#57 – “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow”!

Walkers heading towards Pen y Ghent

As a kid I was never very keen about being out in snow.  I had poor circulation in my hands and feet, which took a lot of the fun out of playing in the cold – I still feel the cold, but I’ve learned how to deal with it over the years.  In fact, nowadays I can’t wait for the first decent snowfall on the hills.  A good covering of snow turns old familiar hills into something rather special, and the past weeks weather over the UK is a good start for this winter.

First outing with an ice axe – February 1969

April 1969 – The Snowdon Horseshoe

My mountaineering started in my teens with hillwalking then rock climbing, which in those days was the usual gateway to more serious stuff.  My first outing with a (borrowed) ice axe was in February 1969, and two months later four of us did the Snowdon Horseshoe for the first time, some of the route being under snow conditions – from the beginning I was hooked!

Rossett Gill, Langdale – February 1973

Angle Tarn Gully – Hanging Knotts

Over the next four years we built up our winter skills, mainly in the Lake District but occasionally further afield.  A typical day out would be the wide and easy Angle Tarn Gully (Grade 1) that cleaves the north face of Hanging Knotts in Langdale.

The top of Angle Tarn Gully

The author abseiling a cornice – Feb 1973

The trouble with all this adventuring, especially when young, is that it gives you an appetite for more of the same – my answer to this was 6½  years in the Royal Marines.   On completion of commando training, most of our recruit troop went to 41 Commando in Malta, a place not noted for its winter climbing – four of us went north instead, to 45 Commando based in Scotland.

Ski patrol near the Arctic Circle, Norway

Royal Marines on the Okstind Glacier

The highlight of the year with 45 Cdo was the annual deployment to Norway, to rehearse our role as NATO reinforcements to counter the possibility of a Soviet incursion.

The author in Arctic Norway

Ski patrol, Okstind Glacier

With only one main road (the E6, running the length of the country) the easiest form of movement was on ski, so much of the three month deployment was spent learning how to ski without falling over too much.  Living in tents and snowholes was also an important part of the routine.

Snowhole construction

Inside a snowhole – surprisingly warm!

All of this must have had the desired effect, because the Soviets never did decide to invade Norway, though with the abysmal maps of the area at the time, there is a very good chance that we skied into Sweden on more than one occasion!

Machine gun position

Position overlooking the E6 road

My first command was as a lance corporal in charge of the section machine gun – when I left 45 Cdo in 1978 I was an Arctic Survival Instructor and a lieutenant in command of a troop of 30 arctic-trained Royal Marines.

Climbing on Ben Nevis, shortly before leaving 45 Cdo

Penrith Mountain Rescue Team on exercise – early 1980’s

And I’ve been playing in the snow ever since, as a member of Penrith Mountain Rescue team for 17 years, and now simply for fun.  Still skiing, walking and climbing in Scotland, the Lake District, Snowdonia and the Yorkshire Dales and as I write this, looking forward to another good winter – In the words of the song, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow”!

The author (left) skiing at Glenshee

Winter skills course, Aonach Mor

Cwm Idwal, Snowdonia

Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon)

On ski – Yorkshire Dales

Below Pen y Ghent in the Yorkshire Dales

In a months time I’m helping out on a great new winter ‘ultra-marathon’ challenge.  Named ‘The Spine’, the race has been described as ‘Britain’s most brutal’, following the 268 mile spine of the Pennine Way.  Most people walk the Pennine Way in 3 weeks or so in summer – competitors on the race will run the route in 6 days, and in winter conditions!  I just hope that when they get there,  Pen y Ghent looks something like this –

Pen y Ghent - part of the Pennine Way and ‘The Spine Race’

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
This entry was posted in 1. Scotland, 2. Lake District, 3. Yorkshire Dales, 5. North Wales, 7. Everywhere Else! and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to #57 – “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow”!

  1. stan bonnar says:

    fascinating to see all these photos and hear the story, paul. didn’t know you were in norway either. they have a cross-country ski path just outside oslo that i tried once – just two ‘tram lines’ going through a forest, with all these amazing skiers overtaking idiots like me! i remember coming to a sharp downhill bend and going straight on into the trees… don’t think i was ever heard from again. at least not in norway!

