Dawn on Crib Goch

Pe-dawn selfie - Crib Goch
It’s 5.30am and the very last thing I want to do is leave my warm bed, but I must. The forecast is full of promise and dawn can’t be wasted in dreams, especially after all the bad weather we’ve had of late. I perform my morning ablutions and head down to the car. Ten minutes later I am at Pen y Pass and full of the usual apprehension which accompanies a solo ascent of Crib Goch in the dark. It’s not as though I haven’t been here before –this will be my 3rd pre-dawn raid on the mountain- it’s just that in darkness this familiar lump of rock intimidates me, making me feel very alone. Naturally, I don’t have to do it; I can go up onto the Glyderau instead, but the other thing about Crib Goch is that it is hypnotic, compulsive and anything less will seem like a cop-out. This morning, it’s all or nothing.

Trudging up the Pyg Track, I soon find my rhythm and fall into a trance. This is such a surreal experience, I’m not fully awake yet, my thoughts are woolly and my world is condensed into a small bubble of light. From time to time I glance back at the eastern horizon through the glacial breaching point we know as Pen y Pass. There’s a gap for the sun to rise into which is good news but I won’t know for sure until I get to Bwlch Moch as the dawn will start in the South Eastern sky today.

At the bwlch I take stock. It’s not looking too good now as a bank of cloud will blot out first light but I’m here now so it’s onwards and upwards. Crib Goch towers above me, a monstrous black pyramid and although I could continue on the ‘Pyg’ for Snowdon, it doesn’t even cross my mind. I am a slave and Crib Goch is my master.

On the easy first section of the climb I find myself in a peculiar state of mind; the rational part of me is wondering why the hell I am doing this. The devil on my shoulder thinks otherwise, telling me that I’m a wimp for feeling unnerved and vulnerable in this unforgiving environment. It’s the same old conflict that arises when I climb mountains, on my own and in the dark. I’m not the most adventurous person in the world you see, and doing this goes completely against my instincts, which are firmly rooted in the desire for self-preservation. The thing is though, my desire to experience and capture the birth of a brand new day on a 3000ft mountain obliterates any reason I can come up with not to, so here we are again.

At the rock band where the real scrambling begins I’m in a slight pickle. Although I have climbed this crag tens of times I can’t find the usual place where I begin, it all looks different in the dark. I decide to stop faffing and climb the most appealing line available which brings me onto familiar ground again. I swarm up the juggy slab and then the polished corner before picking my way up shattered rock onto the East Ridge proper. This is where the exposure is felt for the first time but I’m not unnerved now. No, I’m intoxicated by the exhilaration of being in such a spectacular place. I stop for a couple of minutes just to take it all in. Above me rises a slender ridge of red rock, while on 3 sides the ground falls steeply away to depths which are no longer hidden as civil twilight filters its subtle blue light on lakes, valleys and the myriad peaks which range to every horizon.

I turn off my head torch and revel in my position, climbing high above the still-sleeping world below. I take it slowly, enjoying every move while a feeling of beautiful freedom fills me with exaltation until there is no more up. I’m at the eastern summit of the mountain and ‘that’ view floors me. It matters not how many times I experience this moment, it’s always the same; it is an awesome sight. My route for the day is spread out before me; Crib Goch’s knife edged ridge leads my eye via Crib y Ddysgl to Garnedd Ugain and then to Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), the highest ground in south of the border and finally to Y Lliwedd where later today I will be rejuvenated as I scramble onto her twin peaks. I set up my gear, put on my down jacket and take a self-portrait, just for the record.

And now the waiting game begins. It’s still not looking good for first light but that hardly seems to matter now. The air is still, it’s cold and I shiver a little as I survey the incredible 360 degree panorama. Down the valley and six miles distant I can just make out my home village as mist forms over the lake. These mountains are in my heart and soul and living in them is a privilege. I look at every peak and relive adventures of days gone by, rejoicing in the solitude but thinking of friends with whom it would be wonderful to share this moment.

Well, I don’t think I’m going to get any decent shots. There’s too much cloud over there so I’ll pack my gear away and get ready to embark on the remainder of the horseshoe, long day ahead. But wait, something’s happening. The rock is starting to glow and it’s getting more vibrant by the second. This is it. I’m going to get the classic shot of the horseshoe but I’m also going to turn around and get the Glyderau and Dyffryn Mymbyr, I don’t usually do that but the light’s amazing. THIS IS IT!

Daybreak - The Snowdon Horseshoe

Ten minutes ago I was a very happy man, but now I am ecstatic because I can share with you the dazzling beauty of fleeting, unique and never to be repeated moments in my life on the mountains. That is what my photography is all about. I want you to see what I see, to feel what I feel. Of course a photograph can never do that, not really, but what it can do is evoke an emotion, and I hope that the emotion is in tandem with mine.

Follow your bliss dear reader, I’m about to follow mine on this blessed day. We only live once…

A glorious dawn - Y Glyderau, Dyffryn Mymbyr and Moel Siabod from Crib Goch


~ by nicklivesey on November 26, 2014.

One Response to “Dawn on Crib Goch”

  1. Stunning photos and excellent evocative writing. Wonderful crib goch! Thanks

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