By Grant Hyatt
New camera worries and a fear of missing out
I have a bit of an issue with The Glyderau in Snowdonia, and one I’d bet my Third Sector salary on that I’m not alone in. The trouble is, that this place has left such an imprint on my simple, mountain-driven mind, that whenever the weather forecast looks to offer something special, at a time that coincides with my work-free weekends, thoughts of spending time atop its rock crested, martian-like landscapes absolutely consume me. So much so, that even when my thirst for pastures new prevails, and my boots (and compass) lead me to new summits, that I have found myself wondering what conditions were like up at my favourite wild camping pitch, on a small grassy area a few meters south-east of Castell Y Gwynt, in its shadow and forever under its spell.
A few years ago, in an interview with Outdoor Photography, I said that “Whilst the Brecon Beacons are my chosen subject, what inspire me are the weather forecasts. I love how the changing conditions completely alter the look and feel of a place and of how much of an impact this can have on your experience. I can visit the same location and under different conditions either leave excited or in a state of reflection. I think it’s incredible just how powerful a landscape can be!” Now, I may have since moved my life north, to the borderlands of Snowdonia, but I’m still massively captivated and inspired by the weather.
Wild camps on Glyder Fach have provided me with way more than my fair share of spectacles and phenomena, from faint Northern Lights, mystical Noctilucent Clouds, a crystal clear Milky Way, vibrant sunsets and sunrises, but I’ve never spent a wintry night up there, something I have lusted after for some time.
Two weekends ago, wonderful wintry weather harmonised with a work-less weekend, and that was it. Mind-Set. Bag Packed. And normally, there wouldn’t have been any hesitation, any fear, any worry. The camera would’ve been cleaned and the excitement charging….
This time was a little different, as I’d recently repeated a behaviour that seems to happen every year and a half or so. I had bought a small mirrorless camera, with a view to not having to lug around the heavier full-frame body and multiple lenses that all-to easily becomes the norm. I’d already been on a few dawn outings with my new Olympus camera and had been really pleased with the photographic returns. But to leave my Nikon at home for a wintry wild camp on my favourite range was unspeakable, wasn’t it? Believe it or not, and I appreciate this may sound completely daft to most, but I wrestled with this decision for a good few hours and it’s one that caused me considerable anxiety. But after some confidence enthusing words from a friend and fellow Olympus user, Matt Holland, I decided to take the plunge, jump in with both feet, and risk going to a veritable photographers playground, with a camera I was just getting to know and understand. I’ve had the first holidays with former partners that were less stressful!
For the first part of the walk, I’d arranged to meet up with another friend, Jason, in the Ogwen Valley to spend the morning making our way up over to Glyder Fawr and beyond. With my pack considerably lighter than usual, some 3.5kgs I reckon, the usual steep-snowy-struggle up Y Garn was made that little bit easier, leaving me to chat away a little freer. Offering the occasional photo-op and discussions on everything from titanium hips, to whiskey tips, in the few miles between Ogwen Cottage and our eventual separation at the top of Y Gribin. (cheers for the company, Jason)
From here, a new troop of mountain-dwelling photographers had formed, in Tom, Chris, Daron and I, all vaguely familiar with each other through the powers of social media and past brief encounters. We’d made the short, slippery scramble up toward the summit in plenty of time to pitch camp and drift around the tops of this addictive mass.
Sunset was at times a little exciting, but mostly pleasant and serene. With my mind and camera pointed almost exclusively toward my snowy pitch, with the starkly contrasted land below resembling a most sharp of snow-lines…
Shortly after sunset, the fog rolled in, which, coupled with the sub-zero temperatures and icy winds, meant an inevitable retreat to our respective bunkers for a hot drink, warming grub, and the long cold night.
After some 13 hours of mildly-chilly-half-sleep, coming around should’ve been painful and upsetting. But when you know you’re crawling out of your tent, with a view across to a moon-lit Snowdon, somehow, your body and mind find whats needed to enjoy and create.
And as the sun-rose, and I studied this familiar location, for unfamiliar compositions, any anxieties I had around my camera choice melted away, as did the icy nip in my cheeks with the warming first light of this gorgeous day…
What a day, what a night, what a morning.