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02 December 2021

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Snowdon, of all places, under pressure. More unintended consequences?
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Snowdon, of all places, under pressure. More unintended consequences?

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Absolutely essential to be prepared if you are going to go on this trip!

It is strange that events and circumstances can conspire together to bring about unintended and / or unexpected consequences.

There is no doubt that staycation has moved into the hearts of the British people this summer. Sure, a lot have still taken the plunge and gone overseas for their holidays but the pressures of travel lists possibly changing, the potential need for quarantine and the high cost of covid tests has definitely caused people to think again and opt for a staycation instead.

But if you are going to swap a UK holiday for your customary foreign one, are you going to be ready for what you get? Basking on a southern European beach is a far cry from – yes – climbing Snowdon! And a lot of people have been climbing Snowdon – the highest mountain in Wales. In fact in 2018 some 500000 climbed Snowdon and now the authorities reckon it is up to 700000. That is a massive increase – 40% in fact. Now this may not sound a big issue but ground erosion is a huge problem and with 1.4 million feet traipsing up and down the mountain side every year, surfaces are bound to be affected; not so much worry with the good old granite as that will probably be harder than your shoes but pathways can wear out.

But it has been worse than that. Unfortunately there has been an influx of people who have not appreciated the countryside code so this has led to a number of issues, not least a big litter problem. It is so sad when beauty spots are abused and people just cast their litter aside. What does it say for our population? It is not just Welsh mountains that have to cope with this problem – holiday makers everywhere seem to think that going on holiday or even a day out gives them licence to throw their litter away. And not much of our litter is truly biodegradable! And even when it is that is not really any excuse for not picking it up and taking home and putting it into your own dustbin.

But there is another problem with these people who presumably in the main appear to be city dwellers. They have little understanding of the countryside. This may sound very strange but reports from Snowdon are that people to a huge extent come improperly clothed. Now anyone who has ever climbed a mountain will appreciate that conditions at the top will probably be quite different to the conditions at the bottom and the bigger the mountain the greater can be the difference.

The most obvious difference that perhaps people do not appreciate is that there is likely to be a change in temperature. In fact as you go upwards, the temperature comes down by about 2 degrees per 1000 feet, or 6.5 degrees per 1000 metres. This won’t make a lot of difference on a small hill but Snowdon is over 3000 feet high so expect a drop in temperature of about 6-7 degrees. Another phenomenon also occurs on mountains. It can be a lovely sunny day down at the bottom but cold, wet and very windy at the top and with weather change can come further temperature drops. So now you have a cocktail of things which can cause difficulties – people clad in tee shirts, shorts, flip flops and getting into large queues of people because everyone wants to go and suddenly the weather changes.

Mayhem can ensue! It would be funny if it were not so serious. Accidents can and do happen – the last thing which was expected when they set off from the sunny car park a few hours ago. Sometimes the helicopter and mountain rescue have to come out and all because someone was wearing flip flops; in the meanwhile someone else could be stuck with a really serious problem somewhere else.

Snowdon is the highest point in England and Wales; Scotland boasts bigger chunks of rock, notably the tallest Ben Nevis at 4413 feet against Snowdon’s 3560 feet.

So if you are into a staycation this year and fancy a trip into the magnificent Welsh mountains, by all means go and enjoy it but be prepared. Wear proper walking boots; ensure you are properly clothed in readiness for the conditions at the top; check the weather forecasts well ahead – it can take a long time to walk up a mountain and remember you have to walk down again afterwards. Ensure you are carrying a minimum of food and drink, particularly water, as you will be surprised how much energy you use and how thirsty you can get. Watch out for the hot sun and take a hat or cap and clothes with long sleeves and legs. There is no shade up there and if you get burned it really can spoil your whole doggone day. If you are going at a time when there are not a lot of people, take a mobile phone and if you have one, a CB radio in case you need to call for help. If there is even the slightest risk of getting stuck up there in the dark, take a tent.

All this is pretty obvious, isn’t it?

Apparently not!

Enjoy and stay safe.

Adrian Leopard 23-08-21

Photo Nikolay Dimitrov

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