Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Warm Romance and a Bitter Mountain (Cnicht)

Crisp Cnicht

As is the way with my days off these days, there is no rush ever. Jan works long days and even longer nights in an intensive care department and there is NO shift pattern at all to allow a person’s body clock to plan the week. Her need for sleep catch up is vital, so I have learned not to expect a 7am leap out of bed, and instead to respect her body clock readjustment time. It doesn’t stop me getting fidgety however if the light looks amazing, and the day is going by :-)

Promises Under the Blanket
It was Sunday however, and for Jan a rare Sunday off, so whatever! The weather forecast was for brightness, light cloud, zero chance of rain and plenty of sunshine later. We could do a lazy leisurely hill walk later with no worries about the elements or timings. I didn’t really absorb the additional information I skimmed through on the mountain weather forecast though, which indicated freezing level at summits and 45mph winds. Nevertheless we threw in our Paramo’s and Rab wind proofs just in case, along with two flasks of steaming hot coffee.

Jan phoning God for a summit forecast

At about 2pm we started the one hour drive towards the distinctive pyramid shaped mountain called Cnicht. I haven’t done it for couple of years and I love the mountain (approximately 2200 feet). I have done it from the very meandrous North side and also from the shadowy East facing quarry valley of Cwm Orthin, which was today’s plan as I wanted to show Jan the old quarry workings. However, as part of her prep for some bigger mountains in the next few weeks she said she’d prefer a steep ascent, so we headed for Croesor on the brighter West side instead. This was a first for me too which was nice, making our way up the classic West ridge.

Joy Under the Blanket

We decided to have a cuppa and a sandwich in the cafe in the tiny, sleepy hamlet of Croesor but the cafe was so asleep it was closed! I was really surprised, this being the Easter break and a car park packed with walkers’ vehicles. We started up the long, bouldery woodland track before exiting right up towards the smooth lower slopes of Cnicht. The light was not as forecast, not good at all really, blankets of grey cloud obscured the spring sunshine and even the summit of the adjacent Moelwyn Mawr. The wind however was just as strong as forecast and even though I was hot making the ascent, I was also feeling chilly at the same time, a weird and difficult combination. Just below the summit on the open flat shoulder, I put on my outer shell layer as well and was so grateful for it. AT this point it was bitterly cold by then and the cloud layer had dropped too so that now the summit of Cnicht had disappeared from view. Jan who makes a bean pole look fat is particularly prone to suffering the cold and even with all her layers on she has to keep moving to keep warm, so we downed a couple of fast coffees from our flasks and started the very steep last buttress to the narrow and very exposed summit. NOT a good day to shoot nudes for my forthcoming exhibition for sure !

Sharp Ridge in Soft Light

We had another rapid slurp of hot coffee on the summit in thick cloud, before deciding to go back down the same way rather than cross the open moorland slopes beyond in just 10 meter visibility. This became a very good move as on the descent, the lowering sun started to punch through widening holes in the cloud creating a divine landscape over the Nantlle Ridge to our North West and the Irish sea ahead of us to the SSW. God’s ladders were everywhere and the clouds swirled at different rates and at different levels creating an atmospheric theatre of movement and dance.

A Bright Descent

Beams of light created sheets of warm brightness across the hillsides and when we turned around Cnich looked magnificent, a dark geometric triangle sliced by lines of sunlight, orange warm grasses blowing in the foreground and a raven circling the peak, it was fairytale and enchanting. I would have simply stood and stared for another hour or more but poor Jan was now using up the last of her core heat so we really did have to descend further until the temperature rose and the wind dropped in the shelter of the trees once more. We sat in the van with the heater on and finished our coffee before the hour’s drive home, covered by a spectacular post sunset sky. I love these longer days, cosy mornings with a loved one and then adventure in the afternoon followed by a romantic evening with hot food and a cold Pinot Grigio - best Sunday in ages :-)

Welsh Pyramid

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