The weather in Wales can be treacherous. It is possible to start walking in brilliant sunshine and suddenly be faced with a heavy mist and/or lashing rain. The temperature up in the mountains is often about 10°C (18°C F) lower than in the valleys, and wind-chill will make it even colder. Do not underestimate the risk of exposure and the dangers of losing your way in the mist. Learn how to be safe.
Avoid getting lost
Check the local weather forecast before setting out. Be ready to change your plans and choose a low-level walk or other activity if the forecast is poor.
Unless you possess and know how to use an ice axe and crampons, do not go up the mountains in winter when there is ice and deep snow on top.
Even if you are using a published detailed description of a route, make sure you have a large-scale Ordnance Survey map of the area (1:25,000 Explorer series recommended). You should also have a compass and know how to use it to navigate in conditions of poor visibility.
Entering your route with appropriate waypoints into a handheld GPS is a further aid to consider. However, do not rely on GPS alone; batteries can go flat or you might drop and lose or break it. However, I do love using my recently bought Garmin Oregon 650 in the Welsh mountains. My unit has UK OS maps loaded so I can see exactly where I am. Since I enjoy geocaching, I also load it up with data on caches in the areas I’m visiting.
2. Snowdon (OS Explorer Map)
Further resources from Amazon.com 1. Landranger Maps: Brecon Beacons Sheet 160 (OS Landranger Map)
1. Brecon Beacons OS Explorer Map of West and Central Areas
2. Snowdon OS Explorer Map
Wear the right gear and be mindful
Do not wear trainers. Proper walking boots are essential. If they are newly bought, break them in before wearing them for a full day in the mountains. Wearing jeans on mountain walks is a very bad idea. The denim holds water and once wet will stay wet for a long time and cause severe chilling. Wearing several thin layers of clothing keeps you warmer than wearing a single jumper and enables you to adjust your clothing to the temperature. Unless it is a hot day, you might want to take a hat and gloves. You should also carry a waterproof, water and/or a sports drink and food for the walk plus a bit more. If things go wrong, having a survival bag with you can make all the difference. Walking poles may be useful. You should plan to finish your descent in daylight, but you should carry a torch as a precaution and also a whistle to help you attract attention in the event of trouble.
Always plan your walks to match the capacity of the least able person in your group. If conditions deteriorate or someone starts having difficulties, abandon the walk and make your way down by the safest possible way. There is no shame in giving up and you will live to try again in the future.
You will see people on the hills, especially in summer, who do not follow these guidelines. Many return safely, but some do not.
Welsh mountain rescue teamsThe selfless volunteers who man the Welsh mountain rescue teams give up their time and risk their own lives to ensure that the mountains claim less victims than they might otherwise. They receive no payment for what they do, and their equipment needs are funded almost entirely by donations from the public.
The North Wales Mountain Rescue Association brings together 12 different rescue teams operating in North Wales.
The Brecon Mountain Rescue Team covers mid-Wales and south Wales.
To finish, here is a heartwarming video clip from a BBC report about SARDA Wales, which uses dogs to help find injured people in the mountains: