Alone in the Rhinogydd

Rhinogydd Regression - The Primitive

I just couldn’t stay away. This place has done something to me and I can’t stop thinking about it. All at once I’m beguiled and horrified, fascinated and repulsed. Every human emotion is here and the ghosts which stalk this cadaverous landscape toy with them.

For me it starts upon leaving Llanbedr and turning onto the single track road which leads in five enchanting miles to Cwm Bychan. Every twist and turn of its serpentine course takes me deeper into a waking dream where nothing is quite what it seems; it’s as if that road junction is a portal into other realms, where the spirit or soul of the place communes with the few 21st century mortals that find themselves repeatedly drawn to a mountain sanctuary more redolent of the Celtic Fringe than anywhere else I know.

Bookended by the peaks of Clip and Rhinog Fawr is a long, flat mountain called Craig Wion, described by Harold Drasdo as a “Splendid mile of Celtic badlands”, an apt description of a place that has me utterly captivated. Craig Wion encapsulates everything that makes the Rhinogydd special.

I have been there twice in the last two weeks, and on both occasions enjoyed complete solitude. The landscape itself is unique; imagine huge, tilted gritstone slabs with glacial erratics strewn around, secretive lakes in heathery bowls and deep, transverse canyons. The rigors of a traverse and the demands it places on the average pedestrian are entirely disproportionate to the modest mileage the walk entails. This is terrain for the experienced mountain walker and even then it would be wise to take a friend as there are places where, if one were to come a cropper, they may not be found for days or even weeks. That I go alone, without even a mobile phone for emergencies may be seen as foolish or irresponsible, but mountains are about freedom and this is how I exercise mine.

So that’s the physical fabric of the place, but there is more, much more to it than that. The real draw of the Rhinogydd is how it makes me feel, which is course the most important consideration for any landscape photographer.

The conflicting emotional responses I experience are compelling. At times I feel an unease not felt on other mountains and at others I am joyous in my insignificance with any trace of ego stripped away. Lengthy vigils spent waiting for the light are eerie affairs and I feel like I am being watched from near and far, not by people, but by ‘things’, the nature of which I can only ponder on.

I am eager to discover the secret life of the place; there is ‘something’ going on there and I will keep returning until I gain an understanding of what ‘it’ is. A part of me wants to know that secret, but in truth, so enigmatic and other worldly is it that I doubt I ever will…

Back in the Rhinogydd badlands

On Craig Wion

In the Cymric Badlands

Wilderness Wales - Rhinog Fawr from Craig Wion


~ by nicklivesey on December 5, 2014.

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