Crib Goch – Musings… Continued from the post Crib Goch
It had been a long 24 hours, and home was still nearly a four-hour drive away. But Snowdon was now ticked off my list of peaks to visit… and I was lucky enough to have ascended it via the scariest route and come to no harm. On the drive home I wondered to myself whether ‘just anybody’, regardless of preparedness or experience, should be allowed to climb Snowdon via the Crib Goch ridge, or indeed attempt similarly hazardous hiking routes – in the UK and elsewhere – that have claimed so many lives? I mean, it’s easy to say that it’s a matter of personal choice and that everybody knows and accepts the risks… but do they, really?
Back in the day I was taught about the “competency circle” which outlines how skills are learned. The first stage of the circle is “unconscious incompetence”, whereby an individual does not fully understand or know how to do something but – crucially – does not necessarily recognize any deficit on their part. It makes the point that individuals are initially unaware of how little they know, or are unconscious of their incompetence.
In my opinion, people with this level of knowledge are unlikely to realise the dangers of some of these iconic hiking expeditions; therefore, they are not qualified to assess the personal risks they are taking by going on such hikes alone. Surely, then, they should not be allowed on such routes unless supervised by qualified instructors?
Indeed, the Snowdon National Park website says of Crib Goch that due to its being a knife-edge ridge, on which many people have lost their lives, it “should be left to experienced mountaineers” (www.eryri-npa.gov.uk). Many other sites also emphasise the treacherous nature of the ridge, and advise novices to steer clear. However, the idea of only letting certain “experienced” folk up there would be incredibly difficult to enforce or police, and frankly I’m not sure hikers would want or be able to prove their experience level to some official before lacing up their boots in the car park.
At the very least, I would say that there need to be some clear warnings in and around the Pen-y-Pass car park and just before the start of Crib Goch ridge, letting hikers know what lies ahead, and the level of exposure and hazard they are about to encounter. Even then, some inexperienced people would no doubt carry on, but they would be more aware and less “unconscious” of the danger.
Personally, even as a competent hiker I still consider myself only to have reached the latter part of the second stage i.e. “conscious incompetence”. Namely, within the realms of what I want to achieve, I know what I need to know and appreciate that I am lacking in certain areas. The benefit of this is knowing and understanding my own limitations. I know that I do not go on ‘scrambles’ very often and I cannot judge their severity rating… certainly if I have never laid eyes on them! I can, however, make a rational decision erring on the side of caution, which for me means that if I want to undertake a hike reputed to be particularly hazardous, I will do so with a group that includes qualified instructors. Somebody who is unconsciously incompetent is unable to recognise that fact or to make that rational decision.
I suppose such a debate could rage on for years. Meanwhile, people will continue to make the wrong decision for their experience level, and there will continue to be casualties and fatalities.
For me, on the other hand, it’s back to the lesser-known, velvety hilltops of the Howgills, where I only have to worry about myself!
Thanks for reading and please… STAY SAFE!
If you would like more information about UK guided hikes by qualified Mountain Leader Veterans why not contact Evo Evans via his website Adventures with Heroes. As a regular attendee and client of his I would look forward to meeting with you on one of his expeditions!
Simon Duringer is an award-winning blogger, interviewer and author. His own books can be found on Amazon too by clicking any of the following icons…