I love mountain climbing. Ever since I can remember my father has always dragged me along his long hikes around the local mountains of South Wales where I was brought up. I grew to love walking and I have always especially loved the beautiful sights from the summit of Mount Snowdon.
Prior to my accident, I had attempted to climb Snowdon twice. The first time the weather was dreadful, but it was my 18th birthday and I was determined to reach the top. We didn’t make it and we were defeated by the weather. However, my second attempt was successful – my father and I scrambled across ‘y grib goch’ and we reached the summit!
On June 17, 2013, I had a spontaneous idea to climb Snowdon. This crazy idea involved me going dressed as I was, and unprepared for the conditions. As I approached the top, I was exhausted, but I went to find a quiet space along the summit. It was a little ledge tucked out of the way of the crowd of people gathered at the top. I sat down and lay quiet watching the spectacular views…
I wasn’t prepared for climbing up Snowdon. Not in the clothes I was wearing nor the equipment I had with me. Neither was I prepared to suffer the exhausting after effects of climbing so high so spontaneously. I fell asleep on the ledge I was laid on. Suddenly, I woke to find myself falling. Next thing I remember is being freezing cold and not being able to see a thing for the fog surrounding the mountain. Sixteen hours later I mustered enough strength through my shivering to scream for help but got no reply. I gather I must have fallen asleep or been out of consciousness for the next few minutes or so, enough for the fog to clear, and I was just about able to see the path, the ‘pyg’ trail. I saw some people walking and managed to shout a few times for help. This time I got a reply and one of them started running towards me. “Help, I’m stuck,” I screamed. They said they would call for help, and they did.
Twenty hours after I first fell, The Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team had managed to climb down to find me. I don’t remember much detail but my gosh was I glad to see them. The RAF Mountain Valley Rescue team then turned up, and apparently it was piloted by Prince William. Finding me was half the battle as they didn’t know where I was. I was found 300ft short of the summit.
I was taken to hospital where I found out I’d suffered multiple spinal fractures as well as a fractured sternum and gouges to rival the Grand Canyon. I lay flat on my back for almost two weeks. I then learned to walk again following an operation to insert two titanium rods into my spine. I have learned never to go ill-prepared and always to let someone know where I am going, and what my plans are! The main factor contributing to my accident was my little preparation and the fact that I hadn’t told anyone even though I felt prepared. I didn’t realise the danger I was putting myself in to.
My recovery has been long and difficult. At the time of my accident, I was in my first year of a nursing degree. Now my hopeful career of nursing has had to be put on hold while I recover. I miss my old student life and would like to raise awareness of the dangers of climbing mountains unprepared.
Some guidance from our leisure safety manager David Walker:
Sioned has been very brave in sharing her story. Rescue operations of people who have misjudged the dangers while climbing mountains or who were unprepared for the conditions are common and there are lots of sources of advice for climbers, hill walkers, and mountaineers, available from the British Mountaineering Council.
RoSPA’s advice is to be prepared for the terrain and always have a plan B.