Taking a pause from the uphill climb, I breathe in deeply, filling my lungs with the crisp air that can only be found high up in themountains. I turn my head to the left and feel a chill move down my spine as my eyes take in the magnificent beauty of Wales from its highest mountain. Resting on a nearby ledge is a mountain goat, whose gentle warmth contrasts the sharp, harsh mountain on which it rests. He seems to have been placed there to magnify the enormity and vastness of the mountain ranges, highlighting the picturesque landscape of Snowdonia.
I tap my friend on the shoulder, pointing with my other hand to the mountain goat. She turns and I can almost feel the chill move down her spine as well as she whispers, “woah.” We both stare for a moment at the woolly white goat with two black horns and scruffy white beard, a creature that lives and thrives at this altitude and temperature. He rests peacefully, unaware and undisturbed by our hiking in his territory. I think he must be gentle, for the way he rests is so calm. I want to approach him, and pet him like the lovable puppy that waits for me at home. But the group is moving on and we must keep up.
Crunch, crunch, crunch. As I continue to ascend Mt Snowdon, I crush pieces of slate beneath my feet with every step. It is hard to imagine that such a delicate stone supports this entire mountain range. Strong enough in aggregate to withstand millions of pounds of weight and pressure, yet gentle enough alone to crumble beneath my foot. In this mineral there exists a microcosm of the mystery of nature.
Mt Snowdon is the largest in Wales, though that doesn’t give it much significance on a global scale. And yet it fits perfectly into the small rural countryside of Wales. It gives the persistent hiker a stunning view over the country and its lush, green, natural beauty. And it serves as a reminder too, of the history of this region, as the mountain was once home to slate mills and mines. Workers came from near and far, setting up camp at one of the company compounds on the mountains, where they would work from sun up to sun down extracting slate from the mountain side for commercial sale. The industry has since died out, and it appears that the companies closed up shop hastily, since the buildings, structures, and tools from their work remain on the mountainside. Even with that reminder, I think the mountains and its inhabitants are happier with the miners gone.
Long before the slate mining industry’s rise and fall in Snowdonia, the Welsh mountainside was home in the medieval times to fortresses and towers. From these posts, guards kept watch for intruding forces. The structures remain, a euphemistic reminder of lifetimes past, and they manage to add greater beauty and interest to the already-stunning Snowdonian mountainside.