Tom Kahler - Sleepless Night In Snowdonia

Hello! Who are you and where are your hiking roots?

My Name is Tom Kahler I’m a 24 year old outdoor and adventure photography from the UK. Over the last few years I’ve collected a ton of good memories from all over the world either on commercial shoots or personal adventures. Hiking has been a big part of my life as it’s often the gateway to good photos.

Growing up in Sheffield next to the Peak District some of my earliest memories were scrambling over the famous rocks at Stanage Edge well known for some of the UK’s best climbing.

My roots for the outdoors were definitely set in by my parents taking me out for many summers evening spent watching the sun go down. My love for the outdoors soon turned into a passion for mountain biking, for me mountain bikes at the age of 13 gave me ultimate freedom to access the beautiful surrounding area of Sheffield which later on took me overseas to Canada.

I loved riding my bike however I soon realized it wasn’t going to pay the bills as a merely average rider I picked up a camera at age 15 and fell in love with documenting my adventures both on and off the bike. It didn’t take long before I realized that photography going to take over my life.

Spending time in the outdoors has always been where I feel most alive yet most relaxed and photography was only going to enhance my love for the outdoors to the next level, during the age of 18-19 I shifted my passion for cycling more towards hiking purley to access better hiking locations searching for that perfect photo.

I found my feet on instagram and this opened up access to a lot of like minded photographers and lovers for the outdoors with my photography gaining traction both in the commercial world and the social world of instagram a lot more doors have been opened to traveling worldwide on commercial campaigns or collaborations allowing the last 3 years of my life to be some of the best with countless memories in the mountains in the tent or in my van constantly searching for a unique angle patch of light or story.

What’s your Story From The Mountain?

Over the years I have spent many days hiking or camping in the mountains however the memories that jump out at me the most are perhaps the ones that didn’t go to plan...

If I had to pick one story from the hundreds It would be my first experience of winter camping very inexperienced and very underprepared and dangerous in hindsight however good memories and some photos remin to tell the story, it taught my friend Elliot and I a lesson for sure.

After a summer of hiking and camping around the UK on various micro adventures my friend Elliot  and I decided some winter overnight trips in the mountains in Snowdonia would make some cool photos. 

We left Sheffield and drove 3 hours to Snowdonia arriving at 6pm in full darkness ready cold night in the mountains at this point we didn’t realize just how cold.

After a quick veggie curry in the campervan, we left the comfort of Elliot’s T25 and set off from Ogwen Valley towards Glyder Fawr. It was a brisk evening with a few inches of snow and a light breeze on the first part of the accent towards Devils Kitchen. We were in good spirits and looking forward to the accent and photos on the summit.

After 3 hours of hard work walking through knee deep snow with all our camping gear and photography gear it became apparent that we didn’t quite know what we were getting ourselves into.

Elliots boots were far from B rates winter boots and his borrowed crampons kept falling off, a very wet foot and lack of energy we slowly began to reach what felt like a summit. Visibility was low with some cloud temperatures were below 0 with a 20mph wind. It's fair to say we were feeling pretty lost out of our depths and cold.

With the lack of visibility and no GPS, we resulted to taking some long exposures to try and navigate our way up the next section. It seemed forever away.

We began walking which was very slow and energy levels were pretty low at this point with lack of snacks and frozen water. From memory, we decided to camp on what felt like a good spot, but not at Glyder Fawr. At 1am, feeling exhausted, reaching the Glyder’s had gone fully out of the window. 

We set up Elliot’s budget Vango Tent which felt like a coffin not enough room to sit up and hardly enough room for us both to get it but anything would do at this point, rolled out our matts and sleeping bags and got our heads down.

Minutes after a heavy snowstorm hit with thunder and lighting that felt dangerously close to the tent and the snow kept on coming. We were both absolutely freezing with a thin mat and a fairly budget sleeping bag and temperatures below -5 we had little to no sleep.

When morning came and we opened the tent our axe was buried under all the fresh snow at this point it was probably 1.5foot deep in places. We caught some epic light with the drone from our not so ideal camp spot, cooked a packet of super noodles we ate in the tent with a penknife and packed up ready for the descent.

We became a little worried when the way down seemed very steep and decided to look for another route before soon coming to the conclusion that was the only way and that must have been the way we came up last night which was to even greater concern.

After a long decent back to the van our beans on toast was one of my most enjoyed meals of all time, I don’t think either of us had any idea what we were getting ourselves into that night just how long it would take to walk in the snow, the lack of footwear food and non adequate camping equipment.

Something could have easily gone dreadfully wrong however we were left with good memories, a few photos and a tale to tell, not to mention a whole load of knowledge of what we needed next time.

