Fell running has given me plenty of wonderful moments;
the thrill of a race, the sights and sounds of the countryside, the raw beauty of remote and hostile places. But every once in a while something stands out, a moment above all others that inspires me and makes all the effort worthwhile.
There had been nothing special about the night so far. We had left Llanberis at 1.30 in the morning, two of us supporting our mate on his Paddy Buckley Round, and trudging up through the quarries I was already thinking it was bad idea. The promise of a pleasant night had faded as the earlier stars had disappeared behind thick cloud, and a cold wind was making it difficult to stay warm. On the slopes of Elidir Fach we entered cloud, reducing the visibility and making navigation even more difficult; it was going to be a long, tough night. I was tired, had a cold, should have been tucked up in bed not out in the Welsh mountains!
It was dark, properly dark, no moon behind the clouds, no faint outline of the mountains against the sky. My world consisted of the the map and compass in my hands, the pool of light cast by my headtorch and the two lights of my companions just behind me.
Dawn crept upon us almost imperceptibly. Descending Foel Goch the ink black sky began to lighten to the east but the worst wasn’t yet over as on the slow, silent trudge up Y Garn the cold wind increased. In the strange half light we turned our torches off and battled with the loose, scree ascent of the Glyders. The world was grey. There was no promise of colour, no inkling of what was to come, the monochrome, barren landscape of the Glyders mirroring the dull stratocumulus above.
Then it happened. The low clouds lifted for a moment and directly ahead, leading us onward the sun appeared in a blaze of gold.
I paused for a few brief seconds to savour the moment, to reap the reward for the cold and tiredness of the previous night. I drank in the sight; the harsh, eerie landscape around me, the contrast of grey and gold, the surreal shapes silhouetted against the rising sun. I knew that what I was experiencing was precious.
That moment of harsh beauty whilst the country slept was even more special because it was so fleeting. It was too cold to linger and we had more running to do, more mountains to climb.