    • Those ‘tram lines’ ski trails are found all over Scandanavia – As well as family groups and older people you get very fit, very thin, very intense, lycra-clad ‘nutters’, using their favourite word, “løype” (pron ‘loye-pa’)
      This translates as “track” as in, “would you mind awfully vacating the track whilst I pass”, but in reality it means “get out of the bloody way, dipstick”!
      I know – I was that dipstick!
      Glad to hear that you were finally re-discovered Stan – Norway’s loss is our gain 😀

  2. A very entertaining post Paul – I wish my ‘history’ was as interesting. Our ‘adventure’ trips in our teens seemed to mostly consist of muddy campsites and trying to convince ourselves that soya mince was edible. Being buzzed by a helicopter whilst ‘hiding’ behind a boulder in Wales was enough to take the edge off the thrill of wild camping for me. I think that might be the same trip that one of our party set fire to his tent with an ancient stove…
    (no casualties btw, but you do wonder how we all survived those years)

    • Soya mince also left its mark on me! Probably more useful as cat litter.
      I’ve still got an ancient petrol stove made by Optimus (the design is 70 years old but they still sell it as the ‘Optimus Hiker) You’ve probably seen them – a tank full of (very inflammable) petrol next to a burner that roars like a steam train on acid!
      When they overheat, the petrol vapour vents through the filler cap, and usually catches fire – time for a sharp exit (and goodbye tent!)
      I’ve just acquired (legally!) a ‘Jet Boil’ gas stove which can boil half a litre of water in two minutes – impressive, but lacks some of excitement of yesteryear. 😀

  3. Orel Di Angelo says:

    This is awesome! It’s fun to see what gear you had back in the 70s 😀

  4. Martin Rye says:

    You have had some full on winter experiences Paul from the Lakes before Gore-Tex was normal issue to the Royal Marines. Interesting insight into your life and skills. Thanks for that

  5. Hi Martin, and thanks for the kind words.

  6. Soya (mince and otherwise) has come on leaps and bounds since it first came out (60s? 70s?) – it’s delicious now! 🙂

    Aonach Mor is my kind of hill in snow – not sure about those gullies you were doing though 😮 they’d scare the hell out of me. I also couldn’t contemplate something as narrow as the Snowdon Horseshoe in winter either – in fact, I’m struggling to get to doing Crib Goch in good weather!
    Carol.

    • You should post your favourite cat litter recipes….. whoops, that should have read ‘soya mince recipes’ 😀

      I blogged the Aonach Mor day in post #11 – we had some really wacky weather over two days, with Aonach Mor proving to be a colder day than Ben Nevis!

      I’ve only walked Aonach Mor twice, though I’ve skied there a lot – perhaps time for a return visit.

  7. I haven’t actually used soya mince much but there are some superb soya burgers and sausages out there, Tesco make especially good soya burgers. But I don’t cook at all as such – strictly freezer to microwave to table – generally in the same container to save washing up. I’m pretty much like a bachelor bloke at home LOL!

    I keep meaning to do Aonach Mor in winter – haven’t yet – it looks superb. I’ve never skied though – I’d be hopeless (and terrified!).
    Carol.

  8. Richard O'Neill says:

    Hi – I’d like to use a couple of your photos of Pen-Ghent as reference for a painting – would that be OK? These are the two:


    Thanks very much.

    Richard

    • Hi Richard,
      I would be delighted to see the photos used as described. The only thing I would ask is could I see the final result – not in an editorial sense, but out of interest in the project.
      Best wishes,
      Paul

      • Richard O'Neill says:

        Hi Paul

        Thanks very much – of course I’ll show you the end result. I’ve already done some prep work, so should be in the next week or so.

        Best wishes

        Richard

  9. Richard O'Neill says:

    Sorry, I forgot to ask… Do you have an email address I could send it to?

  10. Pingback: #97 – “Yomping” over Dartmoor with the Royal Marine Commandos | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

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