|"A Boulder Walk" Moel Wnion © Glyn Davies 2010|
You know when you go to a good bakery, and there are just so many gorgeous goodies at the counter that you can't choose ? Well that's how it was last week on a day off, when I sat in an Anglesey lay-by in the van, and just couldn't decide which hill to do! Practicality meant that the big peaks were out, because time as usual, had been eaten up by daily tasks. One cake on the bakery shelf however, really called out to me, Moel Wnion, one of the lower peaks of the Carneddau range. It was beautifully rounded and iced in thick bright white snow, glinting in the cold but intensely bright afternoon light.
My only anxiety was WHERE would I park to start the walk, and would the lanes up to hill be drivable in the snow and ice. As it was, the roads were icy but fortunately manageable, in the heavy T5 Transporter. The wheels gripped brilliantly. I reached a rough ice-packed layby near some old quarry workings and packd my ice axe and crampons for safety and my tripod for stability :-)
|"Snow Bird" © Glyn Davies 2010|
Although the clouds dropped and lifted continuously, the sunshine remained intense, but the wind was icy cold and on the ridges, strong and bitter. I could make out a reasonable, diagonal track across the mountainside, and followed this almost to the col where the drifts were really deep, up to thigh height in places. It made walking difficult so I found grassy ridges easier instead. Up here the wind was so strong that spin-drift was blowing a fine powder snow across everything, including me and the camera, but in the middle of it all I found a captivating snow sculpture, almost hidden in a gully to my right. I was awestruck by it's perfection, it's simplicity and it's purity.
|"No Summer Flocks" © Glyn Davies 2010|
I stood braced against the gale in between Moel Wnion and Gyrn, and couldn't decide which way to go. I saw that the light was stronger to the West, so no matter how teasing the rounded summit of Wnion looked, I headed with the wind for the rocky crag of Gyrn. En route, I almost stumbled across a large sprawling, maze-like sheep fold, which in the deep snow was much easier to decipher than in dry weather. I found myself intrigued by the patterns and shapes, and spent some time trying to locate a good composition in the freezing shadowy slope of this hill.
|"In The Bleating Wind" © Glyn Davies 2010|
Two or three shots in the bag and I was finally navigating snow covered boulders to the summit, and a huge mountainous vista backlit by late afternoon sunshine - I was now out of the cold Easterly wind and relatively warm! I shot a few frames from here but generally it was hard going, as the mountains to the South East were shadowy, blue and lacking in contrast, then the low hills and Irish Sea to the West were just blasted by low, orange sunlight, and the island of Anglesey to the North and North West were snow-less and cloud covered. I drank hot sweet coffee and ate caramel wafers while my bum froze on an ice covered rock, until I remembered the foam pad in my rucksack, which Carol had cut for me! One more hot coffee and as the sun was dropping quickly, I decided to head back to the col and the descent home.
|"The Sky Has Eyes" © Glyn Davies 2010|
Problem was, when I reached the col, even with the horizon turning a vivid orange - red at sunset, the summit of the beautiful Moel Wnion was still sorely tempting. I could make out the summit path, so even with axe, tripod and camera swinging around my neck, I almost jogged along the col and panted my way up the slope opposite. The sun was shrinking but intensifying as it neared the horizon, and the clouds were turning fantastic colours, but all I could see was the cool blue path in front of me and all I could hear was the pounding of my heart and my gasps for breath in the piercing cold air. At least I was feeling fitter after several weeks of mountain walking, a few months back I'd have died trying this!
|"My Objective Crumbled" Moel Wnion © Glyn Davies 2010|
The summit cairn came into view while the snow went deep pink against the cold blue Easterly sky. Sadly but unsurprisingly, people had been here earlier and the stunning white snow drifts up to the cairn had been trampled by numerous walking boots, crushing the purity and joy of the find, but nevertheless still forming a striking marker for my minor achievement! The sun was almost on the sea now, and I used perhaps just 5 minutes to shoot a few wide angle images, close to the snow, pointing in the direction of the red burnout. The hills behind and to my left looked massive, blue-grey and very formidable. The wind was frost-bitingly cold and everything felt quite ominous, up here alone. The sun set, but the dusk provided enough light to see by.
|"Before The Run Down" Moel Wnion © Glyn Davies 2010|
The pinks and reds disappeared instantly and the Carneddau suddenly looked twice as big in this light. I didn't even bother retracing my steps back to the col. I knew what the mountain slope was like from my earlier ascent, so I jogged once again, down the large rounded hillside, digging my heels into deep snow-covered tufty grass and I made good speed. I reached the snow-drift track and sank so deep in one drift that I had to roll myself across it's surface to get myself free, fun really! I thought I'd need to use my Petzl torch for the first time, but night vision was working and I made the van in the nick of time. I stood alongside the old quarry buildings and drank a final cup of hot coffee before sliding the van back into the lane and subsequently the salt covered escape roads. I can see myself visiting these hills again in the summer, for a different mood and perspective - they felt very Welsh, very real, very local and steeped in history and culture. Loved them!
All words and images are strictly copyright © Glyn Davies 2010
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