12 hours….

12 hours, that’s all I’d spent up on top of the Glyderau over the recent Bank Holiday weekend. But what an incredible 12 hours it was. I had summited around 8pm, after ascending via Cwm Tryfan and that thigh burning scree slope that runs parallel to Bristly Ridge. I had strayed off the path a little and ended up on the final 20m of Bristly, which had left my legs a little shaky, given the heavy pack and my already weary legs from completing the Snowdon Horseshoe the day before. Though all this did was ensure that my smile was even bigger on reaching the rocky plateau. 

Finding a pitch was my first priority, as usable space is pretty limited up there and I could already see a few other wild-campers hunting around for a space devoid of rocks and boulders. I’d found a small grassy section on the Southern aspect, overlooking Snowdon, where there was already some gorgeous Dragons Breath creeping up the valley past Nant Gwynant. Knowing I was going to be opening my tent door to this view in the morning brought a huge smirk to my face. 

Next up was sunset, but with no clouds in the sky – photographic options were limited, which inescapably meant an adventure-selfie or 3, mixed in with an occasional sunstar, I know what you’re thinking – original, right? Pushing the boundaries of whats possible, right? Technical photography at it’s finest, right? haha.. I know, but they’re fun! And with the epic Castell Y Gwynt not 50m away, I think it was inevitable really. And it wasn’t even the last time that day I’d be clumbsily climbing up the 16m rocky prominence……. 

 

With the sun all but set, and a couple of hours before darkness would set in, I headed for the tent where the culinary treat of my favourite boil in the bag meal lie in wait, pasta and spicy sausage, which probably doesn’t sound too exciting to non camping-folk, but to others the idea of efficiency in cooking tastes almost as good as the food itself. As great as high camps can be, the downside is often the amount of water thats needed to be ported up, unless there are sources en route, which, on the hike up to Glyder Fach, there are few. So being able to boil up your food and use that same water for a drink is quite satisfying. Sitting here waiting for the darkness, was so peaceful. Entirely lost in my own thoughts and the beauty of the place I now sat… 

 

The next couple of hours passed in the blink of an eye, as I was wrapped up in the sleeping bag, with the tent door open, looking out on the Snowdon range, where the day before I had been scrambling around the ridges of Crib Goch, Garnedd Ugain and Y Lliwedd. 

As soon as darkness had set in, I made my way up to the Cantilever Stone for the first of the nights attempts at astro-snaps. Quite fortuitous that the Milky Way was rising just behind it, offering up a pretty exciting backdrop for my first astro-selfie of the night………

From there it was back down to Castell Y Gwynt….. 

And this is where it started to get exciting…… 

I’d just shared a photograph on Twitter and someone had commented about the possibility of northern lights, but I couldn’t be that lucky… could I? There is a rocky crown just off the summit of Glyder Fach that i’d photographed on my last camp up here a couple of years ago, and as I was looking up at the stars I noticed that Cassiopeia was just above the formation and closely resembled it’s shape. It was facing North so I thought it would make a nice image, regardless of the northern lights possible visibility. 

I composed the shot, set the focus, 2 second timer, then stepped back….. 25 seconds later this image (or a slightly less processed version of) popped up on the LCD – 

The purples were quite bright and with a faint green on the horizon, I couldn’t believe my luck.. It wasn’t visible to the naked eye at this point, but to be honest, I didn’t really care, it was there, which was all that mattered.. My imagination took over, as did the grin across my face. I knew there was another photographer camped close by, so I ran to the vicinity of his tent and shouted his name several times before running back up to the summit. My head torch jolting left and right, scouring the options for other compositions. The large rock i’d put myself on earlier was just infront of me, ofcourse – another selfie 🙂 

Timer set to 20 seconds, I hopped up on to the large boulder, which commanded a great view across the Valley, with the road leading the eye nicely on to Bethesda, Bangor and beyond….. I was buzzing with excitement at what I knew was out there, which made the required 25 seconds of motionless standing needed to get a decent image, so so difficult. I’d concentrated my gaze on one part of the star filled sky and stared so intently, i almost got tunnel vision. 

The sound of the shutter closing from my D800 seemed so loud in the quietness of the night, it made me jump after the eternity of the silent long exposure. I’d practically skipped back to the camera to see what i’d captured…… 

I was chuffed! I’d only photographed the northern lights once before and even on the camera it was nothing like this… It was now close to 1:30am and with sunrise just a few hours away, I knew I had to try and get some sleep. Though I wasn’t even sure if I could, given the near delirium of the night. 

Sleep was not something that came easy on most camps, but that night it was even more scarce.  I think I managed an hour or two, mostly down to the thrill of the nights fun  and buzz around what dawn would bring. 

The sound of my 5am alarm reverberated around the tent and my eyes streamed as I wrestled them open. I’d crawled out of the little Vango, and stretched out, looking over toward Snowdon to see what was left of the previous days valley fog. Another cloudless morning offered up some nice options for capturing the serene pre-dawn pinks & purples, hung above some of Snowdonias most inspiring mountains. 

The next hour or so was spent watching the light descend on the landscape, chasing the shadows away….. 

This had really been an incredible night & morning and definitely an experience that is going to stay with me for some time. Even on the drive back home two days later, as the anxiety & pressure of going back to work had started to overtake my thoughts, thinking back over this nights activities cast all that aside… 

It was a much needed escape and a definite re-kindling of my love for this awesome mountain range. 

Cheers for reading! 

Grant

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