Deep Freeze Wales Part II

Brecon Beacons Wales snow november 2010

Photo: Frozen Welsh landscape from summit of Pen Y Fan, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales. November 28, 2010

A few more photos from Pen Y Fan and the Brecon Beacons on Sunday.  The last few days have seen the temperature rise to around 0º C with several more snowfalls, but nothing like last week.  Still a very wintry landscape and since they don’t use snow tires (or should I say tyres) here in the UK, they tend to drive like Californians do when it rains; not very well.  Here in the countryside many of the roads don’t get cleared from snow, so it can be a bit difficult to get around.  Almost got stuck up in the mountains on Tuesday on the way back from checking out the waterfalls at Ystradfellte to see if they’ve begun to ice up at all.

Brecon Beacons Wales snow november 2010

Brecon Beacons plane crash november 2010

Photo: Small plane crash in Brecon Beacons near Pen Y Fan

On Friday this plane crashed up on the ridge near Pen Y Fan.  Looks bad but apparently the pilot was able to crawl out and walk away.  Pretty amazing.

Brecon Beacons plane crash november 2010

Deep Freeze Wales

Winter view from Pen Y Fan over a frozen Welsh Landscape, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: Dawn view from Pen Y Fan over a frozen Welsh landscape in record setting cold temperatures Sunday, November 28 2010

The Russians have been kind enough to send an express delivery of Siberian wind from the east to the UK.  The results sent temperatures plummeting and brought the earliest widespread winter storms since 1993.  Saturday night saw Wales with the coldest temperature in the UK at -17 degrees Celsius, somewhere towards the left horizon of the above photo, about 20 miles north from Pen Y Fan. However I didn’t know any of this when I thought I would head to the hills for sunrise on Sunday.  All I knew was that clear weather was forecast and hoped for a good sunrise.

So instead of taking shelter in a warm house, I set the alarm for 4:45 am; intent on heading up Pen Y Fan for sunrise.  Waking in the darkness of early Sunday morning I checked the outdoor thermometer, -11.5.  Hmm, better take another jacket today.  I hit the trail a little after 6 am, the dawn glow barely visible above the mountains in the east.  It was eerily silent as I walked through the dark and frozen world, the crunching of snow beneath my feet the only sound.  The wind arrived once I hit the ridge and was exposed to the east.  Brutally cold, and a shock for November in what should normally be the mild weathered UK.  A low bank of clouds in the southeast blocked most the color of the sunrise unfortunately, but the views were still amazing and the air amazingly clear.

Winter view from summit of Pen Y Fan towards Black Mountains in west, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Photo: View from Pen Y Fan across Brecon Beacons national park towards the Black Mountains in the west

Brecon beacons november UK snow

Photo: Hiker on summit of Corn Du overlooking a frozen landscape

Callanish Standing Stones – Isle of Lewis

Callanish standing stones

Photo: Callanish standing stones, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

The standing stones at Callanish are one of the more important sites in Scotland.  These image are from the main stone circle, but there are also several other smaller circles within view from this location.  And although I’ve done my best to make the location look isolated, in reality there is a village and houses just a 100 meters away.  Kind of takes away a bit of the mystery of a place like this.  For me it is some ancient place out of the long forgotten past.  In my mind it would be better located off in some distant boggy moorland with nothing else around.  For the locals of the village, it’s just a place they walk their dogs through.  The other stones at Callanish are just in the middle of sheep and cow pasture.

Anyhow, even though the stones have been photographed a million + times, they where still one of the locations I wanted to visit on my island trip.  I first stopped by in mid afternoon and got lucky with some blue sky and sun.  next I returned just prior to sunset and again was lucky and had about 10 minutes of sun before it disappeared behind the clouds.  I waited a bit into the night and was again lucky with the rising full moon.  I got a bit bored, and cold, waiting around for the sky to darken so I pulled out my flash and decided to play around a bit.  I must have looked like a complete mad man, running around the stones in the dark, popping off my flash at apparently random times, then running back to my camera.  Luckily I was the only one around by this point.

