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Ice Station Penwyllt

by PCW ~, 19 February 2007

By Our Man in The Arctic ~ Chris Grimmett

The weekend of February 10th./11th. proved to be an interesting one up at the Club as much of central England and Wales was affected by snow. The few that arrived early on the Thursday had an uneventful trip as far as the top of the hill but had to contend with some deeper snow across the quarry track leading to the Club. The forecast for the Friday was for warmer weather with rain, but by 07.00 the wind had turned to the NE and during the course of the day 7" of snow fell at Penwyllt. The WBCRT rescue Land Rover was put on standby by the ambulance service in case they were unable to reach snowbound callout locations.

As the day progressed, the telephone began to ring more often, so Clark Friend and Chris Grimmett were able to build up a good database of road information from various SWCC members trying to reach the Club. Fred Levett spent 5 hours getting as far as Abergavenny and back home again, having been forced to turn round by stationary traffic and/or blocked roads. The Dobsons wisely aborted their journey from darkest Norfolk and the Duty Officer reached Wrexham before hearing that all mid-Wales routes were blocked. Visiting groups from Chesterfield and Oxford University decided to press on regardless.

Ice Age III . . .. . starring Clark Friend . . . with up-to-the minute weather info. (pics by CG)

As only 4-wheel drive vehicles could hope to make it far past the bottom of the hill, visitors were being advised to pack essential items, have the wellies and a lamp to hand and to be prepared to walk up the hill. Some made it part-way up before giving up; Lizzie Neves (remember the name?), who had never before driven in snow, took the prize for best performance by getting the only 2-wheel drive vehicle as far as the cattle grid before needing a tow across to the cottages through the thicker drifts. Tony Baker came a close second but was thwarted at the steep section. Graham Christian in his Land Rover following up the hill provided 4-wheel drive towing capacity to get Tony to the Club. A visiting caver from South Africa who had never before driven much outside London, and had never seen snow in any quantity, bravely managed to reach Pen-y-Cae where Mick and Judy Day were offering an emergency car parking service.

The anticipated thaw began overnight and was under way by Saturday morning. There was a build-up of snow in the entrance to OFD ll, but it was not necessary to dig a way in as happened a number of years ago. The road was opened again and vehicles recovered. By Sunday much of the snow had melted, the river level at the Step in OFD 1 was reported to be significantly up, it continued to rain, and normal service at Penwyllt was resumed.