by Mike McNamee Published 01/06/2015
Every now and again something passes across the desk or a Facebook page that causes us to go 'Wow!' Just such a thing happened when good friends, John Rowell and Marion Waine posted the results of some late-night antics in and around Llyn Ogwen. The Ogwen Mountain Rescue were celebrating their 50th anniversary in spectacular style by lighting up the ridge of Tryfan with Petzl head torches attached to 100 volunteers who had climbed up earlier and patiently waited for the call to face the camera for John's spectacular shot. It was quite a feat of organisation and so we asked John to tell us how it all came about.
Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Team are well known to us in the Moel Siabod cafe, who host our photographic gallery 'Soul of Snowdonia'. We raise funds for the team on a regular basis with talks, quiz nights and donating prints. A few months ago I had a text asking if I could meet one of the team, Jim Langley, for coffee at The Caban in Bryn Refail. The coming year was the 50th anniversary of the organisation and they were going to celebrate it with multiple events. Jim told me he had a vision to place people with head torches on the ridge of one of Britain's most recognisable mountains 'Tryfan'; he asked me if I thought it was feasible and would I organise the photography. Having decided that it would make a great event, it was up to us to make it happen.
We worked out some possible dates via an app called TPE (The Photographer's Ephemeris) based on the lengthening evenings following British Summer Time and where the sun was setting behind the mountain. We wanted some ambient light to the right in the night sky, not directly over the ridge. Now anyone who knows the Welsh weather will know how fickle it can be. We decided on Friday 17 April with a reserve date a week later. Jim had been inspired to do this after watching a 'YouTube' video of a similar project on the Matterhorn.
It was decided to keep the project pretty low key as so much could go wrong. First Jim contacted all current and past team members and the support group 333 ( they are responsible for raising funds). He had hoped to get 50 but the response was overwhelming and the figure quickly reached over 100. This included a team from the RAF Search and Rescue based at RAF Valley in Anglesey who wanted to be part of it. The next step was to break this number down into teams, each with a leader chosen from the current team leaders in the organisation. There were nine teams in all. Each of these was given a place on the ridge and was to be equipped with a radio. A project sheet was plotted with key placements and the times that they would need to leave base to be in position. It would still be cold after dark and they needed to spend as little time as possible standing/sitting in one position.
As the date got closer we decided to have a dummy run. Two weeks before, two people went onto the ridge and we went to one of the designated places that we had decided to shoot from. Our first problem was that although they thought they were on the ridge they were not. They were at least five metres below. Another unforeseen problem was that Warner Brothers were making a movie in the valley and large areas were closed off. King Arthur and his 150 knights (accompanied by about 2,000 clipboard carriers? Ed.) were assembled. We went to see them in a mountain rescue vehicle and this seemed to exempt us from any closures! It had been a very worthwhile exercise and Jim worked out a strategy that would ensure that people were actually on the ridge itself. The other point that came out of it was that each team would carry a powerful rescue torch so that all light sources would not be the same size.
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