A few weekends ago, we were back in Snowdonia, exploring the beautiful hills of the National Park once again. However, this time, two of our Explorers, Freddy and Oscar, and one of our Leaders, Livia, had been preparing for an assessment. The T1 Scout permit would allow them to lead groups up many of the UK’s hills completely independently. Read on to find out how they got on!
“On Friday evening we got to Scout Park early, ready for a long drive to Snowdonia. We had been briefed ahead of time with what we needed for the trip and we swiftly went to collect stoves, tents, and maps. We had all already brought food for the weekend in small groups. We packed into the minibus just before six and began the long drive.
In the front, John discussed the T1 permit requirements with us, in depth. Oscar and Freddy spent many hours plumbing the depths of John’s knowledge of hill walking and the ins and outs of permits. This brainwork required some fuel in the form of McDonalds chicken nuggets. The drive continued with some more crazy stories from John. We arrived at the campsite in Snowdonia after 11 and swiftly set up tents and went to bed, ready for some intense nav the next day.”
“One of the best things about expeditions is you can start a little later than on a day hike. We were all grateful for this; none of us were asleep until well after midnight the previous day. Begrudgingly, our alarms did eventually go off on Saturday morning and we began tidying away the campsites and packing our expedition bags. By 9:30, we set off to drive to Sygun Copper Mine, where John had arranged for us to leave the minibus for a couple of days. Here, we put on our rucksacks and set off!
Hill Tip #453: Light is Right – It’s no fun to lug a ridiculously heavy bag up the hill, try to keep your bag as light as possible, it’ll make your time on the hill far easier.
The day started with some comparatively easier navigation practice heading up along a path. For all of us, it had been some time since we’d navigated in the mountains, so spending some time reminding ourselves of the core skills before testing them properly was incredibly useful. Following this, we hit a small road and began our journey into the Moelwyn properly. We began heading off-path and working on harder and harder legs, now to contour features as opposed to path junctions or river splits. This was made harder by reduced visibility, which reminded us of how important good navigation skills are in the hills and mountains across the UK. We had lunch in a small sheepfold, and then journeyed towards the campsite.
After a relaxed dinner, John took us out for night navigation. This is done to mimic getting off the hill in either extremely low visibility, or at night if something has gone wrong during the day. I was surprised at how little you can see at night, even when the hills are claggy, you realise how much of a difference even 50m of visibility can make. When your view is restricted to the small bubble of light coming from your headtorch, it’s much harder to work out where you are and very easy to miss obvious features even when they’re very close by. For me, this was a stark reminder of how easily it is to get lost if you’re caught out by the conditions and emphasises the need for regular practice of these skills in a safe environment. Following this, we headed back to camp for a brief discussion of how the night-nav had gone. Then we headed back into our tents and went to bed.”
“The next day, after a good night’s sleep on the hillside, we set off promptly to begin the day ahead. After just half an hour of flat walking, we hit our first obstacle: Cnicht. The mountain, although tall, offered a slow and steady climb to its peak. As much as I would love to tell you all about the picturesque views at its summit, we were greeted at the top with wet and foggy conditions so not much could be seen. Standing at 698m Cnicht offered a good challenge to start the day including a steep scramble off its northern face where we practiced spotting each other down the slope. Despite the elevation, John didn’t fail to keep us on our toes with lots of assessed navigation keeping us busy on the descent.
Once off the hill, we enjoyed a much flatter journey across the grasslands of Snowdonia to our lunch spot by a waterfall in the Welsh town of Nantmor. Having fuelled up on wraps of various fillings, we headed past the waterfall and back to Sygun Copper Mine and reunited with the minibus. John then bought us all a coffee to applaud our efforts before taking some time to make his final decision…”
To Conclude, here are a few words from our assessor, John:
“Leadership is at the core of all Scouting – whether that takes the form of adults enabling adventurous activities for their youth members, or the youth members themselves taking on the responsibilities of managing a group. This weekend was a test in all aspects of hillwalking from these three candidates, as they were assessed with the objective of gaining a Terrain 1 hillwalking permit (equivalent to the Hill and Moorland Leader award). While the bulk of the assessment was to happen on the hill, the journey there provided ample opportunity to talk through aspects of the permit such as risk assessment and planning ahead.
Conditions were misty and moist as we walked up into the wild country of the Moelwynion, and after an early nav leg or two to ‘get our eye in’ – mine included! – the candidates were soon confidently navigating to within 10 metres of a range of points in low visibility en route to camp. After setting up camp and dinner, things only got harder, as I took them out into the foggy night to assess their micro-navigation in extremely low-vis conditions. The next day, we headed over the nearby peak of Cnicht, and out of the mountains, using 1:50,000-scale maps to navigate on a larger scale, along the way talking through aspects of group management and emergency scenarios.
I delivered my verdict over coffee in the cafe at the Sygun Copper Mine,and was pleased to be able to tell all three candidates that they had passed. They had all demonstrated abilities consistent with the core tenets of the permits of the adventurous activities permit scheme: the ability to make safe choices in the chosen environment, and technical ability to the standard of the equivalent National Governing Body award. They should all be proud, and I hope they get much use out of their awards, leading and inspiring young people in the mountains. Well done!”
-John, Leader and ML