|Drosgol is arguably the most awkward of Pumlumon's 'supporting cast' to visit due to the expansive waters of the Nant-y-Moch reservoir barring a direct approach from either west, south, or east. Assuming you aren't in possession of a boat, that is. Consequently the twin cairns which crown its summit are the last of the area's extraordinarily extensive canon to experience the dubious pleasure of Gladman's wobbly boots, if only for a couple of hours, or so. Yeah, just a blink of the proverbial 'eye' of time.... albeit one peering from behind suitably cool Ray Bans this wondrous day (other makes of sunglasses are available; as for myself, I make do with none).
Now I've spent the night beside the Maesnant cascades, due east of Drosgol, on a number of occasions over the years, the mountain's profile rising across the water to invoke in the sleepy head emotions harmonising with the prevailing weather conditions.... from the ethereal, mystical (however you may define that, although like sexual attraction you sure know when you experience it) to the 'what the hell are you doing here, you muppet?' as rain lashes down during the storm. More or less the full range of human cerebral interaction with what we, for want of a better word, continue to call 'wilderness'. Always, however, there was the nagging thought - like the little devil perched upon the shoulder in those Tom and Jerry cartoons; or is it Itchy and Scratchy? - that I really must visit one day. Well......
Dawn arrives with the psychological impact of the allegorical freight train, to experience such perfect conditions to my mind the primary benefit of wild camping. All is still... save the almost imperceptible movement of a cloud bank inching its way, as if by sentient touch, across the bulk of Banc Llechwedd-mawr and Drosgol, their progressively exposed flanks bathed in a combination of orange/red/gold that only Nature could ever reproduce again. All is quiet... save the reassuring action of the Maesnant cascades upon rock. Some things are simply meant to be, inexorable. Such as me finally having to ascend Drosgol today. Having no wish to ford the Afon Hyddgen again (wuss) I decide to approach from the north-western extremity of the Nant-y-Moch, plenty of off road parking available opposite a rough byway beneath Carn Owen. Heading east a bridleway leads down the hillside before veering approx south to follow the northern shore of the reservoir. The surface is firm, too much so for my poor shins in walking boots; however the archetypal green 'centre line' affords welcome relief. The route swings north to skirt a prominent inlet, Drosgol now rising across the water and looking a lot higher than it is, Y Garn looming behind its right shoulder like the reassuring presence of a celebrity's bodyguard.... 'Mrs Drosgol isn't receiving visitors today.... but seeing as you're a friend of Mr Cope's...'
In retrospect I would suggest it is preferable to cross the deep gulley cradling the Nant-y-Baracs sooner rather than later, struggling up the boggy far bank to (hopefully) pick up a grassy track to Drosgol's summit. However - and not for the first time - I am deceived by the effects of foreshortening, deciding an approach from the north-west looks less demanding. Consequently I blunder into the yard of a (thankfully) deserted farm, concealed within a copse of trees, before retreating and cutting across the gulley anyway. Again, in retrospect, the map is clear. Still, no harm done and I squelch up hill to locate the necessary track (not shown on the map) and, eventually, complete a short scramble up a rocky spine to stand upon the summit before the twin cairns. The erectors chose well, Drosgol proving arguably a better viewpoint than similarly endowed Banc Llechwedd-mawr to the north-east. Like those of its neighbour, the former's cairns have emerged from the mists of time in differing states of preservation. The eastern monument has faired by far the better of the pair, a substantial, low cairn seemingly intentionally set upon the northern slope of the summit ridge to face away from Pen Pumlumon-Fawr and the main bulk of the massif... that is to say I do not think the orientation is the result of significant slippage over the course of millennia. I could be wrong, of course. As you might expect, a modern construct occupies the highest section of the cairn. Thankfully, though, there is no 'muppet shelter' defacing this cairn. Sadly the same can not be said for the western example. By contrast this is now reduced to a mere outline in places, patches of the ubiquitous tough upland grass in evidence within the footprint. Having said that the cairn still retains a fair few rocks in situ. I've seen much worse.
A visit to Drosgol was never primarily going to be about the archaeology, of course; decent enough though it may be, it will not blow the traveller away for its own sake. No, what 'does it' for me is the vibe to be encountered here... an 'aloofness' which engenders a feeling of more or less complete isolation - of positive detachment - from the world below... enabling a purity of thought, if such a thing is possible without disappearing up your own backside, whilst nevertheless retaining a mental 'umbilical cord' to the familiar. A safety net. Or perhaps 'a toddler's restraint' is a more appropriate allegory? Yeah, my car always remains in sight, albeit at a considerable distance. Speaking of which, I gaze down at a car occupying the space mine did this morning - and will again tonight - and reflect upon how tiny, how insignificant it seems. So that's how I appear in the big picture, the overall scheme of things? Inconsequential, a mere detail in the landscape. Trivial. The realisation that that's what mountains do.... present those who wish to expend their energy ascending them with a different perspective of the world and the place us homo sapiens have upon it. Sure, we may have had a major impact, most of it detrimental, but we are nonetheless just a'passing through until replaced by the next tenants-in-chief. I make no apologies for thinking anything which can highlight this basic premise can never be a bad thing.
I find no reason to go back down until the possibility of benightment becomes just that. A real possibility. Retracing the morning's route along the shoreline the surrounding hills and mountains are bathed in a crimson glow so, well, 'red' as to once again defy categorisation. The circle is closed. Well, for today anyway.
Posted by GLADMAN
25th November 2012ce
Edited 26th November 2012ce