First snow sunrise on Pen-y-Fan in 2019
I had been keeping my eye on the weather all week. The first snowfall of the season in the Brecon Beacons was due overnight on the 16th January. The weather gods had given a small weather window on the morning of the 17th January. Meaning the possibility for a sunrise looking out towards the first snowfall on the hills. Pen Y Fan has a number of faces, all of which have angles that are best suited at different times of the year. Winter sun is always lower in the sky and I didn’t want to photograph directly into the sun. Therefore, I chose a ridgewalk that I knew would give me the best of both worlds.
A route from Cwm Gwdi would give me the best chance of sun lighting the Northern slopes on Pen Y Fan. It’s not rocket science, but it helps living in the Beacons and understanding the routes that give the best angles in the morning sun.
The walk up from Cwm Gwdi is a long slog. Starting at around 250metres above sea level, it is a good 200metres lower than the ever popular Pont Yr Daf route. But if you know the way (there is a good path) and you have plenty of experience waking up a mountain in the dark, the rewards are worth it. Eventually, you will end up on the Cefn Cwm Llwch ridge. This leads onto one of the harder climbs and scrambles up Pen Y Fan.
As the light started improving, I reached the top of the ridge and I was delighted to be rewarded with a special view.
The morning light hadn’t quite reached the slopes, I just needed to persevere for another 15 minutes or so. Whilst I waited for the first light to hit the snowy slopes of Pen Y Fan, it was coffee and snack time. However, it wasn’t long before the winter sun started to seep onto the snow capped hills and illuminate the slopes.
Why this ridge?
The sun illuminated the slopes of Pen Y Fan. My early morning efforts were rewarded with a glorious sunrise hitting the snow capped peaks of the central Brecon Beacons. From this ridge you have a wonderful view of the three major peaks of the central Beacons; Cribyn, Pen Y Fan and Corn du. Cribyn from this angle won’t receive the early morning sun. However, the ridge behind Cribyn does. So choose your starting point well. Corn du is mostly hidden by Pen Y Fan which forms the dominant view. In addition to the photographs, I produced a short video of the sun as it lights up the slopes of Pen Y Fan
The photograph has been featured heavily across most social media channels, with Visit Wales, Mammut, Brecon Beacons National Park being just a few who have featured the photograph.
The weather forecast is teasing us with more snow for Tuesday of this week. Snowfall from the 17th has mostly gone, apart from the very highest points of the peaks. This is a good start to the winter season in the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Footnote: Neil is a professional freelance commercial and outdoor photographer. Neil regularly runs workshops and tours throughout the Brecon Beacons national Park.