A not so wintry Wales
Here we are again, heading to Wales chasing the winter weather. As you might had guessed already by the title of this entry. We didn’t have any snow, by the time you’re are reading this much of Wales has been covered with a blanket of snow with many of Snowdonia’s peaks now off limits due to avalanche risk and more snow is still coming down.
I would say poor timing on our half but actually speaking for myself here, I’m not willing to camp out in -20ºc with the risk of an avalanche engulfing our tents.
It’s easy to plan these trips aimed around getting up a mountain, wild camping and getting in some photography but if you plan to get away with a photo in mind and the weather means it doesn’t happen you get down, very quickly and begin thinking what was the point in it all. The last few trips have taught me not to plan any photographs, in fact to not have photography in mind at all but to just get out and enjoy yourself and this trip highlighted the reasoning behind the process.
Starting on Friday evening after work we all began making our way North to Cadair Idris in South Snowdonia. It started out clear but the winds from the West began bringing in the showers, by showers I mean a lot of heavy rain! On arrival to Dôl Idris Car Park (Cadair Idris - Minffordd path) it was wet, dark and windy. I arrived last to find Gareth packing his bag and getting wet and Jim hiding in his car, as we wound down the windows both of us just looked and thought. What on earth are we doing here!
All three of us agreed there was little point climbing up to Llyn Cau in the rain and dark only to get wet and cold before the weekend began so we decided lets go to the pub. You will quickly find out this is the common theme of the weekend. Hiding in the pub for several hours, enjoying some local Welsh beer and having a lengthy talk to the pub/hotel owner we returned to our cars near midnight and opted to stay low and camp around Tal-y-llyn, a lake down the road which provided plenty of cover from the winds.
After an uneventful night on the shores of Tal-y-llyn we woke to more rain and the mountain tops covered in cloud, as the light finally broke through the hotel opposite started to appear as a little beacon. Wet and not sure what to do we decided hotel for a hot breakfast.
Just what we needed to lift the spirits #foodporn.
We stayed in the hotel restaurant for a good few hours. We arrived at 7am and didn’t leave until maybe 11am. Just sat around a table chatting rubbish, photography, work, life, the usual crap ha.
After this we finally decided on a location to go in hope of some stormy conditions and waves - Barmouth Bay. We planned to meet Jason Wharam, a fellow Vanguard ambassador, the idea was to have a catch up and have a wonder around Barmouth for some stormy or coastal long exposures.
It wasn’t that stormy and the tide was going out so we couldn’t photograph the sea crash against the sea defences or have any interesting subjects for long exposures. Instead we went for a windy walk along the railway bridge, got half way when the rain met us and we quickly gave up and headed for… You guessed again! A pub. Don’t worry no picture of our fish, chips and mushy peas this time but we once again stayed put here looking out of the wet window and continue to talk until around sunset, where we noticed the clouds breaking and a golden orb appearing. Not all hope was lost!
We stayed on the beach, photographing the sunset along the coast until dark and then we had to make the return back to the wet mountains and decide where we would stay.
It wasn’t long until the rain joined us again and on arriving at our little campsite for the night, the winds quickly started to roll in. Due to weather warnings we opted to again, stay low and in the valleys and using our cars we built a small wall to help against the 50plus mph winds that were due over night.
With our wall built, tents and gear set up we decided to carry on with our weekends theme. To the pub! A half hour walk down to the next village, we stayed here for the evening for dinner and beers once again. The walk back was dry, thankfully but the winds were still there, not as bad as forecasted but we knew it wouldn’t be long and it wasn’t.
We all climbed inside our tents and waited for the dread to come. A few hours later our little one man tents were battered by the full force and by 3am in the morning, poor Jim’s tent collapsed. Despite wrestling with the pegs to anchor down the tent once more, Jim gave up and used his car to sleep inside. To be honest it wasn’t a bad idea as from 3am onwards I don’t think I got more than an hours sleep between 3am and 6am and gave up myself come 5am with little sleep, I just sat in my car editing a few photos from the weekend. You could still hear the wind but the metal body of the car was a lot better than the rustling tent.
It wasn’t cold however, just wet and extremely windy! Like Jim’s tent, there was moments I thought I’d wake up to my tent collapsed or the outer shell blown off, if it wasn’t my tent I thought perhaps Gareth’s would join the same fate. Thankfully neither did but the wind was just relentless! It didn’t matter if you buried your head in the sleeping bag or covered the interior of the tent with jackets to soften the noise. You just couldn’t get away with it.
I have managed to get my Fitbit Versa working again and syncing to my phone and on syncing my watch that morning quickly learnt why I was so tired… With only 3 and half hours sleep, I knew the climb up Cadair Idris, let alone the drive home on Sunday was going to be a struggle!
Sunday morning 6am, Jim and Gareth both woke up, with all three of us tired and not really that enthusiastic about climbing up Cadair Idris, if Cada had any snow it was unlikely to be much if any at all. We would be surprised if much was able to settle considering the strength of the winds. Slowly we packed up our tents, well myself and Gareth and Jim tidied his car.
With everything so wet we opted for the same tactic the previous day, unpeg and just throw on the back seats of the car to dry.
Sleeping bags and mats were just rolled up and thrown in the boots and our rucksacks refilled with camera, lens, warm jackets and breakfast for our climb up Cadair Idris.
So camp packed we drove the short distance up the road to the car park to begin what would be a gusty, very stupid and some what dangerous walk and short stop at Llyn Cau. The climb up was uneventful until we reached Llyn Cau and became level with the lake and then the full force of the winds hit us. We thought the previous night was bad down in the campsite, we weren’t expecting this.
Up to 90mph gusts which would take you off your feet, any kit that was dropped on to the ground was moved. At one point all three of our bags which were loaded with tripods, camera kit and some extra warm gear which weighed around 5kg perhaps were just taken out. Numerous times we had to rescue the bags and hide them behind new crevice in the rocks around the lake.
Both me and Gareth agree with our shots looking after, the best happened to be our selfies on top of this rock between the brief gusts of wind. Everything else we shot had water spray from the lake or just the movement didn’t suit. It certainly wasn’t a good opportunity for anything photographic.
On the walk back down we were again just blown off our feet, so cooking breakfast and brewing a coffee up on top here was pointless. I think we lasted perhaps 15 minutes up here before we gave up, it just wasn’t worth it. Wrapping back up we ventured back down to cook breakfast and get some respite from the wind and for the next hour sat by our cars enjoying the lack of gusts and rain.
It was a disappointing trip for photography but a fun weekend for company. Who cares that we didn’t get that snowscape of Cadair Idris and the surrounding landscape. We have the rest of the year for more photography and I’m sure we will see more snow before Spring arrives. Below you will find Gareth’s vlog from our climb up Cadair Idris where you will how bad the wind and conditions were.
7 hours 48 mins sleep
4 hours 50 mins sleep
3 hours 10 mins sleep
Transparency Notice: Please note that I (Matthew Holland) receive free products for review from brands and manufacturers, but I only accept products for review on condition of total independence and no guarantee of endorsement. I am a Vanguard Photo UK and Snugpak ambassador and receive the products for free to review from both brands. The review is no guarantee of endorsement. I receive no monetary gain from Vanguard Photo UK or Snugpak from the reviews or discount codes. Any Vanguard kit I own has been bought by myself. Any Snugpak equipment is gifted to me for the purpose of the review.