I would like to think if Eliot and I embarked on this small adventure again a few years later with our current knowledge and equipment it would have been a much more successful and enjoyable experience.

Through hiking/climbing, have you learned anything about yourself or nature you’d like to pass on to others?

Though both hiking and climbing I have realised you can push yourself further than you would ever expect, and the reward of reaching a summit or another achievement for me often an image is so worth it. It would be easy to talk yourself out of an early morning hike or camp but once you get the reward at the top you question which you ever considered not going in the first place. 

I think it's important to know the difference between pushing your physical limits and technical limits, its ok to tire yourself out as long as you can get back down however pushing way beyond your technical limits in bad conditions could definitely end badly it's always a good idea to learn these skills a little slower or on a trip with friends with more experience or a local guide.

What’s your favorite item in your pack?

There are a few times I never leave for a hike without, for me my camera Sony A7riii and a range of lenses 15mm IRIX 2.4 24mm F1.4GM 35mm F1.4 Sigma 50mm F1.2 Canon 85mm F1.4GM 100mm F2.8 Canon 24-70mm F2.8GM 100-400mm F4.5-5.6GM is always the first thing to be backed, choosing which glass to take is always a difficult decision. My favorite two lenses are 85mm F1.4 and 24mm F1.4 however for hiking 24-70 and 100-400 are always my first choice as they cover the most range for the size.

Keeping weight to a minimum whilst fear of needed a lens has given me many head scratching moments over the years, hiking with fellow photographers always helps if you share glass.

Secondary to the camera equipment, I always pack the essentials: 

  • Enough food - lots of snacks for a day hike and 2 outdoor meals for camp as it’s important to eat well whilst hiking. Having a hot meal before bed is essential for staying warm through the night. My personal favorites are Cliffbars and Veggie Chilli 
  • Water - enough water to drink and cook with. Head torch even for a day hike if you get caught out you need to be able to navigate back down.
  • Layers - having the right layers for rain or the cold is super important. I often think if something was to go wrong and you had to sit and wait for help for 3 hours are you going to be warm enough. This is where a spare down jacket and snacks come in handy.
  • GPS - Watch or hiking maps on your phone with a spare portable charger may come in very useful if you get lost, or a more old school option a paper map. 

Do you have any advice for other hikers who are just starting out?

For anyone starting out I think the main thing to focus on is having fun.

Whilst your out hiking or climbing and enjoying yourself it will naturally lead you to push limits and get out more often, it shouldn’t feel like a chore to enjoy hiking.

Introducing something such as a camera or a list of mountains you want to summit may help with additional motivation.

It would be easy to talk yourself out of an early morning hike or camp but once you get the reward at the top you question which you ever considered not going in the first place. 

Hiking equipment can be expensive but don’t be put off by the price of expensive brands. You can get by with budget clothing and boots just fine. Get yourself down to a local decathlon that would be a brilliant place to start.

What have been the most influential hiking books, podcasts, or people?

Some of the most influential people for me personally are some photographers I follow on instagram. @jamesbarkman, @alexstrohl, @jimmychin, @benjaminhardman, @daniel_ernst

Seeing photographers that push limits in the mountains to get the perfect shot or a unique shot that most people can’t be bothered to wake up at 1am and hike a mountain in the dark to shoot really inspires me. Anyone can get a chair lift and shoot the same photo from a viewpoint. 

Where’s your next adventure?

I am fortunate enough to travel a lot and spent ⅓ of my year working away / exploring but my next trip is to Iceland, it’s a country I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years and this will be my 6th visit.

I’m drawn to its vast empty landscapes and drymatic features and wild weather it's completely fascinated by the island and something keeps drawing me back. This time I will be visiting in February which is forecast the best month for snow.

Hiking has been a big part of my life as it’s often the gateway to good photos.

During my previous 5 trips all during winter I haven't been lucky enough to see the landscape all white. We have a range of activities and locations lined up including some ice caves and ice climbing.

Iceland has been a popular destination for a lot of tourists over recent years and there are many epic locations so easily accessible by car, however with a little more effort and more time spent on foot there is even more epic locations a little off the beaten track. 

It didn’t take long before I realised that photography going to take over my life.

Over the remainder of the year I have many more trips lined up including Nevada / California, European and Scandinavia road trip in my campervan.

Where can others learn more about you?

Instagram is probably the best place to keep up to date about my latest adventures or you can check out my website for some of my commercial work for outdoor brands.

You can also get in touch on for any business inquiries

Or of course, I may see you on a hiking trail enjoying nature somewhere in the world 

Want to share your Story From The Mountain?

Hey, I'm Greg Kamradt, the founder of Terra Mano.

We interview awesome hikers/mountaineers/climbers/photographers and share the stories behind their ambition. By sharing these stories, we want to help others become inspired to reach their goals.

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