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A camping trip to the hills of Snowdonia on the longest day of the year
The intense heat and constant sunshine of mid-June was the prequel as we gathered in Snowdonia for our first Summer Solstice Wild Camp. The idea was simple, to spend the night out in the hills, camping far from any facilities and carrying our own food. So many people were interested that we split up into three groups, and after lunch in the Moel Siabod Cafe, headed out to begin the adventure.
Ed and Steve’s groups were bound for the Moelwyns, the group of hills to the south of Snowdon. A rolling plateau with several easy peaks and dozens of lakes and streams to choose from, they found some excellent campsites and had a great time exploring. My group headed for a different area, starting with a walk round the edge of Llyn Dinas before taking the time to enjoy a cafe stop at Caffi Gwynant. The Summer Solstice is the moment that the northern hemisphere is angled closest to the sun, which happens around the 21st June each year. This day becomes known as the ‘longest day of the year’, and in the north it barely gets dark at all.
The heat of the past few days was still very much in the air as we made our way up the start of the Watkin Path, on the south side of Snowdon. It was humid and sticky, and it wasn’t long before we saw other people taking advantage of the heat to go for a swim in the pools. Not wanting to be left out, we stopped at the highest pool for a paddle, which quickly turned in to a full blown swim. Wild swimming and wild camping all in one day!
The clouds gathered in and the day got a bit cooler as we left the Watkin Path, admiring the old slate quarries of Cwm Llan as we walked up to Snowdon’s south ridge at Bwlch Cwm Llan. The lack of rain had left plenty of dry spots, so after a brief chat about what to look for when trying to find a wild camp, we pitched our tents near one of the small lakes that sits right on the top of the pass. To the west the sun was high in the sky and the distant mountains were mostly obscured in the haze. A gentle breeze blew and we began to think about all the essentials we’d need for the night.
One of the beauties about sleeping out at a wild camp is that it reminds you of all the things you take for granted. We had to make sure we had shelter, we could get drinking water, our kit was dry, there was a designated toilet, and we had a proper meal in the evening. After dinner we went for a walk, pottering around the old slate mines and looking out over the valley far below. Above us, the light shone on Snowdon and Yr Aran, and as the clouds began to arrive we retreated to the camp for hot chocolates before bed.
Luckily, the evening had been warm enough to sit out in and chat around the stove, but we woke to mist and some drizzle. Porridge eaten, we packed up an began the journey down, choosing a different route to the way up and crossing some remote hillside with the village of Beddgelert visible in the distance. The day soon warmed up and the clouds parted to dry us off, revealing another hot day. In the distance we heard the call of a steam train, and along the path-side, orchids grew next to Bog Asphodel and heather.
It is quite a big jump for a walker to take up wild camping. There are lots of questions about kit, worries about the weight of the bag, and confusion about where you can camp. These are all questions we try and answer on our wild camping nights, as well as with support beforehand. So if wild camping is something you’ve always wated to try, why not give it a go!
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