The birth of a brand new day

The small mountain with the big view - The summit of Crimpiau

It started as a slow paradiddle and quickly gathered momentum into a blistering buzz role. No, I’m not talking about that bit in Ian Paice’s drum solo on ‘Made in Japan’; I am in fact referring to the rain beating down on my roof! It was 6am and not a good start to the day but maybe it would mean I could just sack off the whole dawn from Crimpiau idea, roll over and go back to sleep. No such luck. I peered out of the window; above the sky was laden with misery but on the eastern horizon a narrow strip of cloudless blue glowed ever so slightly in the morning twilight. For me, these are dream conditions which, if they coincide with the rising or setting of the sun, provide the photographer with some of the most dramatic lighting imaginable. The inhabitants of the Llugwy Valley slept soundly in their beds, but there would be no lounging around for me.

Usually I would put Crimpiau under my boots via a gentle and extremely pleasant tramp through Nant y Geuallt, but as I had already spent half an hour procrastinating my only chance of getting there in time for sun up would be to tackle the short but very steep path up onto Clogwyn Mawr, a route I gave up using months ago. Oh well, at least it had stopped raining.

When you’re on the edge of the weather things change rapidly and on the preliminary slog to gain some height I was wracked with doubt as conditions changed by the minute; just the usual pre-dawn stuff…”What am I doing”? “It’s going to be shit” and my particular favourite “Have a word with yourself, it’s not just about photography, just being out in the hills is what it’s all about”, which always seems a tad farcical when you’re busting a gut in the dark as the rain falls down in buckets, which, by the time I got onto the ridge it was! But still, that strip of clear sky out east remained and what’s more, it was starting to get quite bright. I needed to get a move on.

In the horrendously boggy bowl which cradles Llyn y Coryn I was glad that there was no one there to see me, for a fool I must have looked. Jogging by torchlight beneath an umbrella was I, slipping on greasy boulders and going up to my knees in a stinking morass just as my recalcitrant brolly turned inside out…”You FUCKING BASTARD”!

It was by that time light enough to turn my head torch off and I needed to be quick. I arrived at Crimpiau’s pointed summit tor exactly 3 minutes before the sun was due to make an appearance and got set up pretty damn quick. I was breathless, wet and a gusty wind chilled me to the bone but everything was in place and ready to go.

Watching the dawn from a mountain top is one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have. They’re wonderful to share but when you’re alone they take on an almost religious significance, at least for me they do and this one was well and truly biblical. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, the great mountains of Ogwen began to glow in subtle shades of pink and as the new-born day planted gentle kisses on weathered rocks they turned from ashen lumps into radiant coals of immense beauty. As the heather caught fire a small rainbow appeared and clouds raced across the firmament. The sky was angry now, almost in defiance of the sun’s power to give life to the mountains which burned, incandescent, in colours not seen on any canvas.

I rattled off 8 shots for a widescreen panorama and looked behind me. Llyn Crafnant, set in its dark valley was mirror-still but acres of spruce and larch were taking on colour as golden light raked across the landscape. I felt certain that there must be a photographer down there, capturing the wonderful reflections but there was no trace of envy. Skulking in a shadowy valley ten minutes from your car is easier than this, but it is no place to be when nature is painting a unique, never to be repeated living masterpiece.

Soon, the clouds started to disperse and blue was added to the palette. Reds and golds turned to yellows and the valleys came to life as the sun rose higher in the sky. It was time for me to leave, but I wouldn’t be retracing my steps. No, it would be my beloved Nant y Geuallt which would take me home, back to reality and a bacon sandwich.
Dawn Breaks - Llyn Crafnant from Crimpiau



Dreams are made of this - Dawn over Snowdonia


~ by nicklivesey on November 11, 2013.

One Response to “The birth of a brand new day”

  1. Sounds absolutely wonderful Nick, the struggle was worth it all – would have loved to have seen all this for real. Its great you were there to share this with us all – the secrets of the morning.

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