At some point this summer, when I’ve been watching a sunset from a high vantage point, it occurred to me that in all the years we’ve been climbing Carn Fadryn and enjoying the Llyn Peninsula’s fabulous sunsets, we’ve never thought to combine the two. So I arrived in North Wales with an ambition. When I suggested it to Andy, his response made me think that he had perhaps been thinking exactly the same thing. Most of the rest of our party were keen too.
We chose an evening for our climb, but on the day, the weather didn’t seem too promising. For much of the day, Carn Fadryn had been completely obscured by cloud. Then the cloud began to lift, but a persistent cap of cloud hid the top part of the hill. Briefly Carn Fadryn cleared completely, giving us a degree of hope, but by the time we set-off the cloud had once more enveloped almost all of the hill and we climbed in dense, wet mist…
I suppose we might have abandoned our idea, but it’s a short climb and this walk, up Little S’s ‘Birthday Hill’, is a fixture of our holidays. He wouldn’t forgive us if we didn’t climb it at some point, although this was still a few days before his actual birthday.
As we approached the summit however, something in the light seemed to promise more than we could have anticipated…
Maybe the cloud would clear…
But it was a bit more complicated than that. I’m not sure whether I’ve ever wondered before about how, on a windy day, a hill can retain a permanent cap of cloud. In fact, that isn’t what was happening at all. The wind was driving moist air from over the sea and as that air hit the slopes of Carn Fadryn it was forced to rise – called, apparently, orographic lift – and cooled down in the process, causing moisture to condensate out and hence forming clouds. Those clouds were almost immediately dispersed by the wind, but were soon replaced by new clouds formed by the wind following on behind.
The effect, from our point of view, was of sudden clearing and disappearing views. The next three photos, taken in quick succession, give some idea of what we could see.
I’ve enthused many times before about the wonderful views from Carn Fadryn; on this occasion we only had brief and partial views, but it was completely exhilarating.
Whilst it wasn’t raining, it might as well have been: the air was so damp that we soon realised that we were soaked.
We couldn’t see the sun, a high blanket of cloud was hiding it, but we could see a line of light reflected in the sea, a sort of secondhand sunset.
It was cold. The kids had sort-out shelter on the leeward side of the summit rocks and were agitating for a beginning to our descent. Inappropriately clothed in just t-shirt and shorts, I could see their point of view and eventually, reluctantly, joined them on the path back towards the cars. Only the Adopted Yorkshire Man and the Shandy Sherpa stayed on the summit, but as I walked away I heard more whoops of excitement from behind me.
The sun had dropped below the high cloud and was suffusing the fog with colour.
TBF and I turned back for the top, so that we could watch the show…
It was all too brief, the sun soon dropping behind another band of cloud…
But I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it before.
It wasn’t the warm, peaceful sunset viewing I had envisaged, but probably all the more memorable for that.
Post sunset sky from the camp-site later.