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Sunday, June 21, 2020

A view from inside Wales

Living in North Wales during lockdown has been a pleasant, frustrating but overall heart-warming experience. I’ve watched communities coming together, neighbours taking care of each other and a spirit that has created unbreakable bonds that will hopefully last a lifetime.

I have also seen fear. Fear of outsiders bringing in the next wave of coronavirus and fear that the 6th July will bring swarms of tourists to areas that are really not ready for it. It’s a tricky balance between people wanting to protect their families and others needing tourists so they can put food on the table.

For me living here on the North Wales coast its been tricky. First of all I have a brummy accent which made me a target for some who felt I wasn’t local, and had had travelled from across the border for my own selfish needs. I got used to people saying “where are you from” or “do you live here” but never thought of it as an attack, just scared people in a challenging situation. The people travelling sometimes hundreds of miles into Wales during lockdown to climb Snowdon (Yes it happened frequently) certainly added to the tensions.

So what do we do? How de we balance our need for the outdoors with the concerns of the locals? Its something I have mulled over for the past few months and hopefully my “insider” view will give you some things to consider when you return to Wales. This is however only my opinion and your free to form your own.


Reduce the risks.

Were all keen to get back into the outdoors and push our comfort zone but making sure we don’t overstep the line is more important now than ever before. Mountain Rescue teams do a fantastic job of helping those in need but they now face the risk of taking home a virus into their households. Maybe hold off on your ambitions until the risk of spreading the virus has reduced and focus more on volume rather than difficulty.


Be considerate

Some of the most beautiful places in Wales are also the most remote and the return of huge crowds to places like Dolgellau, Bala and Beddgelert may alarm locals which could cause tensions. Maybe chose areas that are quieter and avoid busy crowds and busy picnic areas.

If you’re going for a climb maybe avoid the crags that are near homes or residential areas. Recently locals have become angry and aggressive towards local climbers at Castle Inn Quarry and Bus Stop slate quarry near Dinrowic. Maybe choose somewhere with no houses nearby and be willing to change your plans if the crag is busy when you arrive. Access at crags is never a given and can be stopped if tensions form between landowners and climbers.


Be prepared.

It may be the motto for the Scouts but being prepared is important no matter the time or situation. Plan your day, take a map, know how to use it and ensure you have the necessary kit in case of emergencies (First aid kit, waterproofs, layers etc). Don’t get caught out on a summit cold and in need of a rescue. I doubt you will get a polite response from MRT if your ill-equipped during these times.


Why we’re not delivering courses straight away.

I love the mountains; I love Snowdonia and I love the people and communities that make up this incredible landscape. On the 6th of July I am finally allowed to enter the mountains and start earning money again, but I have decided to hold off for now.

I personally feel that holding off with courses until the end of July is my way of recognising people’s concerns and gives time for the inevitable surge in visitors to settle down. It also gives me time to ensure that my systems and procedures that protect my clients from the risks of Covid-19 are robust and evidence based.

I thank all my clients for their patience and understanding and sticking with me through these tough times. Its been a tricky old year so far, the light is now shining brightly at the end of the tunnel. I look forward to seeing you all in the hills in the future.

Matt Cooper

The Mountaineering Company

The announcement from the Welsh government to lift travel restrictions on Monday 6th July is subject to be reviewed, it may be delayed should cases begin to rise before the 6th. Check the Welsh Government website and Snowdonia National Parks website before you travel.

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