The most memorable part of Winter mountaineering is snow, but the walks of earlier years fall into a confusion of memories. The places are clear enough, but the dates are forgotten. I can recall one time when we walked up the Glyders, in Snowdonia, whose jumbled boulder field was shrouded by a thick layer of snow. The path upward was past the Devil's Kitchen, Twll Dhu, a dark cleft through which water surges down from the summit. There is a climbing route, but only in Summer, and this time the cascade was hanging with icicles. We took the alternative and safer route, the footpath that rises steadily to the higher slopes of the mountain. You have to be wary as you tread, for the summits have small hanging valleys, tiny U-shaped stream beds, residues of the pre-glacial drainage of the hill, whose streamlets cascade in Summer over the dark wall of the Cwm. I was not careful enough and put my foot through the ice into the stream bed below. Wringing out your sock at 3000 feet in snowy weather is a chilly experience. We ambled round the summit and walked across the saddle to Glydr Vawr. The misty air limited the view, but the majesty of the Winter mountain takes you out of your human comfort zone, to the edge of habitabilty, to a place where humans pay fleeting visits and then retreat. The Winter mountain is real wilderness. We need it but cannot stay long in its presence. We descended to the safety of the valley, stopping at the Tea Shack for a cup of steaming tea and a burger.
Yet some walks are memorable for what went wrong. Three of us, two males and a female, once walked into the south Carneddau, divided from the Glydrs by the Ogwen Valley. The white magnificence of the hills entranced us, but the group leader navigated wrongly and as the snow storm swirled away visibility to a few yards he misread the route and took us into the uninhabited part of the range with evening falling. Once we recovered our bearings in the fading light, we were faced with three choices: go back over the mountain, go the long route round it, or stay the night on the hill, but the last would have meant the mountain rescue team being alerted. But my legs were too tired for the former, so we took the long trek round the mountain. We managed to return to the climbing hut just before our panicking friends telephoned the rescue team to report us missing. The drinks in a warm bar were welcome that night, but next day my legs felt like stone. Lessons learned!.
Yet there are times when the air is clear and the snow is light. One time in Langdale,Cumbria, we, the Beswick family, walked up to Stickle Tarn and on the way found a snow bank. The children piled in and soon the children of other families joined in the fun, leaping and rolling down the bank, throwing snowballs and having a really good time. Purists might complain about the pristine beauty of the snow being spoiled, but by the end of the day there were several happy children whose family walks had produced unexpected fun.