Can you come to North Wales next week? We need help?
I was quick to reply, before I knew anything else. 'YES!!'.
I then asked what, why etc. and discovered it would be 4 days, 3 nights in North Wales wild camping with a group of 11 Level 2 Outdoor Adventure students. All sounded amazing, until the weather forecast came in....
We kept looking at the weather and hoping, beyond hope that it would change. It was looking to be a pretty wet and windy few days but surely it could a)change and b)we were a hardy bunch of outdoor peeps...
We set off from Hartpury College on the Tuesday late afternoon, aiming to arrive at Gwern Gof Isaf (Willy's Farm) Campsite around 10pm. We did, indeed arrive on time and before the rain was due to start we got the students on to the site and pitching their tents. Emily and I meanwhile went a little up hill from them and pitched our tents, which I hasten to point out now we borrowed from the college. The idea was that our own tents would be dry for the Mountain Day and wild camp the following day. Jon meanwhile had bagged the minibus.
Well. To say it rained and blowed a whoolie is a MAHOOOSIVE understatent. It lashed it down, all night and the winds reached 70mph. I woke up at 2.17am to hear the wind heading down the valley and hit my tent full on. Crack. Umm, so thats a pole broken then. Thankfully it wasn't my tent! I decided there was little I could do about it so I made sure all my kit was in with me and not in the porch and went back to sleep.
When I woke in the morning I soon realised that the broken pole had meant the tent had leaked. Thankfully I had all my kit in with me as the porch was sodden, the rain had managed to get in and my lovely new Alpkit Cloudbase sleeping mat was a little moist on the underside. BUT, all my kit, and I were dry.
As I got outside I bore witness to the horizontal rain and the carnage that was ensuing where the students had pitched their tents. It was literally a bog. They had pitched lower than us, next to a stream and all their tents, sleeping bags and most of their kit was sodden. Or floating....
Despite this, as good sturdy outdoor types we battled on. And on, and on, and on through the day. It was clear that we would not be able to do the planned walk and wild camp so we decided to beast them down the valley to Cwm Idwal. Give them their dues, the students were AMAZING, they were wet through but they just kept going, in to the rain and wind. They didn't complain (well much!), they walked, talked and just got on with it. What we hadn't told them was that we had a little surprise for them when we got back to the campsite.
All day the students thought that they would be heading back to camp and sleeping in their wet tents on the quagmire that was now the site. However, the joy of Gwern Gof Isaf is that they have a rather fantastic Bunkhouse, and it was available. So, Emily and Jon had, unknown to the students booked it for the night. They, and we after all needed to get dry and warm. Making 16 years old sleep in a glorified cold bath would have been a step too far. Our goal as Outdoor Professionals is to make them fall in love with the outdoors, not grow to loathe it.
Their reaction when Emily told them about the bunkhouse was amazing, one kid was convinced that it was a birthday present for him (yes it was his birthday bless him and he was there, with us in the wet!). It didn't matter, what mattered is that we had a warm dry bed for the night and a kettle!
The Bunkhouse was excellent. If you are looking for somewhere to lay your head while in Snowdonia then I highly recommend it.
The next day dawned and it was glorious. The sun was shining, the winds had dropped and we had all, pretty much slept well. So, the question was do we beast them up to a Dulyn Bothy for the night and just suffer wet tents? Having learnt greatly from the weather reporting we checked carefully and it became clear that this beautiful day was a rose between two thorns and the storms were returning. So, the decision was made to get them to carry all their kit, yes all of it, and get them to take turns navigating us on a walk. Emily would then get them to discuss how we could survive another wild night in the hope that one of them would just say 'let's go home'.
You would think wouldn't you that a group of 11 students would say that straight away. Well, not this lot. Instead they came up with lots of ideas on how we could camp safely on the mountainside in a storm, it took Jon to jump in and nudge, nudge and nudge again until Harry finally said the magic words 'we could go home'. YESSS!!
To say they were elated is an understatement. However, they didn't think I could hear them as we drove back home in the minibus as they talked about the amazing time they had had and that it was the best trip ever. It wasn't quite the expedition planned, but it sure as hell was an adventure.