The Bannau Brycheiniog National Park is expecting lots of visitors and residents to be out and about this weekend enjoying the early snowfall; however Brecon Mountain Rescue and the National Park wardens recommend that anyone setting out should take the following precautions:
• Check the weather forecast before you set off and remember that weather conditions can be unpredictable, change very quickly and the temperature will be much colder the higher you climb. Localised forecasts are available from several places but the Wardens use the Met’ Office mountain forecast for the Bannau Brycheiniog, as well as the BBC weather forecast. Website updates are also available on local radio and TV.
• Remember that there is safety in numbers and it’s advisable to be in a group of at least three. If you are travelling in a group make sure that your group leader has good experience in winter weather. Remember that the cold weather can affect people in different ways, so look after anybody that’s struggling and make sure that you don’t leave anyone in your group behind. Tell someone where you are going and the route you are taking, what time you are going and when you expect to be back. Don’t forget to let know family and friends if there is any change to the plan.
• Consider the road conditions to the start and end point of your walk – minor roads may not have been gritted or cleared of snow, so have an alternate plan and a map in case you can’t get to your first option.
• Know your limits. Don’t attempt anything that is risky. Winter in the Bannau Brycheiniog can be challenging, a walk that you have done in the summer will be much more physically demanding in the winter.
• Be properly equipped, take a full set of spare warm clothing, a torch, a fully charged mobile phone, hot drink, emergency shelter, sleeping bag, a basic first aid kit, an emergency strobe, a whistle and consider taking crampons and an ice axe if you know how to use them. If you don’t how to use them make sure you undertake a route where you won’t need them.
• Be flexible to cope with changing ground and weather conditions, this includes making the sometimes hard decision to alter your route or even turn back if conditions deteriorate.
• Take a map and compass and make sure know how to use them. Do not rely solely on a GPS or your mobile phone – in some areas you may not get a signal and in heavy snow a GPS can sometimes be inaccurate.
• Eat a good meal before you set out – plenty of carbs will release energy slowly but remember to take some water and energy food with you like chocolate, dried fruit, something sugary, some sandwiches and a hot drink!
• Lastly and most importantly, if you do get into trouble remember that there is a dedicated emergency service in the Bannau Brycheiniog. All you need to do is phone 999 and ask for Police and once you have been put through then ask for Mountain Rescue.
Western Area Warden for Bannau Brycheiniog National Park, Jon Pimm said: “The Bannau Brycheiniog looks like a picture postcard with the recent snow and for some of us it is an added bonus that these conditions have come relatively early this year. While it is a real treat to be in the hills in these conditions, anyone out and about should be aware that special precautions need to be taken over and above the normal ones when venturing into the hills.
“In the last few days it has been quite worrying to see some people going for a walk, who have not realised the extent of the dangers associated with the conditions and are not properly equipped. It is extremely important that people plan ahead, check the weather forecasts and have the correct equipment, skills and confidence to enable them to have an enjoyable and safe day on the hills.”
Nigel Dawson, Team Leader for Brecon Mountain Rescue said: “We want people to really enjoy themselves in the snow but they need to make sure they take a few simple precautions. Even if it’s a small field walk or sledging with the kids, it could be as simple as charging your mobile phone before you set out. Night falls early here and unfortunately we’ve already been called out three times in the last two weeks. This weekend we are hoping that people stay safe and we’re not needed. But, if we are called out we have a group of dedicated volunteers who are on call 24 hours a day to help those in need. People can be reassured that if they do get into trouble we are only a phone call away.”
For more advice on the safe routes to walk, or just a nice cup of tea and a hot meal on cold winter’s day, please visit the National Park Visitor Centre tearooms, which is open all weekend from 9:00am – 4:00pm or telephone 01874 623 366.