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Ice Lady of Snowdon Project

Okay, so we’ve been dying to put up some information about our amazing project with Red Shoes Productions to promote the legacy of Chwarae Teg’s Agile Nation Project. Since the celebrations happened yesterday (23rd Oct) at the Senedd and the film was premiered, I now feel safe in doing so.

It all started with a crazy but brilliant man called Richard Owen. He came to visit us and ask us some questions about who we were and what could be achieved with his ice lady idea. His idea needed to represent the barriers that women in business face and the journey to overcome these barriers. His initial idea was to have three smallish sculptures showing a woman pushing through a wall of ice, with each sculpture showing her at different stages of the process. We also discussed locations for the three sculptures and where would be appropriate. It was only during the discussion that the idea of locating the project at the summit of Mount Snowdon came about. It was an off-the-cuff comment that came from my husband, Gareth, an idea with no real intent. However, we had yet to learn who Richard Owen was and when he heard Gareth’s suggestion, his eyes lit up and the meeting ended soon after. In the meantime, I was to get some designs drawn up.

Over the months, with emails and phone calls back and forth with Richard, we learned that Chwarae Teg loved the idea and the project was on! It was no longer to be three small sculptures but one large sculpture and to be situated right at the summit of Snowdon…I looked to Gareth for reassurance that we could do this as the panic had set in. He was very comforting and told me not to worry about the logistics, he would take care of that. All I had to do was come up with a final design for the 3M tall ice lady and carve her! Okay then!

It was around May time that Richard, Gareth, the director Tom Gripper and I went on a recce up Snowdon. It was there that I first met Vince (head of Snowdon Mountain Railway), possibly the most accommodating person I’ve ever met. Nothing was an issue for Vince, he just answered every request with a calm “yeah sure, no problem”.

We got on the train and headed up the mountain, I’d never been up Snowdon before. It was so mad that this was the reason that I was making my first trip up there. When we finally reached the top, we were greeted by strong winds and light showers, it was pretty grim. We climbed the 96 steps to the summit and measured up the space on the plinth. I could see nothing but grey cloud and sheer drops! It was only then that I realised that we were actually on top of a mountain…I know it sounds silly, but it’s true. I started thinking, oh wow, if this goes wrong, I could actually die! Hmm…definitely should have asked for more money! Ha ha!

While we were standing there taking measurements and deciding on which way Gwenllian (our ice lady) should face, Richard and Tom discussed with Vince the best time of year to come up and film. June had been the original plan but seeing as that was only about 3 weeks away and the  weather was so bad, August was thrown about as an appropriate month and eventually a date was set with the whole team (16th – 18th August).

As The Ice Academy was still in its infancy really (2 years old), we did not have the luxury of a van with a standby function and as a result, if we were to make 8am train up Snowdon with all the ice, we were going to have to travel the 144 miles from Cwmbran to Llanberis overnight. It was now a proper adventure! We started loading up the van around 1am and set off, stopping for a couple of 20 minute power-naps and then some ridiculously strong coffees. We made it to Llanberis in one piece and met the crew. We thought we’d have plenty of time to get nearly 1.5 tonnes of ice onto the train but it turned out we had 20 minutes. Each of the thirteen pieces of the partially carved sculpture had been wrapped in two layers of bubble wrap and Gareth and I wanted no accidents. We decided it was best if we shifted all the ice onto the train ourselves, which just left our tools and equipment which the crew kindly loaded onto the train. Having been suffering with sleep deprivation, shifting over a tonne of ice twice (once from the van onto the platform and then from platform to the train) had made us a little shaky. It wasn’t over yet, we still needed to shift this ice at the top into the walk-in freezer. Then we could go back down the mountain and get a few hours rest before heading back up again at 3 o’clock. Which we did.

It was now a little past 4 and the weather was a bit choppy. We waited in the cafe as the clouds whizzed by and occasionally revealed the beautiful view. Serious discussions about safety and lighting took place and the last opportunity to take the final train down the mountain  came and went. We were definitely there for the night. However, the winds picked up to 50mph with gusts of 70mph. Richard, Gareth, Emma Craig (the project manager from Chwarae Teg), Ceri Evans (cinematographer), Marcus & Ian from SkyCam Wales, Tom and I all stood at the summit, clinging to what we could in the strong winds. At this point, I must say, Emma was fantastic, it essentially was her project and the responsibility of everyone’s safety was on her shoulders. She had a difficult decision to make, either to go ahead with the project and hope for some improvement in conditions or try to reschedule the entire project and team and do it all again. What a lot of pressure. Thanks to Emma, a decision was made to reschedule the project and convenient dates when the whole team could be assembled during September were decided. Emma kept in touch with us all about the weather and it was to be the 9th September 2014 that our final attempt would take place. We all sprang into action, piled up the gear for one last go and headed to North Wales.

We were incredibly lucky with the weather this time, it was a glorious day and hardly a breeze. The view was spectacular but as we were now in September, sunset was earlier than originally hoped and as it was a nice day, trains to the summit were running later than usual. We had very little time to carry the 13 ice blocks up the 96 steps to the summit and assemble  and finish the ice lady. We now also had to time moving another ice block up to the plinth in-between trains coming and going when the flow of tourists, wanting to reach the summit, was at its quietest. Still, in just over 4 hours we had managed to get her set up and in place with no accidents, breakages and in time for the sunset. The pressure was now shifted from us to SkyCam Wales and Tom Gripper’s crew to get all the footage they could as the sun went down and through the night. The team worked long into the night to capture all the essential footage and it was just by sheer luck that Gwenllian (our ice lady) was still standing and looking stunning in the morning at sunrise…and what a view. It was breathtaking.

The whole event was so emotional, I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. It was weird, as this overwhelming feeling and sense of relief hit everyone at different times. It had been a real achievement for us all and we realised how far we had come since our initial meeting in Cwmbran so many months previously. The success of the project was testament to such a professional team of people, without which none of this would have been possible.

Since I have been writing this blog this morning, I have received an email from Emma Craig, letting us all know that we made it onto the BBC Wales news. Here’s the link We are so thrilled with the final outcome, the film is fantastic and a real tribute to the great work that Chwarae Teg’s Agile Nation Project has accomplished. If you would like to see the film, visit Youtube and type The ice lady of Snowdon and it will appear.

I hope you enjoy the film and thanks for reading.

Building Gwenllian