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Lvl. 1 Ranger, and Camping on Snowdon


Things I learned from this trip:
  • Packing a bag is more thoughtful than you might think
  • Dragon caves are actually hard to get to
  • Carrying a broadsword up a mountain is a feat itself
I have a new found respect for the average party of adventurers.

My training as a Ranger (or Duke of Edinburgh Leader) begins with a simple hike up Snowdon, with a wild camp over night just below the summit. There is a ridge of cliffs surrounding a small lake there (very much in the theme of the Gates of Moria), and the trainers thought there'd be enough shelter there for a decent night's sleep.

They were wrong, but lets not get ahead of ourselves.

The simple act of packing a bag for the adventure was a learning experience itself. I had three bags in the end:
  • Expedition back bag, containing camping equipment such as tents and sleeping bags
  • Day back pack, containing cooking tools and mapping equipment
  • Spares bag, containing changes of clothes which was kept in our expedition bus
The expedition and day bag where broken down even further inside, using a bundle of dry-bags and zip lock bags, in case I fell into a deep puddle. All of this was with modern materials and polymers... I'd hate to think what Forgotten Realms adventurers would be using to do the same thing. Oil skins and cured leather would weigh an absolute ton, and I'm not even sure they would work to keep spell books and food dry.

Evil DM tip: Have a wizard fall into a lake. Ask where he keeps his spell book.

The walk up was fairly nice. The weather was great, being sunny but windy and no rain. It was still pretty hard going, and that was using the public footpath. This tourist trail, as my companions called it, is fairly easy going, the hardest part of it being a fairly steep tarmac road at the start. Ironically once the rocky bits begin the gradient and walk get easier.

The red dot is Snowdon's Peak

We had a comparatively leisurely pace, stopping every few hundred meters to practice mapping skills. Picking out locations and saying exactly where you are on the map is a vital skill for DofE, and one we needed to master in order to save stranded students on mountainsides. If a student group called us out and could only say they were next to a bit of broken wall and a stream, we would need to be able to take that information and track them down as fast as possible.

See? Proper Ranger training right there. I feel as though I gained some proficiency in Survival.

We had started late in the day though, setting off at 3 pm after a few hours drive to Snowdonia. We passed a lot of tourists coming down the mountain at that stage, and even a Mountain Rescue team bringing down an elderly lady from the summit. They had a rather nifty stretcher with a single wheel underneath it, which meant they could roll the lady easily down the path without getting jammed in ruts.

Player tip: Bring a wheel barrow for fallen party members.

Getting to the camp site was fairly easy in the end, as was setting up the tents. The camp site looks fairly far away from the peak of Snowdon, but it's only about 150m lower, and a short 20 minute walk away. The idea behind pitching next to the lake is that it sits in a little bowl just below some cliffs. So it should be sheltered from the wind.

It was not.

The sun went down quickly, and we had dinner in a small sheep fold a bit further down in the bowl. The wind was picking up, and the little gas fire I had kept going out until someone lent me a wind break.

Evil GM tip: Have strong winds blow out cook fires.
Player tip: Pack a wind break.


After dinner, and consumption of the traditional beverages for staff training trips (coffee with way too much caffeine amongst other things), we decided to turn in early for the night, with the aim of waking up early and tackling Snowdon's Peak at night to make it there before dawn. The trainers wanted to get some night navigation practice in.

They would get it, but not the way they expected.

Getting back to the camp site, we found one tent had already collapsed under the wind. It had blown so strongly that a pole had snapped, meaning that the two man tent was now down to room for 1 and a half. Not a major issue, as we could double up in some other tents, and make them a bit more resistant to the growing wind.

Player tip: Use rocks to cover tent pegs.

A quick reshuffle of bags later and we were settled in for the night. It was not a pleasant one. The wind was gusting now, and on a few occasions blew the tent flat across me as I was trying to sleep. My tent partner was blissfully unaware of this, having sneakily chosen the leeward side of the tent. I suspect he was actually keenly aware of it though, being a Mountain Leader (Lvl. 15 Ranger), and having spent a lot of money on the tent itself... it being his tent.

The first problem arose when we heard a shout of alarm.

Evil DM tip: Tents can fly.

The wind had gotten under the ground sheet of one of the single tents, and had literally pulled it out of the ground! Only the weight of the man inside and his baggage kept it from blowing down Snowdon's side. We scrambled out, and pegged his tent down again, but the damage was done... poles were snapped, and whilst it was secure to the ground no one was sleeping in it again.

He bundled in with us in a two-man tent, which was now snugly fitting three. The night only got worse though.

The gusts got stronger, and for spells of ten minutes or so our tent would be flattened across my body. I was, in fact, acting as a wind break for the others in the tent. I think my positioning at the windward front was also one of the only reasons the tent didn't break like the others.

Because break they did...

At about 2 am in the morning, we had our group leader shout at the tent flap; "We may need to bail out of this!"

To which our reply was, "Might need to, or actually need to."

After a moments hesitation... "Yeah, pack up we're leaving."

It turns out two more tents had broken, and we had officially run out of shelters. The camp site was packed up in record time, and we set off down the mountain. Gusts at this point were up to 50-70 mph, and we were nearly blown off the path a few times before getting further down to Llanberis. We then spent the rest of the night in the school minibus we had borrowed for the training trip.

Before anyone thinks I'm exaggerating about the wind, just a week ago a hurricane blew through the UK. Only we were stupid enough to try and camp on a mountain through it.

But, in true Ranger spirit, the next day we tackled another peak.

But perhaps that is a story for another time...



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