It was Sue's birthday. She gathered us in a big house in Llanberis in North Wales and gave us our orders. We were to climb Mount Snowdon. It was to be her final peak to climb in her list of modestly sized UK mountains to climb before thirty. My fingers crossed for the weather, I picked up my ever-so-light X100, put on my mighty-fine Brasher boots (thanks again mum!) and made sure that at least one of us was stocked up with Kendal Mint Cake.
The only problem, I was labouring under a titanic hangover combined with a horribly early morning. Last night's twin celebration of Sue's birthday and the birth of my best friend's first baby left me completely shattered. Or as the Welsh would say, 'Wedi blino!'
We gathered in the car park four or so miles from the summit. The plan was to take the Pyg Track up to the mountaintop, but we would have to move fast as the winter hours were short. It was chilly, but I was getting a good feeling about the weather. Despite this, I had no idea that I was going to luck out with some of the best light and most dramatic vistas that I'd yet seen. This was also to prove, once and for all, that the X100 makes damn fine landscape camera to take with you on a hike. Weight? What weight?
One remarkable property of the X100 is in the amazing amount of highlight recovery in the raw 'raf' files it produces. This scene had sun bursting over the peaks, shining bright on the lake below. Yet I was able to pull the highlights back and push the shadows up without any noise problems or clipping. The tonal range is astonishing.
This is Woody. We totally thought that this massive hike would tire the rather rambunctious Woody out by the end of the day.
And then slowly the sun began to dip as we edged towards that magical golden hour.
To add to the drama a Mountain Rescue helicopter made a timely arrival on a training exercise. A flare was lit in the corrie below and the chopper descended to circle the shimmering tarn, before climbing up and disappearing over the ridge.
After a trecherous last stretch of steep climbing over compacted snow, we gained the ridge. It was covered in cloud. Very atmospheric, but still I prayed it would lift so I could see the surrounding hills and lakes of Snowdonia.
It did. Phew.
Then it was just a simple matter of following the mountain railway along the ridge to the summit. Like the cloud, my hangover began to lift.
The views from the top were stunning. Every few minutes the clouds descended and lifted to bestow varying shades of gorgeous Turner-esque light. But reluctantly, after a half hour of oohing and aahing and posing for photos on the big summit cairn, we decided it was time to head home before the sun set. I've never been great at descending steep terrain and I popped the camera away until I approached the valley floor.
Safely on the valley floor, we checked out the tarn - a remnant lake of a glacier which originated back in the Ice Age on Mount Snowdon. Brrr, was the word. Then some old ruined mine-workings and home. Thanks for reading.