Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Column, June 12, 2007

IF you log onto the Llanberis Mountain Rescue team’s website there’s a intriguing little button which says ‘We hope you don’t see one of these.’
When curiosity gets the better of you, you click the button and you’re rewarded with the view of an RAF Sea King enjoyed by a rescuee with the winchman descending to pluck them to safety.
And now once more the hills have been alive with the shouts of help from the English, fearing they won’t be alive much longer unless someone comes to get them out of the mess they’ve gotten themselves into.
You can’t really blame them for getting themselves into trouble in our mountains.
After all they’ve not really got anything worthy of the name themselves. I you come from somewhere as relentlessly flat as Birmingham, then you’ve never had a chance to develop an eye for the mountains.
So you might be tempted to try to scale Wales’ highest peak wearing nothing more substantial than trainers…and a summer dress…and with no food or water…and carrying a 9-month-old baby too, just, you know, to make it a bit of a challenge.
That was the state of the latest group of would-be Boningtons who decided they were going to bag Snowdon.
They got separated with two 14-year-olds ending up headed for Crib Goch, a ridge with 1,000ft drops either side. The only thing that stopped them meeting a grisly end was the RAF helicopter that plucked them, weeping, off the mountain. That will make for an interesting ‘What I did in the Summer’ when they’re back at school won’t it ‘I attempted a knife-edge arête usually tackled by experienced mountaineers in just my gym pumps’.
The rest of the group were found by Llanberis Mountain Rescue and were walked down to safety.
After their safe descent there were the usual warnings of the woeful state of their ‘equipment’ (for equipment, read t-shirts and one dress, summer, for the basking in).
Personally, I’m not sure this message is ever going to get through. Firstly, the warnings are usually reported by local media like the Daily Post, BBC Wales and so on, which are read by people who live locally and need no warnings that the mountains are dangerous – it’s preaching to the choir.
By this time those rescued are long gone, back to the Midlands or wherever, where they’re probably none too keen to share with their neighbours just how exciting g their holiday has been – imagine the chat about the snaps – ‘This is me clinging for dear life with one hand to a crumbling ledge in a gale, this is the nice RAF winchman, and this is the inside of a Sea King, yes it is roomier than you’d think isn’t it? Lovely views too.’
So others who might venture this way and who think they might combine a bit of sunbathing and paddling with a stroll up Snowdon in their flip-flops never get the message.
I think perhaps those rescued from our mountains might do a bit more to publicise just how dangerous it can be.
How about making them take home a sign to put up outside their house – ‘Brought back safely to you courtesy of Llanberis Mountain Rescue’, or maybe a bumper sticker saying ‘My Other Car is and RAF Sea King’.
The fact is that even experienced climbers and hill-walkers find themselves in trouble, so you can’t really say that only the experienced should go up into the mountains.
And I don’t think the volunteers who turn out to rescue people would want the mountains to become some exclusive little preserve – although they might like people to go up just a tad better-equipped than the Birmingham bunch.
So the best thing we can do is keep putting out the information, and, crucially, supporting the teams who go out 24-hours-a-day, 365 days a year, regardless of weather and risk to themselves to help those in trouble on the hill.
That to me is true heroism, when the easy thing to do would be to stay safe by your fireside, but instead you head out knowing that if you and people like you didn’t, then the mountains would be a far, far more dangerous place.
If you want to support Llanberis or Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue, it’s easy enough to do through their websites - or
And if you’ve got friends in Birmingham, tell them too.

THERE’S been a lot of talk about being British recently.
Reportedly Gordon Brown will be giving us a new holiday when he comes to power – Britain Day, prompting reams to be written about what we might do on Britain day to mark our Britishness.
Of course, those seeking a definition of Britishness are kind of missing the point, because there isn’t one.
Britain’s strength has been the fact that it is a nebulous alliance of nations who like nothing more than bickering with each other, unless someone threatens them, whereupon they turn on them with a united ferocity that is fearsome to behold.
No, so forget trying to sum up Britain, it means nothing to a people whose alliances probably lie with much smaller communities.
But I can offer one aspect of British life which seems to have united us all.
Weekly bin collections.
It would certainly seem that this is an issue that has got the nation’s knickers in a right bunch.
You can spy on us, detain us without charge, trample roughshod over the constitution, throw Magna Carta and habeas corpus out of the window, but mess with the binmen and you’ve got a civil war on your hands.


Anonymous said...

Any ideas for the Welsh Blog Awards 2007?

Unknown said...

Banksy, I don't like you reference to BBC Wales as a member of the local media. Wales is a nation, so it is a national media outlet.

This debate about Britain day is very contrived. The more interesting point surely is that the calls from tens and hundreds of thousands of people for a St David's Day bank holiday has been completely ignored, but the UK government wants to impose a Britain day on people where there seems to be almost zero demand for it.

Banksy said...

Re BBC, think you missed the point a tad there.

Re St David Day, 'hundreds of thousands' ? Really?

I agree it should be a holiday, but I don't think that many have 'called' for it.

Ifan Morgan Jones said...

I dunno, I'm from a few miles north of Snowdon and I've been up in t-shirt and a pair of crocs a few times, in the rain. The one time I was blown off the path was when I was wearing a big raincoat - so much for dressing appropriately!

Garrett Heaney said...

Hey man,
We ran an article about you in our new magazine. You can check it out at I'd love to hear what you think of it and if you would like to do an interview sometime.

in kindness.
Garrett from Wishtank

Banksy said...

Hey, erm, Garrett,

Did you not wonder why the graffiti artist you wrote a feature about was blathering on about things Welsh?

That's because this Banksy, is not THAT Banksy.

Easy mistake to make if you don't read the blog.