Article by Helen Iles whose exhibition of landscape photographs is showing at the gallery from 4th to 30th June
‘Hiraeth: a Welsh word that has no direct English translation. It is a mix of longing, yearning, nostalgia, wistfulness, or an earnest desire for the Wales of the past’.
It is said that if you spend the night on Cadair Idris mountain you will either come down a poet, a madman or not at all. Many a Welsh Bard has slept up there in search of inspiration. According to other folklore it is the hunting grounds of Gwyn ap Nudd. If you hear his pack of hunting dogs beware, as they foretell of death, dragging your soul into the underworld. Other ancient Welsh tales from the book ‘Y Mabinogion’, talk of Idris the Giant who sat in his chair (chair = cadair in Welsh) removing grit from his shoes. Three of these pieces of grit are seen as huge rocks at the bottom of the mountain. Over time his chair, now flooded became Llyn y Gader Lake.
Born and brought up in Southern Snowdonia, I assumed that everyone had sea one side of them and mountains behind them. The reality of growing up here was being cajoled up wind swept never ending paths that sometimes rewarded you with a map like view. No surprise then that I have always had wanderlust. I’ve ditched my career twice to travel around the world, I’ve now combined photography with walking and strive to capture those illusive moments that nature casts our way. One of my favourite Welsh words is ‘crwydro’, which means ‘wandering’.
The mountain and I are like an old couple, with ups and downs but a long term respect and mutual understanding of each other. In the winter it can be anything from a downright miserable damp grey slog to exhilarating epic white outs. I’ve sheltered in the bothy peeling layers of wringing wet gortex in a vain attempt to dry out before the dreaded the journey down, only to be presented with hanging mists and illusive peeks of ridges reaching into the distance. In the summer I’ve been treated to views stretching out like tendrils, Snowdon and the Rhinogydd and to the north with Mawddach Estuary weaving below, to the south west the rolling hills and valleys down to Craig yr Aderyn (Bird Rock). To the east the ridge leads your eye towards Cadair’s sister mountain of Aran Fawddwy.
At the risk of coming down a ‘madman or a poet’ the best way to really appreciate Cadair Idris is to spend the night there. This is not a mountain to dis-respect. There are no cafés, intermittent mobile signal and no running water at the summit. Temperatures and wind may be negligible at sea level but up high they are to be taken seriously, even on a balmy summer’s eve.