Alex gives you the low down on our latest weekend to Cadair Idris
Near the southern end of the Snowdonia National Park lies Cadair Idris. Because of its prominence it used to be thought of as the second highest mountain in Wales (one local hotel website still says it is), but in fact it’s not even the highest amongst its neighbours. What it may lack in height, just failing to break the 900m mark, it makes up for with a fantastic set of peaks, a view over the whole of North Wales, a ton of myths and legends, and a thriving nature reserve.
Staying in Treks Bunkhouse near Ffestiniog, the group made their way south to the mountain on a blustery Saturday in September, clouds shooting by overhead. There were 16 of us in total, including two guides, and our plan was a circular route from the south side starting up the steep path that winds its way through broadleaved woodland before emerging into the great bowl of Cwm Cau.
Making good time, and with the wind far less than anticipated, we enjoyed the sunshine while the clouds thickened, at times covering the summit and at times rising above it. It was hit-or-miss whether we’d get any view at all.
We made our way up to the ridge and reached the summit of Craig Cau, the view holding and the wind picking up, taking time for the usual snack stops but not wanting to stop for long. After Craig Cau there is a short descent and then another ascent to the summit, Penygadair. We took our time over the boulder-field near the top and then, when approaching the summit ridge, the wind hit. I have to admit there were a few moments of crawling, but everyone battled on and took it in their stride. After grabbing a quick few photos at the summit trig point we took shelter in the nearby hut for lunch.
The view from the summit ridge was outstanding, the sunshine on Dolgellau and the Rhinogydd mountains clear to the north. Sadly because of the wind we didn’t have much time to appreciate it, so after wrapping ourselves in multiple layers we began the descent, following the wide ridge east and then dropping off it, and out of the wind, for the steep descent back into the valley.
Battered and tired, we sat and admired Llyn Cau in the sunshine and considered the legend that it’s bottomless. Realising however that the only bottomless thing we wanted was a glass of wine, we made our way back to Treks and re-lived the day throughout the evening over much-deserved pie and drinks.
Sunday dawned with a vast swathe of rain-cloud engulfing the valley; the Moelwyns on the opposite side of the Vale of Ffestiniog were invisible, and even rushing to the car meant a soaking. Since the wind was due to stay strong, we opted for a low level walk along the trail that runs along the Mawddach Estuary, a wide sandy expanse of river, marsh and sandbanks surrounded by native oak woodland.
Such is the special nature of this place that it’s been declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and just to treat us, by some luck the sun came out and it didn’t rain for the whole walk. Luckily for those who found the previous day a bit hard on the knees, it also followed an old train line, so was totally flat!
Our weekend ended with an excellent lunch in the pub overlooking the river Mawddach, cars passing delicately over the old wooden toll-bridge and wading birds probing the sands for food. Despite the wind we’d been incredibly lucky, with no rain or reduced visibility, and experienced some of the best walking in south Snowdonia.
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