There is a spot just below Pen y Gadair Fawr, on the narrow track that leads to Waun Fach, that I think of as the epicentre of the Black Mountains, its beating heart. The thought struck me with perverse joy yesterday as I leaned into the gale force wind, striding north.
I had climbed from Castell Dinas, up to Y Grib, on a day that began with blue skies, then past Pen y Manllwyn to the high point, where the weather turned.
On the summit of the Big Chair I had leaned against the pile of stones (too scattered to constitute a cairn) and gulped hot chai. Moments of reward after a hard climb. Sometimes the only purpose of a long and solitary hike is to give the mind a thorough rinsing, clear out all the crap, cast away the debris. Start out with a clean slate.
I am struck once again by the futility of my self-set task, to document these hills in prose, discover stories hidden away in their most secret valleys, find words to accurately reflect the riddles of place; unearth memories, my own and those of others. Dispense with these thoughts now, step down the rocky path that winds beneath the crest, the cwm falling away to the west in a cascade of little rock pools, great for a summer dip, frozen now, in January.
No birds up here, except for that red kite, which dives with talons stretched and scoops from the withered grass beside the peat bog something small and with a beating heart.
Later, on my descent, at Pen Trumau, the wind drops to an almost stillness, and I hear it, a distant music carried on the lightest breeze, an orchestra of all the dead that ever roamed these hills, the mountain’s threnody.