Sunday, 6 May 2018

Cader Idris

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Route: Minffordd, Dol-y-cae, Ystrad-gwyn, Minffordd Path, Craig Lwyd, Craig Cwm Amarch, Craig Cau, Penygadair, Mynydd Moel, Moelfyrn, Minffordd Path, Minffordd

Date: 06/05/2018
From: Minffordd

Parking: Minffordd
Start Point: Minffordd
Region: Snowdonia

Route length: 6.2 miles (9.9 km)
Time taken: 03:53
Average speed: 1.6 mph
Ascent: 961m
Descent: 967m

Nuttalls on this walk: Craig Cwm Amarch (791m), Penygadair (893m), Mynydd Moel (863m)

Other Summits: Craig Lwyd (690m)

Other points of interest: Llyn Cau, Craig Cau, Summit shelter

A typical UK Bank Holiday usually means one of a number of things - traffic jams, rain and the majority of the country trying the 'getaway' - the mad rush as tabloid papers love to write about. This year, we were treated to two of these and luckily for us, the missing one would be the rain.

For a pre-arranged weekend away in Snowdonia, we were to be treated to three whole days of nearly unbroken sunshine and high temperatures and we planned to make the best of it.

After spending most of Saturday actually getting to Snowdonia (while also purchasing an emergency sleeping mat after a mouse-related incident) we found ourselves camped up in the delightful Nantcol Waterfalls site, a real gem of a place tucked away in the midst of central Snowdonia. From here, the southern mountains would be easily accessible - Cadair (or Cader) Idris in particular.

We drove down to Dolgellau along the coastal roads which were, surprisingly, shrouded in a dense fog and would actually remain so for most of the day. We arrived in time to find a space in the large Minffordd car park. Like Snowdon, CaderIdris attracts the crowds on fine days and we wouldn't be alone for our ascent.
An information board covers all aspects of the mountain
Cader Idris is actually the name for the entire range rather than a single peak (the summit is Penygadair). It is thought to get its name from the mythological legend of the giant Idris who used the mountain as a chair to gaze at the stars. It won't come as a surprise to learn that Cader is Welsh for chair and hence the literal translation is, the chair of Idris.

Beyond the car park are the woods of Ystrad-gwyn where the path starts its relentless climb to the summit of Penygadair. Steps lead up through the woods past the tranquil falls of Nant Cadair, the stream that drains Llyn Cau high up the mountainside. The steps quickly climb up over 300m into the Cader Idris National Nature Reserve.
Starting the climb through Ystrad-gwyn
Ystrad-gwyn
Wterfalls on Nant Cadair
Nany Cadair as you appear from the woods
Mynydd Moel
Thanks to the steps it doesn't take too long to reach the edge of the woods and emerge onto the high hanging valley beneath Mynydd Moel. Climbing still, though at a more agreeable angle now, the path works its way around the end of Craig Lywd and reaches the rim of Llyn Cau, arguably one of the finest examples of a glacial corrie in the country.
Craig Cwm Amarch appears
Penygadair
The path to Llyn Cau
It was speculated until the late 1800s that Llyn Cau could have been an extinct volcano but evidence of the lakes glacial history debunked this. The tarn is surrounded by an amphitheatre of near-vertical crags that were formed by a cirque glacier during the last ice age. Snow and ice accumulated in the corries due to avalanches on higher slopes. In these depressions, snow persisted through summer months, becoming glacial ice.
Craig Cwm Amarch dominates Llyn Cau
Llyn Cau
From here, the route swings south briefly making a steep climb up the slopes of Craig Lwyd, the southern arm around Llyn Cau. The views get better and better as you climb higher. The path becomes flatter as it passes between Craig Lywd and Craig Cwm Amarch offering a hint of respite before another steep section.
Llyn Cau
Craig Cwm Amarch, Llyn Cau and Penygadair
Mynydd Dol-ffanog
Craig Lwyd
Penygadair
Mynydd Moel
Craig Cwm Amarch
Penygadair
The Minddordd Path
Craig Cwm Amarch and Penygadair
Mynydd Pencoed
Looking down a gap in the crag to Llyn Cau
A 100m climb reaches the top of Craig Cwm Amarch, and it's a spectacular perch. The view down to Llyn Cau is immense. The only minor disappointment is the obvious fact that if you want to reach Penygadair you have to lose some of your hard earned height to cross Craig Cau.
The final climb to Craig Cwm Amarch's summit
Mynydd Pencoed
Llyn Cau from the summit of Craig Cwm Amarch
Penygadair
Craig Lwyd
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Crossing the top of Craig Cau, a path emerges from the steep slopes above Llyn Cau, an alternative route from the lake to Penygadair though a much more miserable looking one than the Craig Lwyd route. Climbing up towards Penygadair, the two sides of Craig Cwm Amarch become startlingly obvious, one side smooth and grassy, the other dark, near vertical. It's a stunning peak.
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Craig Cwm Amarch stands over Craig Cau
Craig Cwm Amarch
Prior to the reaching the summit, we passed a member of Aberdyfi Mountain Rescue who was issuing instructions such as 'clear this area' and 'secure any loose articles' which could only mean one thing - the Coastguard helicopter was inbound. While I am no expert on the subject, nor a member of an MRT team, I do have an interest in the topic and know full well that the Sikorsky helicopters the Coastguard use can create an immense downdraft as they hover close-by. We retreated to a safe distance and waited in anticipation for its arrival. FYI - the subject of the callout had suffered a leg injury and seemed in good spirits rather than a more serious case.

The helicopters used these days are heard before they are seen as they thud up and down the Welsh valleys and it wasn't until it loomed right over the summit that we saw just how close it was going to be. After hovering for a moment, a doctor was winched down before the helicopter completed a few circuits and returned to lower a stretcher. Once the casualty was secured, they were winched aboard and whisked off to Minffordd. While I would never wish the circumstances on anyone, it was a fascinating 45 minutes.

The doctor is lowered
The winchman aboard the helicopter
The casualty is winched aboard
After that diversion, we finished the climb to Penygadair's summit, along with hundreds of others who had been waiting to watch the helicopter. We didn't hang around for long.
Cyfrwy
Cader Idris' summit
 The stone shelter
I took a quick photo of the trig pillar before venturing towards the unusual stone shelter that sits on the summit. The stone shelter was originally built to serve refreshments to walkers waiting for the mist to clear though fell into disrepair. It was rebuilt by the Snowdonia National Park Authority to provide temporary shelter for walkers in poor weather conditions.
Cader Idris' summit
Cyfrwy and Llyn y Gadair
Below the stone shelter
Ahead is a long stretch of very easy walking along the main ridge of Cader Idris as the path makes its way to Mynydd Moel - a sizeable outlying summit. The view back along the spine of the mountain is superb.
Looking back to Penygadair
The ridge route to Mynydd Moel
Mynydd Moel
Cader Idris
Cader Idris
Cader Idris
Cader Idris from Mynydd Moel
From the summit of Mynydd Moel, the route takes a direct route off the summit down towards Moelfyrn, following the line of a wire fence. It's certainly a knee-trembler. Eventually, having descended some 450m, the path flattens and soon meets the path emerging from the woods which was climbed in the morning. From here it's a reverse of the route through Ystrad-gwyn.
Looking northeast along Gau Graig
Mynydd Moel's summit
Mynydd Moel's fine arete
Cader Idris
Sea fog over Barmouth Bay
Craig Cwm Amarch
Descending from Mynydd Moel
Mynydd Dol-ffanog
Tal-y-Llyn Lake
Craig Lwyd
Heading back to the woods
Mynydd Dol-ffanog