A roiling sunrise in the Ogwen Valley. The mountain of Tryfan sits in the foreground. It’s moments like this that make wild camping in Snowdonia the magical experience that it is.
As I write this the sun is very sharp and low in the sky. The air is very clear. The whole atmosphere of the outdoors is crisp and calm. That’s because it’s that exciting shoulder period between the end of autumn and the start of winter. At its worst it can be a pretty dreary time of year - wet, windy, dark and cold enough for the rain to chill you but not
quite cold enough to form snow, frost and ice and all the other beautiful phenomena of winter. And at its best it can be rich with golds and reds and light dustings of snow above the deep greens and browns of the valleys. It can make for some pretty anxious checking of the mountain forecasts in the days leading up to a trip.
This year we’ve already seen some impressive November snowfall even as far south as the Welsh hills, which is promising for the season ahead (if any weather prediction is still possible in our rapidly destabilizing climate). But this blog’s going to look the other way, back to the early and mid-autumn to celebrate the joy of wild camping in Snowdonia and the rest of North Wales.
My intent is two-fold. Firstly, to share my experience of how beautiful a place it can be at dawn and dusk. And secondly, to prove how much you can do in a very limited timeframe. Like every lowland mountain lover with domestic responsibilities, my trips to the hills are precious and typically too short. That’s why when I make the three-and-a-half hour journey to Capel Curig or Llanberis or Dolgellau I try to bivvy or camp out for every night I’m there. I sleep indoors every other night of the year, after all. And if you’ve bought yourself a tent and roll mat and sleeping bag it’d seem wasteful not to use them in everything except storm-force winds (and even then…).
The pictures that follow were taken from a Wednesday afternoon to a Friday morning and were shot around Blaenau Ffestiniog and the Ogwen Valley. Enjoy!
Making camp by the waters of the Llyn Stwlan reservoir, whose level silently rises and falls overnight (so no camping on the damp ‘shoreline’...)
A comfy home for the night, and the summit of Moelwyn Bach lit by the setting sun.
The internet needs more selfies, right?
Key wild camping tip: the sudden production of tasty booze is guaranteed to thrill your walking partner, as Maciej aptly demonstrates.
Dawn on the water, as seen from the warmth and comfort of a sleeping bag.
Scenic dry stone ruins litter the hills of North Wales (this isn’t technically part of Snowdonia), mainly thanks to the region’s mining and quarrying history.
… and just as the moss and stone mingle together in the previous image, the ideal wild camp sees your tent blend into the swirling terrain around it too.
Water gathered, it’s time for a hot drink and breakfast in the growing warmth of a high-pressure morning.
The world on our backs once more. Maciej slings on his overnight pack and heads up for a circuit of the Moelwyns, before most people have set foot on the hills.
The early morning summit of Moelwyn Bach. Nothing could be finer.
Looking east from a rocky outcrop on Craigysgafn.
The following morning, and further north in the Snowdonia National Park. Dawn breaks over the end of the Ogwen valley and three of us are there to greet it. In shot are Llyn Ogwen, Llyn Idwal, Tryfan and the southern edge of the Carneddau.
A panoramic view of Y Garn and the small, scenic waters of Llyn Clyd.
Low and close to the waters of Llyn Clyd. Nothing matches the peace of the mountains in the early morning of a fair, still day.
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Dan Aspel is a journalist and Mountain Leader. You can find him at
www.lifesystems.co.uk to find a host of kit and equipment for your next wild camp adventure.