Testing friendships

(A true story)

It was Sarah’s idea (not her real name) and she said she’d arrange it all.

And so it was. In mid-October the four of them (Sarah and her boyfriend, and Sarah’s brother and his girlfriend) got a day off work mid-week, and drove up to Yr Wyddfa, leaving Chelmsford (Essex) in the early hours of Wednesday morning. With fairly empty roads they should be able to do it in five hours, plus time for a breakfast stop.

They arrived at Pen y Pass (having pre-booked, a good move) and were ready to start up by about 8:00. The plan was to be back down by mid-afternoon, and then drive back to Essex, getting something to eat on the way. It would be a very long day, but enjoyable.

It had started raining as they approached Yr Wyddfa, but they’d come here to get to the top, and that’s what they were going to do.

However, the problems soon started. The fact is that the other three had left everything to Sarah, so they didn’t know anything about what lay ahead, such as which path they were going up, and nor had they checked the forecast. But as it turns out, neither had Sarah. A big mistake.

Suspecting it might be cold – it was October, after all – they were wearing ‘puffer’ insulated jackets, but no-one had any proper waterproofs, and the girls were wearing just thin leggings.

By 11:00 they were nearing the summit. It had rained all the way up, the wind was gusting at about 40mph, and the temperature had dropped more than they’d expected; it was only about 6˚c, with the windchill taking it to below zero. They were now totally soaked through – literally to the skin – and very cold. Sarah had developed a cough.

The mountain was largely empty of people (not surprisingly, given the weather) and they were looking forward to at least being able to shelter in the summit café and have a hot drink. They met a couple of other walkers just below the summit and learned to their dismay that the café wasn’t open. OK, but there would be some shelter somewhere, wouldn’t there?  Sorry, no.

Their condition was obvious to all who saw them, and they were asked why they’d chosen to come today of all days? The previous days had seen fine weather, as would the next couple of days. Today’s appalling weather had been forecast since the previous weekend. Had no-one looked at the forecast? Everyone looked at Sarah.

Having reached the largely deserted summit, they were advised to make their way down as quickly and safely as possible before hypothermia set in. (“Which way are you going down?”  “We don’t know. Ask Sarah.”) The Miners’ Track was suggested to them so that they could drop height quickly and stay more out of the wind.

By now they were all thoroughly fed up and seriously uncomfortable. No-one wanted anything to do with Sarah. Her brother and his girlfriend pressed on down leaving Sarah and her boyfriend to make their own, slower way down.

By the time they got back to Pen y Pass – the best part of an hour apart – it was still raining. It literally hadn’t stopped all day, just as had been forecast. They’d been out for some 6½ hours and had been soaked through for about 6 of them.

Despite the weather, had they enjoyed their day they could have laughed it off. As it was, they’d had a totally miserable experience. The atmosphere in the (steamed-up) car on the drive home wouldn’t have been a pleasant one.

(They should have looked at our page ‘Preparation for walking up Snowdon’.)

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