We all have favourite hills and places, parts of the world that for one reason or another are, or have become, special to us as time has gone by. Cadair Idris is one such place for me. Cadair Idris is a mountain I know well, having hiked it countless times over the years both with friends at university and on my own. I’ve been up for day hikes, I’ve wildcamped out on the summit, including on one stormy Hallowe’en (when the hounds of hell are supposed to roar across the summit, plucking up the souls of the damned as they hurtle by!) and I’ve tackled it by various routes. I’ll put up a post on the blog soon about why it is I like Cadair so much, but this is a trip report, so without further ado I’ll report the hike.
I’d been working during the morning but had the afternoon off work, so as the sun beamed down from a beautiful, clear March sky, I headed for the hills and made the easy trip from work to the car park at Dol-Y-Cae, better known as Cadair Gates. The car park was almost full as it often is here in early spring when the weather starts to perk up a bit after the long months of winter, and I knew the mountain would be busy. In a happy occurrence, the payment machine was out of action so I was able to park gratis, which was a bonus.
As I hopped out of the car and finished sorting out my rucksack and all the other niggling little bits of pfaff that come with setting out for a hike, I fell into conversation with a chap who had, in a previous life, been a bit of a fell runner, and had repeatedly run up to the summit of Cadair over the years. I’ve really like fell runners as they’re sort of like extremely elite hikers, and it was good to natter for a while to someone who clearly knew the mountain very well and who, like me, had a soft spot for the mountain.
I headed out of the car park and took the familiar trail up through the woodland beyond, passing hikers on their way back down and occasionally overtaking hikers on their way up. In contrast to the walks I’d done in the previous few months, I was feeling pretty sprightly, and I had no doubt that it was due to the fact that my new job involved walking tens of times up a hill every day. This, combined with the fact that I was actually getting to the gym every once in a while had had a very noticeable effect on my fitness, so much so in fact that I was pleasantly surprised with how straightforward the ascent was feeling.
The path cleared the treeline and beelined towards the great glacial cirque containing placid Llyn Cau, named for one of King Arthur’s knights (the king himself being a Welsh warrior). There were throngs of people out enjoying themselves at the lake which sits at roughly the 450 metre contour line, about halfway in terms of mean altitude up the mountain. Before heading up I’d planned to stop and have lunch here, but I still felt completely fresh and didn’t really feel like I needed to stop at all, so I just carried on up the path.
The path here for those who’ve never been to Cadair Idris, climbs and curves around the cirque on its wending way towards the summit, affording brilliant views on a clear day, and this day was particularly serene. The views were superb in all directions, and I was making rapid progress towards the summit with what felt like very little effort. For the first time in a long while I felt like I was finally approaching mountain fitness again, and as I neared the top of Craig Cwm Amarch at 791m, I’d made excellent time. I pushed on for a little while longer before deciding to finally take a breather and have something to eat, since I’d got here far faster than I’d expected and was in no real rush anyway.
Without too much ado, I then pressed on and then began climbing the final tens of metres or so of ascent to the summit, with its obligatory O.S. trig pillar and, of course, the iconic stone building that is the Cadair Idris summit shelter. I’d been rewarded with excellent views out to sea and across Snowdonia. The weather was holding up well, and all things considered the day couldn’t really have been going any better. In most of my previous hikes up here I’d usually just gone to the summit and then hiked along the ridge and dropped down the usual way back round to the lake without making any detours, but today I’d decided I was going to pay Mynydd Moel, at 863m a slightly lower subsidiary peak of Cadair, a visit. It turned out to be well worth it, as most of the throngs of people just stuck to the lower path, which meant that I had Mynydd Moel all to myself. This is one of the beauties of hillwalking in the UK. While many of the more popular peaks tend to be heaving with crowds on sunnier days, you often only need to make a short detour to be able to avoid them and still find that mountain peace and quiet you probably came up to find.
I took my time on the descent, savouring the changing light as the afternoon wore on, and making sure to make the most of what had been a pretty perfect day in the hills. Cadair Idris is a mountain I return to time and again not only for its manifest charms which I’ll elaborate on another time, but also more pertinently because I can’t, in all my years hiking this mountain, remember a bad hike here. Once again, I’d headed up to this lofty summit and Cadair Idris had delivered a stunning day. All in all, this was an excellent hike!