A quick car shuffle and we filled the van with packs and the rest of the group and parked up at the base of Moelwyns. The day took the usual pattern of each of group members being given a point to navigate to, throughout the day the points got smaller and more tricky. We had to come up with a plan, using all the tools we'd learnt on the previous days, to get to that point. For once the weather wasn't playing ball, hill fog and low cloud began to roll in on a freshening breeze. By the time we reached where we would be spending the night the wind was blowing, the temperature dropping and the mist was thickening. Tents were pitched, food was cooked and by 6.30pm it was getting dark. Time to cosy up in a sleeping bag and ride out the storm. Unfortunately not.
It was time to head out again. Night navigation. Navigating at night. In the dark. When you can't see. The hill fog was now dense, there was no point of reference except what we could see in the pool cast by our head torches. For four hours we wandered around looking for pools of water, corners in fences, stream junctions and various other topographical features. It was a welcome site to return to the tents. They were being battered by the wind but were the only shelter we had for the night.
I'm not a fan of strong wind, even less so when only a couple of thin sheets of nylon (albeit technically enhanced nylon) are protecting me so little sleep was had by me. I lay there waiting for the light to come, which it eventually did, so I could escape the claustrophobic confines of my tent. Unzipping the door didn't help much as the hill fog was still there, thicker than before, and the wind was still there, stronger than before. A hasty breakfast and we helped each other strike camp and stopped our tents becoming the largest kites in Snowdonia.
On the way down we took it in turns navigating different legs. Visibility was only slightly improved from being in the dark and the rain had joined the wind to give a real taste of what the mountains could throw at us. We returned to the layby where everyone had left their cars ready for the final lesson of the course. We were wet, we were tired, so what better to keep us on our toes than a river crossing. In various formations we waded back and forth across a knee deep river learning techniques that could prove lifesaving if ever the need arose.
Back at the cars we quickly changed and headed for the café for a warming cup of tea and a slice of cake. A final debrief and some personal feedback and that was it. Training was finished, time to go off and consolidate our learning before returning for assessment. It's been one hell of a week, we've learnt a huge amount about the mountains and the skills needed to lead groups in them. From a group of strangers on Friday night we were now a close nit unit of navigating ninjas. Promises of meeting up again were made and hugs were exchanged and cars returned their tired owners to various corners of the country. Hopefully, someday soon, my boots will find their way home too.
Thanks to Dol Peris guest house for providing warmth and shelter, Padarn Lake Hotel for providing us with food on a couple of nights, Spice of Llanberris for finally letting us in on our final night and to the local Spar for keeping us supplied with wine, cider and Doritos.
Finally a massive thank you to the other candidates on the course for providing me with some of the funniest moments I've had in years. Good luck to you all and see you in the hills.