For me, never has a truer word been spoken in regards to preparation for outdoor activities than those of Sir Ranulph Fiennes – someone who knows a thing or two about adventure. These words bore particular resonance on a recent climb to the summits of Corn Du and Pen Y Fan in the Brecon Beacons on the 4th July this year.
My first experience of mountain climbing came 4 years ago when I took part in the National Three Peaks challenge with friends to raise money for charity. Since then I have developed a passion for the outdoors, scaling numerous peaks and taking part in several long distance walks since.
We used Pen y Fan as our training mountain for the Three Peaks and I was delighted that I was able to introduce a close friend of mine to the mountains three weekends ago. Corn Du and Pen Y Fan were the natural choice, not only because of the direct route from the Storey Arms to the summit, but also for her to experience the unpredictability of mountain weather. In all the ascents I have done on this mountain, I am yet to be rewarded with a clear view on the summit and this day was no exception.
We left Hampshire in glorious sunshine but were greeted in Powys by mist, fog and some very dark clouds.
Luckily our group were well prepared and well equipped for the inevitable rain and as we approached the Pen Y Fan summit marker, we were battered by the gale force winds and subsequent hail.
For my friend this was a real eye opener. It is easy to see how accidents and, unfortunately, fatalities can occur in this range and we were asked by several other climbers where the descent paths were as the thick cloud and mist had disorientated their navigation.
Sadly, the following day, in the exact same area we were, lightening strikes killed two climbers and critically injured two others.
Before hearing of this tragic news, and during our descent of Pen Y Fan, we were astonished to see a large group of people attempting to reach the summit so ill equipped and under-dressed. The majority of the climbers were raising money for various sports clubs (which I certainly do not condemn) but there were young boys in studded football boots attempting the climb! I imagine they would very much have regretted this choice of kit on what would have been a very slippery descent. We saw no signs of improvement in the weather that day and I can only hope that they made the decision to turn around - were at least experienced enough to know what they were letting themselves in for.
Although I would never discourage anyone from venturing in to the mountains or taking part in a similar outdoor activity, I would wholly encourage being prepared for all eventualities, even on peaks such as Pen Y Fan which may appear accessible. These peaks lie within mountain ranges where Mother Nature calls the shots.