Callanish standing stones, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Evening sky over Callanish standing stones, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Callanish standing stones

Silhouette of Callanish standing stones, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Western Isles

callanish stones, isle of lewis, scotland

Photo: Autumn moonrise, Callanish standing stones, Isle of Lewis, Scotland

I’ve just returned from a week out on the islands of the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland.  I took the ferry from Uig on the Isle of Skye out to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris.  Then I traveled north to the Isle of Lewis, which is still part of the same island as Harris, for a couple nights.  After that I took the ferry down to Berneray and traveled the islands of North and South Uist and Benebecula.  Unfortunately, the first two days where the only ones of good weather, the rest of the trip consisted of heavy rain and strong winds. Still managed a few photos here and there…

My last visit to the islands was in 2003, and then I was only on Lewis and without a car, so most of the trip was new territory for me.  As a whole the islands are amazingly scenic, with everything from vast empty white sand beaches to rugged mountains and the worst bog that I’ve ever seen in my life.  I look forward to returning again in the not too distant future.

Traigh Rosamol Beach, Isle of Harris, Scotland

Photo: Dawn light on Traigh Rosamol Beach, Isle of Harris, Scotland

Nidaros Cathedral

Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, Norway

Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim, Norway.

I had 1.5 days to wander around Trondheim at the end of my Norway trip back in August.  Luckily I had some nice sunny weather as I wandered around the streets.

Nidaros Cathedral river reflection, Trondheim, Norway

Hay Bluff – Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Hay Bluff, Brecon Beacons national park, Wales

Hay Bluff is a small (677 meter) peak on the northeast edge of the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons national park.

The English/Welsh border runs roughly through the left side of the peak in the above photo, as well as Offa’s Dyke national footpath which follows the border for the most part.

The bluff is only a few kilometers south of town here, so it’s probably my most visited area of the Brecon Beacons national park and Wales in general.  It’s a good place to go for some hillwalking in the late afternoon and provides some scenic views of the surrounding countryside.

Wild Welsh mountain pony, Hay Bluff, Black mountains

Hay Bluff panoramic stock photo, Black mountains, Wales

Above and Below: Hay Bluff as seen from near the summit of Twmpa.  The peak rises into a broad plateau which then turns into a ridge that forms the eastern border of: the Black mountains, Brecon Beacons national park, Vale of Ewyas, and Wales itself.  The small single lane road skirts the side of the peak and over Gospel Pass (center right of both photos) and down into the Vale of Ewyas.

Hay Bluff landscape photo, Brecon Beacons, Wales

Raftsundet – Lofoten and Vesterålen

Raftsundet panoramic photo, Lofoten islands, Norway

Raftsundet – The mountains of Hinnøya on the left, Austvågøya and Lofoten on the right.  In simple terms, the Raftsund straight is the geographic border between the Lofoten Islands district and the Vesterålen district, though the southern section of Hinnøya belongs to Lofoten and the northern part of Austvågøya to Vesterålen.  Photo from September 2009 while traveling aboard the Hurtigruten to Stamsund.

Neist Point Lighthouse – Isle of Skye

Neist Point Lighthouse panoramic landscape photo, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Neist Point Lighthouse, Isle of Skye, Scotland.

What can’t be seen in these photos is the 60-70 mph winds that were screaming over the the island.  Near where I was standing for the first photo was a small waterfall, flowing completely in reverse.  No water was making it down the cliff, it was all being blown backwards towards were it came, and soaking me as I had to pass by.

If there was bus service to Neist Point, it would probably be the most popular tourist location on Skye, but since it is a fairly long drive from Portree, it’s only the 2nd most popular location.  On a nice sunny (and calm) day it is a pleasant place to hike around and enjoy the scenery – some of the most dramatic cliffs on Skye are here. There is a paved walkway most of the way to the lighthouse, but if it has been raining a lot, bring waterproof boots if you want to go further as there is some fairly evil bog that needs to be crossed.  The mountains of South Uist are visible in the distance.

Neist point lighthose and sea, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Loch Ba – Rannoch Moor

Scottish landscape photography - Loch Ba, Rannoch Moor

Loch Ba and Rannoch Moor on a cold December afternoon.  I was given a few moments to photograph the still water, then drop, drop, drop and the return of the rain.

Panoramic scottish landscape image - Loch Ba, Rannoch Moor

Ring of Brodgar – Orkney

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney, Scotland, stock image

Winter dawn at Ring of Brodgar, Orkney, Scotland.

In December, the sun has little strength to rise very far above the horizon this far in the north.  The winter days are short and the nights long, only to be reversed in a few months during the endless days of summer.  Such a contrast of light at dark that I never knew growing up at a more mild latitude.  No wonder that the sun played such an important role in the lives of the ancient peoples of this barren land.

It is always a strange feeling for me to walk amongst something so old.  To think that these stones have seen some 5,000 winters, and will probably see another 5,000 more;  it helps to put things in perspective about the importance of our ‘achievements.’