I rose to the sound of wind and rain thrashing the thick walls of our hut, an old quarryman’s cottage in Mynydd Llandegai, a village originally founded in the mid 19th century to house workers from the nearby Penrhyn Quarry. It sits at around 1000ft above sea level on the edge of an austere moorland tract and, in inclement weather it can be a grim place where echoes of the hardships endured by the quarrymen reverberate to this day. The very fabric of the village speaks of their industry; from the fences that enclose the fields and gardens to the huge heaps of spoil it is slate which dominates hereabouts.
Alone and in reflective mood –my friends had ventured out in search of adventure-I communed with ghosts of the past and allowed a creeping melancholy to invade my psyche while pondering on an old quote, the origin of which escapes me; “Steal a sheep from the mountain, and they hang you. Steal a mountain, and they make you a lord”.
I had been biding my time, waiting for a promised break in the weather which would allow me an opportunity to capture the spirit of Y Glyderau’s ravaged northern extremities; when it eventually came I walked out of the village towards the miniature mountains of spoil beyond. The musical tinkling of slate beneath my feet lead me to a vantage point from which I could wallow deeper into my reverie. For the next hour I experienced every kind of light a photographer could wish for. I dodged showers of hail and hid behind boulders as modern day quarrymen passed by in landrovers and huge dumper trucks until hunger and cold overtook me. It had been a very interesting morning and with a good collection of images I made my way back to the hut where I met Peter.
I told him of my plans for the afternoon which centred around a visit to the summit of Elidir Fawr, the most hideously scarred and exploited mountain in all Eryri. There I would stay until the sun sank into the Irish Sea in the hope of a photographic bonanza. Peter is an artist and has recently been working on a series of sunsets so naturally he thought my plan a winner and happily agreed to accompany me.
At 3 O’clock we set off for Marchlyn Mawr reservoir and Elidir’s North Ridge which led us breathlessly onto the rocky summit ridge. If I had been pleased with the light earlier in the day then the time we spent on that marvellous mountain top left us ecstatic as scene after scene of unimaginable beauty unveiled itself in a series of incredible light events.
Our descent over Elidir Fach was a quiet one, words seeming superfluous and somewhat banal. I thought of quarrymen past and present; I thought of the hydro electric power station housed in the bowels of Elidir but most of all I thought of man’s arrogance despite his fragility and transience. Steal a mountain? I don’t think so…