Snowdonia was in the tight grip of a heavy snow storm. It had been forecast to last for at least a week. Emlyn had been watching some walkers from behind a wall at the Pen Y Pass Youth Hostel. It was always full of young people "adventuring" in Snowdonia. In the distance two walkers had noticed Emlyn and walk up to him. The older chap asked him "Are you OK?" Emlyn was a shy dragon and he had never spoken to a human before. Emlyn said, "Well, I am a bit cold." Without any hesitation the two walkers looked at each other and then started to rummage around in the bottom of their rucksacks. Out of one of the rucksacks came a scarf and woolly hat, which were offered to Emlyn. "Take these but you must leave here tonight as the storm is going to get worse." Emlyn said thank you and watched them walk into the distance.
He was the only dragon, in fact the only living thing left at the car park at Pen Y Pass and it was getting dark quickly. He wondered if he should walk to Llanberis - it was too windy to fly - and wait for the storm to pass. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed a car covered in snow. It was the only car left in the car park. "Um.... that's odd" he thought as he started to walk towards it. The snow was now really deep. To his surprise there was nobody in the car but there was a note stuck on the windscreen. He brushed the snow away with his paw and read the note out loud. "Snowdon horseshoe, back at 4pm." He thought for a moment. 4pm must have been and gone as it was dark now, but where were the walkers from this car? Maybe they needed rescuing.
He knew there was a Mountain Rescue base on the road at nearby Nant Peris village. He had seen it when he had been with Bleddyn the Buzzard in the summer and he knew that would be the best place to find help. He tore the note from the windscreen and started to walk to the Llanberis Mountain Rescue base.
Little did Emlyn the Dragon know but this was going to be an adventure he would never forget. He started walking from Pen Y Pass, near the base of Snowdon, towards Nant Peris. The snow was really deep now and he wondered how anybody was going to make it back up to the Pen Y Pass car park. He pressed on, the note tightly held in his paw. He was leaning into the wind, which was blowing snow into his eyes. In the distance he could just make out a light from a crack in a door and thought he would at least stop there and ask for help.
As he walked on, stumbling in the deep snow, the light became brighter and soon he could see that he was at the Mountain Rescue base. Parked outside were the rescue Land Rovers ready for any call out, at any time. He stumbled towards the door with the light coming from it. He could hear some people talking about the blizzard and listening to a weather report on the radio. Emlyn is a very shy dragon and wouldn't normally talk to humans but he had to raise the alarm. He took a deep breath and knocked on the door. The talking stopped, the radio was turned down and someone started to walk towards the door. The door opened wider and a lady stood in the doorway. "Noswaith dda Draig", which means "Good evening dragon". She was quite shocked to see a Welsh Dragon standing there. She hadn't seen one for years. Emlyn handed her the note and told her the whole story over tea and biscuits. It was nice and warm inside the Llanberis Mountain Rescue base.
The lady pushed a large button on the wall. She said "Our volunteers will be here in a moment and then we can drive back to Pen Y Pass." She also picked up a telephone and called the Coastguard. He wasn't sure why she did that, as there were no boats at Pen Y Pass car park. He thought it better not to ask. He looked out of the door and could see lights being switched on in cottages on the mountain side. People were walking towards the Rescue base holding torches.
Emlyn the Dragon was nice and warm after his tea and biscuits. One of the rescuers asked Emlyn to join them in one of the Mountain Rescue Land Rovers so he could help them find the abandoned car. The Land Rover was packed with climbing equipment, medical equipment and stretchers. Its engine roared into life, emergency lights flashing, reflecting off the snow, headlights shining into the blizzard. As they drove back up to Pen Y Pass it was clear that the snow was now very very deep. The wind was storm force and the snow drifts were building up at the sides of the road. The drifts were higher than the Land Rovers. Still they pressed on, the Land Rovers gripping, sliding, gripping, rocking side to side as they pushed on through the snow and into the blizzard.
Eventually they made it to the car park. The abandoned car was still there. The radio in the Land Rover crackled in to life and a voice from Llanberis Mountain Rescue base came over loud and clear. "Three climbers are stranded near the top of Y Lliwedd. One has fallen and may have broken his leg, the remaining two are unharmed, but now very cold". All the rescuers climbed back into their Land Rovers, lights still flashing and started the ascent in to the Snowdon bowl.
Emlyn had wondered why Llanberis Mountain Rescue had contacted the Coastguard, it was the Air Sea Rescue helicopter! The helicopter crew had been eating their supper when the alarm bell on the wall started to ring. The doors to the canteen burst open and a young officer rushed in, "Scramble! Scramble! Three stranded climbers on Y Lliwedd!" The crew dropped their knives and forks and rushed to grab their flying helmets, maps and gear.
