Sunday 25th July – Cadair Idris, Gwynedd, Wales.
To walk up Cadair Idris was the culmination of the set of tasks that I had been guided to follow in order to fulfil this particular stage of the year, from Summer Solstice to Lammas. The vision I had received was that I needed to “wake the dragon“. Cryptic indeed, but after a series of further exploratory encounters I had worked out that this would be done on Cadair Idris, and that I could call upon the spirit of Mab – the faerie queen – should I need assistance to do this. Well, all of these things would be fulfilled but not in the way I expected them to occur, as I will now relate.
The walk was surely one of the most beautiful walks I have ever done, from start to finish. The Breath of the Dragon – a light swirling mist – occasionally veiled the mountain, rolling along its slopes and through its valleys as though the dragon was waking to the ringing of my footsteps on its stone-scaled back.
For anyone who may have been as confused as I was about the name of this mountain – “Cadair” is the Welsh spelling, whilst “Cader” is the anglicised version. I will stick with “Cadair” as I am trying to learn Welsh, albeit very slowly.
Cadair Idris is a strange mountain: there is a well-defined path to the top of the mountain, yet relatively poorly defined paths to descend again. I wish I had taken more notice of this when I started out, but I assumed that such a well-visited mountain would have well-defined paths. That was to be my undoing later in the day! However, in the morning M and I ascended in a state of bliss marvelling at the abundance of beautiful trees, ferns and mosses that made each turn a photo opportunity.
If it wasn’t a beautiful old tree turning our heads it was a waterfall….
Climbing on the back of the dragon
Throughout the day I could see that parts of the mountain resembled the parts of a dragon’s anatomy. We started out climbing up the steep trail that formed the lower half of the dragon’s tail, as though the dragon had slung its tail over the edge of the stone upon which it was resting, and the lower end of the tail hung down into the valley, enticing climbers to climb it, like some kind of a lure.
The analogy of the mountain as a sleeping dragon was constantly present in my mind as I climbed. The initial steep climb to the ridge was its tail. The high ridges were its back. The peak was it’s head. The flat ridge was its mouth, from which its breath seemed to emerge.
Once you broke onto the plateau that formed the bed of the dragon itself it was a matter of following the tail around to the left where the sleeping form of the dragon could be seen in full, curling around the lake Lyn Cau – it’s mouth spewing mist breath along the valley in deep rhythmic pulses, whilst the ridges of its back reared up at the far end of the valley in a challenge to your determination.
After a couple of hours of hard slog we were walking the spine of the dragon – the ridge above Lyn Cau called Craig Cwm Amarch. The mist was all around us now because we were so high, and we only caught glimpses of the wonderful views below us. Not far now until the summit, and hopefully a rest, some food and some energy work.
The Short-Lived Summit
On the top of Cadair Idris, also known as Penygadair, there is a trigonometry point and a welcome egg-shaped enclosure that provides shelter from the inevitable cold winds and the breath of the dragon. We sheltered briefly, long enough to eat, regain our strength, and for me to confirm that this was the best place to do some energy work. I began to get into the dragon pose but my legs were too weak to hold the bent-kneed position for long enough and comfortably enough for me to meditate! Oh no! What now? I resorted to my backup plan. I called upon Mab to offer me the guidance that was our recent deal. I asked her to show me another way to wake the dragon other than meditating on this summit.
We left only just re-energised and expecting the long slow downhill trek to be much easier than the way up. Certainly things were about to happen, but things that made me take my eye off the ball. I was chief navigator and M was relying ion me to know where we were going. I felt that I would simply follow the obvious path and it would lead us down, and besides my eyes had begun to alight onto some strangely shaped rocks that were appearing everywhere I looked – tooth-shaped rocks….hmmm.
I walked along the flat ridge in the mist scanning all around the area for these tooth-shaped rocks. These were dragon’s teeth, I felt. The teeth of the Cadair Idris dragon, here on the head of the dragon. They pulled me towards them. I picked one up and felt a tingle. An inner distant voice (Mab?) told em that I should stab the tooth firmly into the ground to unleash the spirit of the dragon – to stir and wake the dragon. Aha! I planted one into the shallow soil and felt this to be the first of many. Now I was on a mission…the path trundled on and we followed another party of walkers through the mist….just needed to keep them in sight and we would soon be down…
I found tooth-shaped rocks at oddly equal distances. Every five minutes apart they were. I was only interested in feeling for how many I should plant in order to fulfil the work – one, two, three, four, five, six. They were found, carried and spiked at perfect intervals. And then the group in front disappeared into the mist! We decided to follow the path onwards, up the slight slope and then get our bearings at the summit of Mynedd Moel.
The path seemed to dwindle, then drop alarmingly down the other side of the hill, We followed. At the bottom the path got even narrower and only seemed to head out across the rest of the long ridge into the far distance. We checked the map – there was no path down on this side of the ridge! What? I saw a path at the end of the long ridge heading down into the valley below. Perhaps we should follow that? At least it was a path. I wanted to head down the mountain following a stream, but the idea was vetoed. What is the stream became a waterfall? Hmm…we took the long path. An hour later we were faced with an impossibly steep path that seemed to plummet over the edge of the mountain side! Oh no! Where now? Now we were tired too. We needed a way down. We walked back to the nearer end of the ridge where the stream began its descent. No option now – we HAD to follow the stream and take a chance, or it would be the Mountain Rescue helicopter, OR an impossibly tiring trek back up onto the summit again to re-trace our steps from several hours ago. No deal. We were going down!
Dame Fortune was on our side. The stream led to a wall and the wall led us to the path we should have been on in the first place if only I had been paying attention. As soon as we regained the path, the seventh tooth appeared and I planted it immediately, almost in thanks at having been saved from the perils of the dragon’s mouth.
On getting home I dowsed to see whether I had woken the dragon by planting the ‘teeth’ – task achieved for this eighth-part of the Wheel of the Year. The toughest assignment physically that I have had to do yet. I will never take my safety on mountains lightly again. I had been taught a lesson, but still granted a reward for my sincere efforts. Thanks to Mab and to the powers of intuition.