North Wales really is the most raw sort of elemental place I’ve ever visited.
The land is beautiful but intimidating, the climate harsh, the climbs rough. In my mind it’s perfection.
As I just told a friend, today we came through a mountain pass and my husband said – “You know what this place looks like? Mordor.”
Our guide replied – “Yes, this is where Tolkien was hiking when he got the idea for Mordor.”
It definitely ain’t The Shire, that’s for damn sure.
Today was a Great Day.
My husband and another gentleman met up with a different guide to climb Snowdon – where they were met at the top by a 45-50 mph gale. He, my husband, was nearly blown over a cliff at one point. Do you know Sir Edmund Hillary used Snowdon to practice for Everest?
But what made the Day Great, you ask?
Well, I’m going to tell you.
I went off with three other women to visit the Slate Museum. That wasn’t my idea. I was sort of neutral about it. However one of the women in our team, as our guide has begun referring to us, wanted to visit the slate museum and perhaps purchase a slab of slate. Wales is dotted with slate mines that have been in operation since prehistoric times. The Romans preferred Welsh slate. Roofs here are slate roofs. Most of the mines are no longer operational, some are.
Anyway, we sat in on a demonstration of splitting slate. Fascinating. The artisan, Dafydd, (David), first took a slab of slate perhaps an inch thick. Expertly, he split it again and again until it was no more than an eighth of an inch. At the end of his demonstration, he asked if anyone thought they could split slate. Of course only one person raised her hand.
Well, that would be me.
So he placed me on his stool, handed me his tools, knelt right next to me, showed me where to place the chisel, and taught me how to split slate. I took a piece a quarter of an inch thick and on the first try split it perfectly.
Dafydd was so thrilled he made me a slate heart, a slate book mark, and gave me three kisses on the cheek. He also showed me his workroom where he makes delicate decorative hand-held fans from slate that can’t be more than a sixteenth of an inch or so.
I love splitting slate. It’s my new favorite thing to do.
After the slate splitting, we drove to a beach, hiked about, climbed a headland and hit a pub for some great pub food. Because of the side trips, we were running a little late for the climb of the day — to the bronze-age hill fort known as Town of the Giants on the Llyn Peninsula overlooking the Irish Sea.
Of course inclement weather followed us, and as we climbed 1200 feet, the mist, the rain and the wind rolled across the deep valley below and blasted up the mountain, transforming an ordinary day into a Great Day. The climb to the stone fortress was outstanding – especially the last 200 feet – a hard scramble up and over a steep talus slope.
Not a soul climbed with us. We saw a mountain goat, a ram, actually, and an eagle, which around here is called a buzzard.
We were nearly two hours late returning to our inn and my husband, who was quite happy with his own adventure, was getting worried, but nonetheless…
It was a Great Day. Can’t wait to upload my photos.
Names to remember – Vortigern – this area was his stomping ground.
Myrddin – also his purported place of birth. Can you tell me the name he’s commonly known by?
Taliesin – for sure all of us who like to spin a story should know of Taliesin.