Llyn Padarn

The journey to Snowdon

I’ve been visiting North Wales all my life. As a family we would take our caravan to Anglesey as often as possible. Unfortunately I have no real memories of these trips outside the smell of coffee and the sound of my parents talking as I’d fall asleep. I don’t remember the beaches, the views, the Kodak (Instagram for you kids) moments, the castles or the mines. There’s the photos but not the memories.

Me at Penrhyn Castle, 1986.

One thing I do remember is my parents telling me they climbed Mount Snowdon and one day we would get the train to the top and sit in the cafe. I have a vauge memory of us trying but the train had closed by the time we got there. As I got older and my parents’ health deteriorated we stopped going on our camping trips. As a family we never made it up to the top but I always remember my parents story of climbing Snowdon when they were 30. One day, maybe, I’d climb it. I’m 40 now. I felt like I had missed my chance.

My dad in his 30s possibly at the top of Snowdon

It’s 2015 and my wife and I are in Iceland. We spend a great day driving along the world’s least most dangerous road. There’s a list of 500 of the most dangerous roads in the world and this was number 500. It was great fun. Amazing views of mountains, glaciers and so quiet you could hear the ice cracking. We stayed out late so our trip back to Rekyavik would be in the dark just in case we got a chance to see the Northern Lights. We did and it was magical (or strictly speaking cosmical because science isn’t magic).

Aurora over Iceland

But for some reason driving in pitch black conditions not knowing where the edge of a cliff might be was harrowing. I was trying not to throw up while taking photos of the aurora. I couldn’t explain it. It was like someone showing you a spider for the first time and instantly being afraid. How can you be so afraid of something you only just discovered? Maybe I’ve become too acustom to city lights? Whatever the reasoning it limited the photographs and the places I could go. How would I ever be able to do more astrophotography? (Turns out it was dead easy to do from an Airbnb balcony in Croatia while sipping a whisky, but don’t tell 2015 me that.)

Last year my wife’s knitting group rented a holiday place in Wales. We did a long walk in torrential rain. I had the wrong camera. The wrong hoodie. The wrong frame of mind. Once I was completely soaked I no longer worried about getting wet and I had also become detached from the group so I didn’t have to worry about small talk. I loved it. I was having my own personal Levison Wood adventure.

I wanted to do more. Just not at night. Scary scary night. So this summer the same group suggested we climb Snowdon. Boom! Yes! I finally get to do what my parents did. “Lets do a equinox night climb.” Wait, what? I’d never climbed a mountain let alone one at night.

I wanted to do this though. I wanted to be the sort of person who does something most people would say “Why?” I’d rather live than regret. I love that I’m now the sort of person that I used to look at and think they were mad. If its raining out I’ll go do a 10km run. I won’t see anyone else and a good view doesn’t have to be a sunny blue sky. Sure I could stay in and play a video game but that’s not really living for me now. Steve Jobs always believed that technology alone was not enough. His world was better when technology and art combined. I used to be a programmer but now I’m a photographer. I’ve always pushed myself to find things to photograph because the camera technology is not enough. I have to take that camera somewhere interesting and by proxy I get to see interesting things. I’m a better person for being out in the world with my camera.

So anyway, I agreed to do this bonkers activity. Climb Mount Snowdon at 1am.

Part 2 will look at the journey up the mountain. Stay tuned.

Journal