Jumping in and putting on their harnesses the pilot and co-pilot started the jet engines of the helicopter, flicking switches, turning knobs. The engines started to scream as they came to life. The rotors were a blur, spinning faster and faster, lights flashing red and white. The noise was deafening. Within a few minutes they would have clearance from the airport control tower and would be airborne, racing into the snow blizzard and into the high mountains of Snowdonia. The crew knew there were three missing climbers and the last known location was Y Lliwedd, near Snowdon. They were soon flying into the blizzard and towards Pen Y Pass where they would make contact with Llanberis Mountain Rescue. The co-pilot and crew watched through the windows of the helicopter at steep mountain sides, day had now turned to night. The mountains seem to want to crab the helicopter as it flew between them. Onward they flew, checking for all signs of danger ahead of them...
The track into the Snowdon bowl was steep but the Mountain Rescue Land Rovers made good progress. The snow had been blown off the track by the high winds but it would only take a change in wind direction and Llanberis Mountain Rescue might also be stranded. Emlyn was becoming very worried for the climbers. He could not see the tops of the mountains around them, known as the Snowdon Horseshoe.
He could hear the howling wind rushing through the snow filled crags. The Land Rovers were rocking from side to side in the high winds. The windscreen wipers strained to keep the windscreens clear of snow. Onwards they drove. The rescuers knew the mountain the climbers were on.
The climber's mobile phones batteries were exhausted so the rescuers had lost contact with them. It was beginning to seem hopeless.
Llanberis Mountain Rescue knew the helicopter was coming but Emlyn didn't. The first he heard of its approach was the noise of the rotor blades echoing off the mountains as it flew up the valley towards them. It raced over their heads and banked a hard right into the Snowdon bowl where it circled around to take up a position where it's heat seeking cameras might be able to locate the climbers. Even though the wind was howling, he could clearly hear the roar of the helicopter, see its safety lights flashing and its search lights scanning the mountain side. It hovered in the dark skies with Snowdon mountain looming behind it. Llanberis Mountain Rescue arrived in the Snowdon bowl, far below the rescue helicopter.
All three Llanberis Mountain Rescue Land Rovers arrived together. The helicopter had taken up a position in the sky opposite Y Lliwedd and the co-pilot scanned the mountain sides with the helicopter's heating seeking camera. One mistake by the pilot and there could be a disaster. Suddenly two climbers were caught in the helicopters powerful search light sitting on a high ledge, but where was the third one? The co-pilot reached for the button on her intercom and told the helicopter crew that she had found them but there was a problem.
She could see the injured third climber. He was trying to abseil down a vertical cliff of ice. It was clear he was struggling, even with the help of his crampons and ice axes. He was just too weak and now struggling, hanging on while his friends held his weight on the rope. Emlyn and Llanberis Mountain Rescue knew there was no time to waste. The rescue helicopter could not go any closer as the down wash of the rotor blades would send the injured climber spinning on his rope and into the darkness far below. All the crew in the helicopter could do now was stay at a safe distance and light up the mountain side ready for the Llanberis Mountain Rescue team to attempt a rescue.
Llanberis Mountain Rescue took up position near the base of the frozen water fall. The rescue team looked up and knew that the climbers were struggling as the injured climber was stuck and just hanging on the rope. The rescue team started getting their rescue equipment out of the Rescue Land Rovers. Bags, ropes, ruck sacks, crampons, ice axes and stretchers. The helicopter co-pilot talked on the radio to one of the Llanberis Mountain Rescue team, and explained that she only had two hours of fuel left before they had to return to base.
Llanberis Mountain Rescue had no time to lose. They said to Emlyn, "Emlyn, you must stay here. You will be safe with the rescue team." Three of the team looked back up the vertical icefall craning their necks back to see the climber with the injured leg swinging helplessly on the rope. They collected their rucksacks, ice axes and crampons and walked to the base of the icefall. They started to climb the icefall. It looked very difficult to Emlyn and also dangerous.
The three rescuers climbed the wall of ice, inching their way up, calling to each other, making sure they all knew what the others were doing. Up and up they climbed, shards of ice falling away to the ground, standing on the tips of their crampons on hard ice. The snow swirled all around them and slowly they disappeared into the blizzard. All Emlyn could hear was the noise of the helicopter, the crashing of ice at the base of the rock face and the howl of the wind through the mountain passes of Snowdonia. For the first time he felt worried and wondered if they would make it.
