Surviving Snowdonia: Easter Camp 2016

We all knew it was coming. Really, we did. All the signs were there: the warnings from Marlon, the dismal weather forecast, and of course the sunny Friday evening that was too good to last. So we did know what was coming. But that didn’t mean we were ready for ‘Storm Katie’: non-stop rain and 70mph winds that hit us the moment we entered Snowdonia. Apparently this storm left 80,000 homes without power and over 100 flights disrupted, but in an isolated corner of Wales we knew none of this. All we knew was that we were cold, wet, and VERY muddy.

Easter camp started early on Friday morning, as we made the most of the extra days off school. After loading up the vans and strapping the bags to the roof rack (a nerve wracking experience for all involved), we set off. We quickly stopped moving, however, due to the bank holiday traffic and an accident on the motorway. Once past the accident, we did begin to move again and reached our stop-off point: Sainsbury’s in Shrewsbury.

Our campsite

After a trip to the nearby McDonald’s for some Explorers, we set off again and drove until we reached our campsite: Cornel Scout Centre in Snowdonia. At this point, it was still relatively sunny, which we were grateful for as we unloaded the minibuses and started setting up camp. As the Explorers tried to remember how to put up the overly-complicated-yet-at-the-same-time-deceptively-simple patrol tents, the leaders helped with the rest of the group kit.

Pretty soon, it was time for dinner, a camp classic: pasta and sauce, followed by generous helpings of cake.

After that was a round of the wide game ‘Commando’, and then it was time to go to sleep. We’d all been told to expect rain, but as we walked to our tents and felt the relatively warm air, we couldn’t help but hope that it would last. Of course, it didn’t.

‘PLs GET UP NOW’ echoed round the camp as Marlon woke us all up at 1am that night. The PLs got up quickly, to find the camp in a state of disarray, as the anticipated winds got started. Their first target: the mess tent. While some Explorers helped tie down the mess tent, a few others got their priorities straight and rushed to save the 92 sandwiches that had been stored there for lunch the next day. After all the action, the tents were secured and the PLs headed back to bed.

Saturday started less dramatically, as we got up and started breakfast. This mainly consisted of Nutella sandwiches (by the way, frozen Nutella is REALLY difficult to spread…), and bowls of Alpen.

After that, some of the day hike groups set off, fully clad in waterproofs they could only pray would work against the dreadful weather. For the last two groups, however, the plan was slightly different. We were going to hike through the hills to a secluded hut owned by the Rugby Mountaineering Club, where we would stay overnight.

The hut where we spent Saturday night

At first, the weather was not too bad, but it rapidly deteriorated. As the rain lashed our faces and the wind attempted to blow us off the mountain, we made some important discoveries:

  1. Waterproof coats aren’t waterproof
  2. Waterproof boots aren’t waterproof
  3. Waterproof rucksack covers aren’t waterproof

And as a result we were soaked by the time we reached the hut. As we were operating on a strict ‘no wet clothes inside the hut’ principle, we had to strip off our waterproofs outside (IN THE FREEZING COLD), which is definitely an experience I don’t want to repeat anytime soon…

As the hut had minimal lighting, we made do with candles, which added a rather romantic feeling to the building. This was ruined, however, by the dripping clothes hung on every available surface, and the strong smell of damp (although, as Scouts, this is something we’re pretty used to – it just makes us nostalgic for the shed back in Scout Park…)

A rather soggy candlelit dinner…

For dinner that night, we cooked on the gas stove, and after eating some Explorers engaged themselves in a rousing, yet rather disturbing, game of Cards Against Humanity (another camp staple). Soon we settled down to sleep, somehow managing to fit in double the number of people the hut usually sleeps.

On Sunday morning we had a leisurely start (by this I mean we got up at 8am…) and a delicious breakfast of either porridge or couscous left over from the night before. We attempted to return everyone’s kit for them, in various stages of dampness, from where they were hung around the room.

Once we set off, the hail quickly started, followed by a mixture of sleet, rain, and snow. Having given up hope of keeping dry, we waded through swamps that used to be fields, and rivers that used to be paths. All I can say is, there’s something quite nice about being so far past caring that even when you fall knee-deep in mud, you just shrug, say ‘I was wet anyway’, and keep walking.

Eventually, we caught sight of a row of familiar green tents through the trees, to cries of relief from all. We returned to camp to find it much muddier than when we left, but luckily all the tents were still in fairly good shape (they were still up, at least).

The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful, as we spent it eating chilli con carne and drinking custard and hot chocolate round the fire in the jurte, before settling down to sleep.

On our last day, Monday, we felt a mixture of sadness and relief at the thought of leaving Snowdonia. After packing up our personal kit, we had flag break and started taking down camp. We gave our best efforts to reducing the mud on the tent canvases, but what with the swampy ground and the spontaneous hail showers, it was impossible, which we all knew meant a major clean-up session back at Scout Park.

After lunch and a litter sweep of the campsite, we had a final flag down, before driving off to Betws-y-Coed, where we relaxed by the river and splashed out on 30 boxes of well-deserved chips. We also attempted to take a group photo – while jumping – which probably wasn’t advisable given how close we were to the river…

Anyway, soon it was time to be off, and we headed back down the motorway to Scout Park. Once there, it was time for the inevitable sort out, as we lay out all the tents in the hall, and finished the washing up. At the end of a long day, camp was finally over.

For most people, Easter probably brings to mind chocolate, extra days off work, and spending time with family. For us, it will always be a reminder of the four days we spent getting soaked in Snowdonia.

– Written by Carina

Watch the video below to see some of the highlights from our trip!

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