The man faced a night on Snowdon in winter conditions. Photo: John S Turner CC-BY-SA-2.0

The man faced a night on Snowdon in winter conditions. Photo: John S Turner CC-BY-SA-2.0

A teenager is ‘very lucky’ to be alive after he was rescued from Wales’s highest mountain in winter conditions and winds gusting to more than 90mph.

At one stage members of the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team had to consider retreating and leaving the walker on the exposed Crib y Ddysgyl ridge on Snowdon as conditions were so dangerous.

One rescuer was blown off his feet during the rescue on Wednesday night. A team member said it was ‘pure fluke’ they found the man and he would almost certainly have died if he spent the night on the mountain.

Team chairman Rob Johnson said when the 19-year-old man rang for help from the ridge, which is a continuation of the challenging Crib Goch, he was lost, ‘very, very cold’ and beginning to slur his words due to hypothermia.

He was inappropriately dressed for the mountain, wearing a leather jacket, jeans and plimsolls.

Mr Johnson said: “The team was called late in the afternoon as the light began to fade on the snow-covered peaks.

“The 19-year-old had climbed Snowdon on his own via the Llanberis Path and then become misplaced in descent, following an extremely narrow ridge that is not a great place to be in high winds. He became trapped on steep crags and made the call for help.

“What made last night’s callout exceptional was the weather that the team of volunteers faced. Mountain experts counsel against traversing narrow ridges when wind speeds are greater than 35mph. Last night’s gusts on the mountain were at least 80-90 mph and could easily have been more.

“Combine this with snow on the ground and the potential consequences for the volunteer team members of getting blown over were very high.

“The first search party to reach the ridge experienced winds so severe that a member of the party was blown off their feet and forced to retreat to safer ground.

“With darkness falling and the increasing possibility of a large scale search the team also requested the assistance of RAF Valley Mountain Rescue Team.”

The team co-ordinator for the rescue said: “The conditions reported by the first party were so extreme that we had to seriously consider whether we could justify deploying more people to the area.

“On the one hand we had a young walker in jeans, plimsolls and a leather jacket rapidly succumbing to hypothermia; on the other a responsibility not to put team members’ lives in such serious danger. There was a real possibility that we might have been forced to leave him there on the mountain.”

Mr Johnson said the initial search area was sizeable and included steep and technical terrain. Marred by poor visibility, it was through sheer luck that a very short break in the wind allowed the last two members of the search party to make voice contact with the walker as the group passed by.

One of the first party members to reach the teenager said: “I’m certain that if we hadn’t found him when we did we would have been recovering his body the next morning.

“Those of us at the front of the group had passed within 100m of him and were on our way to search further up the mountain. It was pure fluke that the wind subsided when it did.

“He was in a difficult to reach location and with conditions due to get worse a detailed search of that area would have been impossible. He is very lucky to be alive.”

The Llanberis team chairman said: “Because of his precarious position at the top of a gully where a number of fatalities have previously occurred, the team used ropes to recover him to safety.

“He was then assisted down to rescue team vehicles and taken to the rescue team’s base in Nant Peris for a bit of friendly advice.

“The rescue sums up the commitment of mountain rescue team members across the UK. Men and women who put down their daily lives and head up a mountain in weather that no-one else would be out in, prepared to risk their own lives to save another, without pay, without expenses and many, many times a year.”

Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team is the busiest mountain rescue team in the UK with 184 incidents in 2014. Its members had already been called out once this year to deal with walkers stuck in snowy conditions on nearby Crib Goch.

Mr Johnson said: “[The team] has a dual remit of rescue and education in mountain safety and tries to draw lessons learnt from rescues like this one, without attributing blame or casting judgement.

“This rescue highlights the importance of good navigation skills in the mountains, always carry a map and compass and know how to use them.

“It also highlights the need for appropriate clothing to stay warm and dry in some pretty extreme weather. For much of the winter the mountains of Snowdonia have snow and ice on them. It can be there one day and gone the next. It is important to check a mountain weather forecast to establish if there is snow and what the wind speeds are.

“When the mountains are covered in snow and ice, crampons and an ice axe become necessary for progress. You can get more safety advice and links to further information from the team website.”

He said walkers and climbers considering a trip to Snowdonia should research their routes thoroughly and check on the weather and ground conditions using the Met Office’s mountain weather forecast or the Mountain Weather Information Service.

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