12 Hours in North Wales

Major FOMO

I suffer from major FOMO (fear of missing out). No matter where I am, I seem to feel like I’m missing something when I see people adventuring in an insanely beautiful place. When that place happens to be one of my favourite ones, and experiencing conditions I’ve been dreaming of seeing for years, then the fact that I am not there becomes unbearable.

A few weekends ago, while scrolling through Instagram I stumbled across a friend’s story showing The Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye, in knee deep snow, my heart ached with disappointment, and to be honest jealousy. I was set to drop everything and drive up to join him in the snow. But then logic kicked in, it was Saturday afternoon, I had no camping gear with me and the roads were treacherous. To appease myself I decided I would head up late the next day, tackle the seven-hour drive and arrive for sunrise to spend the whole day hiking and shooting before heading back to The Lake District in the evening. A quick check of the weather ruined my plans yet again, rain was forecast for the day I planned to hike and seemed to be continuing for the week ahead – classic Scotland.

Determined not to be put off an adventure I started thinking about the other places I’ve been desperate to visit in the UK and my thoughts landed on North Wales, Snowdonia, to be precise. I’ve only visited this part of Wales once, it rained for 5 days of car camping and was an unprecedented disaster. Time to reclaim it. I pinpointed a few spots on a map of North Wales, checked the weather and packed my camera bag.

Monday morning, 4am. Despite an earlyish night previously the shrill sound of my alarm going off in my ear was not welcome. I dragged myself up, pulled on my hiking trousers, boots and some thermals and headed down to make coffee, followed reluctantly by Pig. Half an hour later, after countless trips to the car (I can never seem to travel light) I was on my way, coffee in the cup holder, snacks by my side and Pig snoring once again in the passenger seat.

Fast forward 3-ish hours and I was pulling into the parking lot of my first stop, Llyn Ogwen. My fantasy of a perfect sunrise and a still lake had been put aside as I drove through wind and rain but naturally the lack of total reflection and beautiful light was slightly disappointing, although if you know my work you’ll know I love moody landscapes!

This stop was shorter than anticipated due to the lack of ideal conditions, but this was actually no bad thing as I hadn’t truly appreciated the length of my next hike with such appalling conditions. I set off on the hour-long drive toward the mountains ready for my longest hike, a quick glance to my left and I spotted a sign saying ‘waterfall’ I checked my mirrors and did a very fast U-turn and pulled into a layby.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I cannot say no to a waterfall pitstop! I paid my £1.50 entrance fee and was met by one of the most unusual waterfalls I’ve ever seen, the spray was heavy and the light was flat but I grabbed a few shots and gave Pig breakfast while we were out of the car.

Before long I was back on the road, headed toward the Carneddau mountain range. Despite a lot of online research and google mapping I couldn’t really find a route out to the bothy I was trying to reach. Consequently, I got out of the car and decided to follow a track and start walking. All well and fine on nice dirt and stone tracks, however cut to half an hour later and I had left the path behind, I was hiking on nothing but boggy marshland surrounded by angry sheep who kept stamping their feet and following me.

I’ve been meaning to find this bothy for some time now and was not to be put off. After nearly two hours and multiple bothy looking rocks tricking me into thinking I had reached, I finally saw a chimney rising out of the grass, I have never been so pleased to see a building in my life, I was miraculously dry, but cold and my spirits were low. Upon entering the bothy I immediately wished I had planned on bringing fuel for the fire and staying the night, something for next time I suppose!

Worrying about daylight hours and the nasty dark clouds coming in I left the bothy rather sooner than I would have liked, sadly another 2 hours over bog, with the rain falling and even my waterproof leather hiking boots gave up the ghost and I could feel the dampness creeping along my toes. To say I was pleased to be back at the car would be an understatement!

Checking Google maps I realized I had over an hour journey out to the coast and then at least a half hour walk along the beach to reach my final location, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it but knew I had to at least try, it’s been on my list for a while now.

I pulled up to the most stunning beachside car park I have ever seen, it felt like stepping out in the Pacific North West, sand dunes met pine trees accessed by a boardwalk straight on to a wide expanse of sand looking out onto the mountains. I spotted a rocky outcrop at the end of the beach and checking my watch realized I had an hour till darkness, I started walking, the wind whipping my face and Pig trotting through the spray. Despite this being a fleeting stop it was without a doubt the best part of the day. I spent the most part of an hour walking over the grassy dunes and feeling the salty air on my face. I strolled back along the beach, taking off my boots and feeling the sand and sea on my bare feet. There is no better feeling than that after a long days hiking.

Before I knew it, I was back in the car headed North up to The Lake District. Wales I’ll be back, next time for more than 12 hours I hope.