the upper floor to use and it was probably a good move on the staff’s part – it got pretty noisy at times.
When I arrived though we were all downstairs in the bar and some of the guys were playing pool. They had been there a couple of hours to watch England play in the Six Nations rugby championship. I was standing at the bar when one of the locals approached. ‘Be careful,’ he advised me, nodding at my kilt, ‘There’s a bunch of rowdy English fans in the bar.’ I looked over his shoulder – then back at him – and said that it was OK, those rowdy English fans were my so-called mates 🙂 His face was a picture!
The evening was a great success with good food, plenty of wine, speeches, and a few war stories before retiring to the bar downstairs.
In the morning there may have been one or two fuzzy heads as we packed up and made our way to Dinas Rock located in the South of the Beacons. The plan was for some of the guys to do some Mountain Leader ropework on the rocks while the rest of us headed off to the waterfalls at Sgwd Yr Eira. In the end no one got there as we all kind of split up (after going the wrong way initially) and did our own thing.
I found a nice spot to sit in my hammock by the river while Jacques as usual dived in.
It was a fantastic weekend and it was great to be part of it. I think the pictures confirm that Perry and Graham had a great time. Below, pictured in between Perry and Graham, is Ben McDonald, the latest Mountain Leader to the team who has taken over Perry’s role as Sea Cadet Area Staff Officer (ASO) for Adventure Training in the London Area. Perry aims to stay on as the Assistant ASO for a year before stepping back totally.
I tend to put what I think are interesting photographs I have taken up on my Instagram account and as I was looking through it tonight certain ones caught my eye and brought back some good memories.
Memorable Moments will be a short series of themed posts of pictures that I enjoy looking at time and again.
Starting with last winter I was strolling along a path in North Wales and was struck by the simple beauty of this footpath marker – reminded me of a sugared bun.
While walking with a group of Sea Cadet friends below the summit of Snowdon a shepherd appeared out of the mist and stood by us. He did not look at us or speak to us. He just stopped, surveyed the land around him, spotted his sheep and was then off – quite a surreal moment where I instantly was reminded that one persons playground is another persons workplace.
Late January brought the Snowdrops out and as I was practising my macro photography I was soon out and about looking at these beautiful flowers.
I somehow managed to catch this one in the right light and our local magazine thought it good enough to make the cover page in last February’s issue.
I love taking my kids out into the woods to explore and we have some great adventures. My son Finlay though was stopped in his tracks by a simple feather that was caught up on a branch.
I came along to see what he had found and snapped this little pic of him admiring some simple beauty in nature.
My final picture in this winter theme is staged I am afraid. I was walking along in the woods looking for an interesting shot when I spotted this rather skeletal leaf on the ground.
I was so taken with it that I picked it up for a closer look and inadvertantly looked at it with the sun in the background – so in no time it was hanging off a branch for what I think is a pretty good pic.
Thats it for the Winter Memorable Moments however there will be a few more soon.