Llyn Cau, Cadair Idris
Apologies for the hiatus -been lacking in inspiration of late, but determined to get back in my flow. A belated Happy New Year to all my followers, I hope the Christmas period was kind to you. I thought I’d start the renaissance with a nice bright image from the gallery to warm you up a bit (hopefully), since the UK at the moment is feeling distinctly grey and damp (make that saturated!!). So we return to a favourite location of mine: Cadair Idris in southern Snowdonia. In particular this is the lake that fills Cwm Cau, a corrie which I’ve blogged about before in: Misty Cwm Cau, and Cwm Cau.
Another from the bank of images taken whilst completing hours of dissertation fieldwork, this is an early morning snap on one of the longest days I’ve ever spent in the field. There was so much to do that I spent the night on the mountain, with the consequence being rising mega early, and seeing the sun come over the encircling arms of the corrie. Anyway, a spot of breakfast later and the lake and the corrie walls were drenched in sunshine (I’d come to regret that later -it was baking hot that day!). With a bit of ascent, I was in position to take this picture, which is actually a composite of about four portrait images -it was the only way to get the detail I wanted. (So lucky that the lake was dead calm.)
They say that spending a night on Cadair will either send you mad or make you a poet -I’ll leave you to make that judgement, although it may refer to the summit, which I have yet to do, so I could be safe… What I wanted to talk about was wild camping. I’ve only done it a few times, because I haven’t yet got to grips with travelling light when going camping and always end up shattered. Wild camping is a great way to extend your time in the mountains, and often allows you to have the hills to yourself, but requires a great deal of thought and planning. You see you can’t just do it anywhere. First of all there’s picking a good site: flat, relatively stone-free, with a reasonable water supply nearby and providing a decent amount of shelter (I have been on top of other mountains in the middle of a storm and let’s just say you don’t get a lot of sleep). By the way, all water should really be treated somehow to make it safe to drink -in the Welsh mountains there’s always a risk of contamination from the sheep, and there are many other things that could make you sick. I know some would say “I’ve been drinking from streams all my life…” but I’ve done a bit of work on water quality and don’t fancy it myself. Personally, I tend to boil my water for at around 5-7 minutes, which some would combine with passing it through a filter, or alternatively you could use sterilising tablets if you don’t have a way to heat your water (adds flavour!). Whatever you do to purify it, you should pick water that is flowing, preferably turbulently (more oxygen), as close to the source as you can manage, and check upstream for dead things.
Then you need to consider the legalities -strictly speaking you’re supposed to ask the landowners permission to camp out in England and Wales, but by and large no one worries if you pitch up late and leave before anyone knows you’ve been there, especially in the more remote and inaccessible places. I guess you need to try though, and if there’s one farm local to where you’d like to camp, it’s probably worth asking. Or if you’re really planning a long way in advice, Rights of Way Officers (at the Local Authority) often know who owns what around a footpath. Obviously it’s important to leave no trace, so no fires, no rubbish (that is unless you’ve got permission and made arrangements) and generally no damage to the environment -even relating to ‘bathroom waste’ (yes you need a plan for that too, especially to protect water supplies -your own and anyone else’s). You should note Scotland has a different system again and there’s a code of conduct to follow, which is essentially the same, but with less emphasis on getting permission. I have to say I didn’t get permission to camp here, and found out later that the reserve’s management (the Countryside Council for Wales at the time, now Natural Resources Wales) prefers people not to camp here, because there’s a chance that it could get out of hand, and this is ultimately a fragile mountain environment. I didn’t leave any trace, and there wasn’t any obvious sign that I had been here so there was no problem, but I guess it’s incumbent on me to say “do as I say, not as I do”.
The other thing (which as I say, I haven’t perfected), is to travel light. Taking a tent is a lot of weight, then there’s all the cooking stuff, sleeping bag, spare clothes and usual walking gear, so it’s good to trim weight where you can -I’ve heard of people cutting toothbrushes in half to shed a few grams. Really think about what you need on the mountain -do you need a full set of spare clothes (who’s going to be getting close enough to smell you)? Choose things that can be used a number of ways, and keep it simple. For example, a mug is often all you need in the way of crockery, especially if you’re using dehydrated food. Obviously it helps if here are a few of you, you can share the load, but then it’s harder to reduce your impact.
Anyway, this is ultimately meant to be a photography blog -I hope this diversion has been of interest and not to long-winded. Wild camping definitely provides some quality opportunities for early morning or evening photography when the shadows and contrast are at their greatest (Ogwen Valley is from another wild camping trip, and I do have more), so if you’re able, it’s worth a try, bearing in mind it’s not practical to carry a lot of additional gear.
The dimensions of this one are a little different as a composite, but it works well on an A4 (that’s the size of the print on my wall at home) or A3 -you might just have to trim it a bit.
All images © Stephen Tyrrell, Mountains, Wild Places and Water, 2014. All rights reserved.