A member of the Llanberis team in action on Snowdon during a winter rescue. Photo: Llanberis MRT

A member of the Llanberis team in action on Snowdon during a winter rescue. Photo: Llanberis MRT

One of Britain’s busiest rescue teams has reminded walkers heading for the mountains to expect Arctic conditions.

Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team said people should set out early and be prepared to use ice-axe and crampons as winter has returned to Snowdonia’s mountains.

The team’s secretary George Jones appealed to the hundreds of walking aiming for the summit of Snowdon to realise the conditions they will face on their journey. He said: “The team had its busiest year on record in 2016 and during the first two days of the New Year there have been four lengthy callouts to attend to inappropriately and ill prepared groups.

“Winter conditions have returned to the summits; freezing weather and snow and ice covering the footpaths thus making most journeys much slower and more treacherous.

“It is vital to consider that walking in such conditions requires the use of crampons and ice axes and the short days of winter often require the use of torches to complete the journey.

“In order to enjoy the mountains in winter it’s necessary to prepare for Arctic weather conditions and short days. This is second nature to the experienced walker. However, some of the four groups recovered over the last couple of days would have done well to have started much earlier in the day in order to allow sufficient daylight to complete their walk.

“In one instance on Sunday night had the group of four carried proper torches rather than depend on a single mobile phone light between them they would not have required the assistance of 10 team members for three hours.

“A second incident on Monday afternoon involved a person slipping on the icy path close to the summit of Snowdon and suffering a serious arm injury. This type of accident might well have been avoided by wearing crampons to traverse the ice.

“The rescue was delayed by adverse weather conditions high on the mountain but the casualty was eventually recovered after four hours by team members ferried by the rescue helicopter and taken to hospital in Bangor.”

Snowdon is one of the most popular hillwalking destinations but in winter conditions parts of the mountain pose difficulties for inexperienced and badly equipped walkers and fatalities have occurred where people have slipped on banked out hard snow and been carried over precipices.

The knife-edge ridge of Crib Goch is also a difficult ascent route for inexperienced walkers, especially in wet and wintry conditions.

John Grisdale, the Llanberis team’s vice chairman reiterated the need for a healthy portion of caution whilst venturing to the summits. “I’d encourage visitors to enjoy the magnificent mountains of Snowdonia in winter but have the wisdom to respect them and to do so safely by preparing carefully, checking the weather conditions, carrying the appropriate winter equipment and have the knowledge to use them and finally allow sufficient time to accomplish the journey,” he said.

“During a very busy few days when many members were enjoying the festive holiday period and committed to other events the volunteer members of the Llanberis Rescue Team have been grateful for the support offered by members from Ogwen and Aberglaslyn teams and the Coastguard rescue helicopter based at Caernarfon airport.”

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead on search and rescue, Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard of North Wales Police said: “Mountain rescue teams are made up of volunteers who have a very difficult and challenging role and we are indebted to work they carry out and the lives they help save.

“However we can all help and I’d simply ask that if you’re intending to visit our hills and mountains please take a little time to check the weather and conditions first and go fully prepared and fully equipped to enjoy them safely and select a route that matches your skill level, particularly during this cold period.”

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