Monday, April 1, 2013

The Honey Pot Syndrome


A Sunny, snowy Easter weekend in north Wales. I thought about heading into Snowdonia. Well; at least for half a nanosecond before coming to my senses. The traffic convoys down the A5, The slow chug through chockerblock Betws y Coed; the fight for a parking space at the honeypot venues..Ogwen Cottage, Pen y Pass, Rhyd Ddu, The Gwynant valley and all points north,south,east and west.... And that's even before you get into the mountains. The walkers paths and ridges heaving with crocodiles of walkers slushing their way up and down from the packed tops; or perhaps heading into Cwm Cneifion for a climb or two . Well roll up roll up folks and join the queue. Snow+ blue skies+ a bank holiday means there will be more people in the Cwm than there were at The Millenium Stadium for the recent Wales v England match.

It's long been a source of bemusement to me why outdoor folk show so little imagination when it comes to choosing a walking or climbing venue? Even on the busiest weekend or bank holiday, I guarantee there will be peaks and paths which will not see a solitary footprint in north and mid Wales. Mostly, these quiet backwaters lie outside of Northern Snowdonia; amongst the 'badlands' of the vast Migneint; in the undulating uplands of Mid Wales, upon the rolling Hiraethog or in the lonely Berwyns. Even a relatively popular range of mountains like The Rhinogs have their little outliers which will be free from all but the most determined walker. 

That's just the walking venues I'm talking about. If we are considering climbing crags either as summer or winter venues then we are in a totally new ball game. If anything, climbers are even more ovine like than their walking brethren. I bet that 90% of climbing takes place on less than 20% of our listed crags. This is not some abstract off the top of my head theory. As someone involved in guide book work, I'm more than aware that many crags do not see a visit from one year to the next. True, these might be a high mountain crag which involves an hour and a half of rough trodding but quite often these outposts sport some cracking climbs.

The author, bumming around on some obscure crag as per


Even in Northern Snowdonia there are dozens and dozens of outlying crags which are effectively lost for now. The only time they get cleaned up and re-climbed is usually when there is a guidebook in the offing and one or two team members set to and give these crags a clean up and regrade routes which quite often are hopelessly under-graded.
The honeypot syndrome seems to be skewing the influx of outdoor activists into the respective areas of activity in an ever more pronounced and observable way. As more people are drawn to walking and climbing, the rapidly expanding numbers of people heading off to the mountain areas is creating real ecological and social pressures on the natural environment and human resources.

This phenomena could of course be seen in a positive way in that it leaves the wildest empty places for the the Alfred Wainwrights amongst us, who are happy in our own company or sharing a rope with a climbing partner or two on a deserted crag. A pressure valve if you will,which keeps many of our wilder fringes as just that..wild and unfrequented.

Returning to Easter Saturday..... convinced at the folly of leaving my local environs. I headed off once again into the rough bounds of Hiraethog. Taking in an unknown 150' spectacular waterfall reached via an old pack horse bridge, untrammelled snow tracks through the forest which broke out upon empty uplands which looked out to vast horizons. A solitary spectator gazing across empty fields and snow capped hills, studded with old ruins and criss-crossed with winding drovers roads. 

In three hours I just caught a single person,a horsewoman- who I happened to know- exercising her chestnut mare on the snowy tracks. Apart from the muffled hoof fall in the snow,the land was lost in an all encompassing silence.....unlike Ogwen Cottage!

Easter Saturday: Hiraethog






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