Carwyn Jones AM the First Minister for Wales held his first official visit to North Wales on Thursday 14 January, and the outdoors was a major theme.
He had expressed a personal interest in discussing the apparently increasing trend in mountain accidents on Snowdon, and the wintry conditions in Snowdonia provided a wonderful backdrop to some very informative debate.
The First Minister (the nearest Wales has to a Prime Minister) met with members of Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team, Elfyn Jones (BMC Access & Conservation Officer for Wales), Alun Pugh (Director of Snowdonia Society), and Mal Creasey (from Mountain Leader Training); and due to the current conditions got a first-hand view of the huge avalanche that occurred a few hours before his arrival, directly above the village of Nant Peris.
The debate focussed not only on the increased number of accidents in Snowdonia in 2009, but also on the real benefits that mountaineering and the outdoors brings to areas such as Snowdonia. There was discussion on the economic value of mountaineering, especially the real boost to the economy provided by visitors attracted by the wintry conditions. A BBC news report later interviewed staff at local outdoor shops, including Joe Browns in Llanberis who commented on the extra business and increased sales of ice axes, crampons and winter weather gear that have occurred.
The controversial issue of waymarking and signing paths on open mountains were frankly debated. Both the BMC and the local rescue team volunteers made it clear to the First Minister their opposition to this, preferring a better level of information (including a specialised weather forecast and ground conditions report) at key gateways to the mountains that would enable mountain users to make informed decisions before venturing on the hills.
The First Minister heard at first hand the immense voluntary contribution made by members of the busiest mountain rescue team in the UK, and personally thanked them for their efforts in dealing with over 180 mountain incidents (which tragically included 12 fatalities) on Snowdon in 2009.
In order to prepare himself better for his next visit to Snowdonia, The First Minister left well prepared with a copy of “Mynydda”, the Welsh version of “Hillwalking” by Steve Long, and the BMC/Harvey Maps Snowdonia Mountain Map!
This article has been read
Click on the tags to explore more