Emlyn could hear voices on the two way radio in the Land Rover. There were other rescuers by the door of the Land Rover trying to listen to the messages on the radio. Suddenly there was a cheer. "Emlyn, they've reached the climbers," shouted one of the rescuers. He walked over to Emlyn and handed him a set of binoculars and pointed high up into the mountain in front of Emlyn. He said, "Wait for a gap in the blizzard and you may be able to see them". He was right. Emlyn put the binoculars to his eyes and pointed them to where the Air Sea Rescue Helicopter was pointing it's high powered search light.
Emlyn could see the injured climber being strapped in to a stretcher. One of the other rescuers was breaking the large icicles from the frozen icefall so the other two climbers could abseil down from high above. You could hear the icicles crashing off the mountain face and falling to the ground. There was shouting from high above "LOOK OUT BELOW, KEEP BACK!!!"
Over the radio a voice calmly said "Starting to lower, over". Emlyn knew that they were lowering the injured climber. The stretcher appeared out of the blizzard. The rescuer was keeping the stretcher clear of the rocks while still hanging on to the ice with the help of his ice axes. The stretcher came to rest in the soft snow and the lowering rope went slack. One of the mountain rescue team by the Land Rover picked up the radio handset and said "Stretcher safely down, I repeat, stretcher safely down, over". "OK" said the rescuer far above. The injured climber in the stretcher was carried to the Land Rovers. With the help of the last two rescuers, the injured climber's friends started to abseil down the ice fall.
One of the rescue team radioed to the helicopter "We're ready for air lifting off one injured climber, possible broken leg and two other climbers, suffering from cold, over". The helicopter flew very slowly over to where the Land Rovers were parked. Emlyn could see the helicopter with the mountains towering above. The helicopter crew were looking out of the windows, helping the pilot safely manoeuvre the helicopter into it's new position just above them. The scream from the engines was so loud that nobody could hear anyone speak. They just pointed or made hand signs. Emlyn decided to stand with the two rescuers who had climbed the ice fall. They were a safe distance from the helicopter, which was much larger than Emlyn had expected.
As soon as the helicopter was in position the winch was lowered with a crew member attached to it. The winch man outstretched one of his arms, as if pointing to the pilot where to hover the huge helicopter. As soon as the winch man touched the ground he waved to the rescue team to bring the stretcher to him. The winch line was slack but not very much, a slight move by the helicopter and the winch man would be dragged across the snow. Emlyn thought they were all very brave. The winch man attached the winch line to the stretcher harness and waved the rescuers away and then looked up. Immediately the winchman, stretcher and injured climber were hoisted high into the sky towards the helicopter.
As soon as the injured climber was safely in the helicopter, the winch man returned and collected the two other climbers. Emlyn had decided to hide behind one of the Land Rovers as the down wash from the rotor blades was so powerful he was struggling to stand up against it. Once all the climbers had been winched up Emlyn watched the winch man lean out of the opening in the side of the helicopter. Holding on to a safety rail he gave the Mountain Rescue team a wave and immediately pulled the sliding door closed. Emlyn could see in to the helicopter as there was a soft green wash of light inside it. He could just see the crew walking past the windows tending to the climbers. Suddenly the cabin lights were turned off. The helicopter slowly turned away from Emlyn and started to fly off into the blizzard, it's flashing navigation lights reflecting off the snow and mountain sides. The noise soon faded and the rescue team were left with the howl of the wind through the valley, packing their equipment in to the Land Rovers.
Emlyn was still worried about the climber who had broken his leg and asked one of the Rescue team what would happen to him. "Emlyn, he'll be going to Isbyty Gwynedd, the hospital at Bangor" replied the rescuer. "Is that far?" asked Emlyn. "Not in a helicopter!" said another rescuer. "Come on Emlyn, let's have a cup of tea back at base and then let's get you home". Llanberis Mountain Rescue team made it back to the Mountain Rescue base. They thought it would be best if Emlyn stayed the night with them. He did this quite happily, eating all their Welsh Bara Brith cake and drinking lots of hot tea.
In the morning they heard that the climber had broken his leg so no more climbing for him for a long time. His two friends went home the next day but on the way they called in to the Mountain Rescue base to say thank you to the volunteers at Llanberis Mountain Rescue and to give them a donation to help support their work. They were all very pleased to be rescued. They said a big "Diolch!" to Emlyn for spotting the note on their car. That's a big Welsh thank you!
Emlyn had made it back to his home on Tryfan. The blizzard had passed through the Snowdonia National Park and Emlyn wondered if there would be any more deep snow this winter. He sat on his favourite ledge on Tryfan and looked at Carnedd Dafydd in the distance. It had deep snow on its peak. He wondered if anyone was looking back at him from Carnedd Dafydd.
Bleddyn the buzzard was high above him circling in the orange sky. Bleddyn noticed Emlyn and glided over to him and landed next to him. They snuggled up to each other and watched the sunset together.
Emlyn wondered what his next adventure would be...