Monday, 28 June 2010

Midsummer in Wales

Finally I could rest. I wriggled down into my bivvy bag, breathed deep and slow the mountain air, and tried to sleep. It was well after midnight, and late on this solstice night the darkness was almost complete. The patch of sky framed by my sleeping bag was small, and a lone star glowed small in the centre. Below, the skyline was reduced to a black cut-out against the last glimmer of light on the horizon. Bristly ridge, Tryfan, shapes from my childhood - when climbing meant mountains, and long days moving through them. I hadn't been back in a long time.

 Wild Goats, Glyder Fawr

Starting as the last walkers left the hills, I'd climbed Y Gribin to the high plateau of the Glyders, where a tribe of goats relaxed in the evening sunshine. My plan had been for Castell Y Gwynt, but on a whim I turned west and photographed the sunset amongst the little tors and scattered stones of Glyder Fawr. While the sun still lit the summits I worked on the view I'd pre-visualised - the vista of  Yr Wyddfa to the west. As ever, the elements that make the scene sing can rarely be planned, tonight - a great sea of cloud filling the west but held back by the hills, sending long tendrils of vapour along the valleys to the south.

The Snowdon massif from Glyder Fawr

As the sky glowed gently in the minutes after sunset, I made my favourite photograph of the night, facing east along the broad ridge of the Gyderau. I composed it instinctively, trying to simplify the elements and create a gentle balance between land and sky. There aren't many of the rules of compostion being obeyed here, but I'm happy that it works.

Glyder Fach from Glyder Fawr

A long stumble over Glyder Fach in the gloaming led me, finally, to Llyn y Caseg Ffraith, where I had water for my dinner and a plan for the morning. The dawn came slowly. A crimson bleed on the horizon, high clouds first dark then pastel pink, a cold breeze strengthening. The cloud sea had crept up the valley in the night, and spilled like a tide over the bwlch, burning away in the light of the sun. I was cold in my bivvy, and delayed rising too long. The gentle colours of the pre-dawn were far superior to the blast of light as the sun appeared. The air was clear, too clear, with no haze to soften the light, and no cloud to fill in the shadows.

First light on Tryfan 

I took the long way back to the car by way of Cwm Cneifon, hunting amongst the rocks of Clogwyn Ddu for the Snowdon Lily. It was perhaps a little late, and I found none. It was a treat to see the cliff decked in alpine flowers though - Stonecrops, Roseroot, Starry Saxifrage and Navelwort. As I walked down cloud boiled over the ridge and played with the light, conjuring pillars and gullies from the crags. All was silent, save for the dry ringing of my footsteps in the scree, and a Ring Ouzel's piping song echoing around the Cwm.

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