Four Days in Snowdonia

For some time now I’ve been meaning to visit Snowdonia in North Wales.  Although it’s somewhere I’ve been climbing and walking over the years I’ve not been primarily for photography before.  All the images below can be viewed in a larger size if selected.

Wind the clock back to December when this trip was conceived and it was to be a week in the Scottish Cairngorms surrounded by snow-covered mountains and fabulous light.  Well, that was the idea.  With hind-sight, perhaps the idea was a little optimistic but, at the time, sat in front of a warm fire with a glass of Jura anything seemed possible.  The closer the trip came, the less it looked like my fire-side dream would be realised.  The Cairngorms were devoid of snow.  Yes, the gullies and sheltered North facing slopes had snow but there was lots of brown – not what I was after.  A good indicator of conditions is the Loch Morlich webcam which looks across the loch to the Northern corries and Cairngorm ski centre.  If you don’t know of it, take a look here

So, where to go?  Clearly snowy photographs weren’t to be had so why drive all the way to the Cairngorms when there are mountains closer to home.  That’s why on one overcast, damp Sunday afternoon I arrived in Snowdonia choosing to stay at the Tyn-y-Coed Inn near Capel Curig.  Previously I’ve camped and been to the Inn for many a meal or beer, but this was early March and a week camping could have been miserable.  Clearly it was very early in the season as the Inn was almost empty.  A little too quiet but with early starts that suited me just fine. 

Having been to this part of Snowdonia before, albeit some years previously, I had good primary and backup plans for the first morning.  Well that’s what I told myself! But tired after a long drive and feeling sleepy I wasn’t so sure.  What would that light do?  Would getting up at 03:30AM be worth it?  Wouldn’t it be better to sleep-in to ensure I was fully recovered from the drive?  Dam those nagging doubts!  So, plans were reviewed and updated after getting some local knowledge 🙂  In fact the barmaid was an invaluable source of information – they normally are!  Photography lesson No.1 – Always seek local knowledge!  The revised plan got me an extra half hour in bed too.  Result!

Nice picture of Snowdon and surrounding hills by Andy Gawthrope Photography. #AGP #AndyGawthropePhotography #Snowdonia #Wales Click To TweetThe revised plan was to take a relatively short and easy walk to a low hill I hadn’t even considered when poring over the map in Bristol.  Sounded good!  Well, yes it sounded good, too good.  It was dark by then, would be dark on the walk-in and so route finding was going to be interesting!  The verbal description was something like: turn right off the road at the school house, follow the path through the woods and when you reach the end of the trees, turn right up a hill and through a gate then head to the hill.  Mmm, I knew this wouldn’t be as easy as it sounded.  Following paths though woods and not getting lost, at the best of times, is tricky, especially when you’ve never seen the path, the wood and its pitch black!

With head torch on, I very carefully followed the path through the woods and it was actually pretty straight forward but of the remainder, that was different.   The sections I expected to be simplier turned out to be much more tricky!  What the barmaid didn’t communicate was that the hill could only be crested on its North side, an approach from the obvious East side, the side from which I approached, was craggy and insurmountable.  Stumbling through calf-high tussock grass, fording streams and being blocked by craggy rocks took its toll in time and energy but in the end hot, sweaty and exhausted I made it in-time for sunrise!  Of course, with sunrise came light and my tortuous approach looked ridiculous.  Why had I turned left there?  How could I not have seen that bridge over the steam?  etc etc.  Suffice to say, the way back was a doddle and took a fraction of the time! 

Was it worth it?  Most certainly.  The first couple of images in this post are from that morning.  The light and clouds were just fantastic.  That high-pressure system was close-by and the clouds were breaking – perfect timing 🙂  With its arrival tho, the weather became a little too blue and each day soon after sunrise it became very hazy.  First light was definitely the best time as there was some, just a little, cloud and the haze wasn’t so noticeable.  It was a trip were sunrise was the best time for photography.

The trip provided a nice introduction to Snowdonia and I’m convinced there will be further trips this year.  Trips that will probably involve some rough camping and more mountain photography.  Now, to schedule that weather….


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