On Tuesday night (6 Sep), one of my fellow residents asked if I wanted to join her and the other resident on a long walk around a lake the following day. I immediately thought of Tal-y-llyn, a beautiful lake a few miles down the road.
|Tal-y-llyn, taken during our descent. The surface looked like glittering tar.|
She said the walk would take five and a half hours. This puzzled me, as the lake is small, but I thought the walk itself must take in some of the countryside as well and probably a waystop at a pub I knew was near the shoreline. Anyway, I agreed and set about organising my clothes and my pack.
The next morning I discovered the walk was in fact the Minffordd Track, a hike to the top of Cader Idris. It did involve going around a lake, Llyn Cau, which is at the centre of Cader Idris, but the walk is so much more.
Some of you might remember I attempted this track last year, though I made a little detour and ended up climbing from the lake up the inside of Cader Idris. By doing this, I actually missed the section of the walk that took in Craig Cau, which I would rectify with this walk.
You might also remember that last year I attempted Cadair Idris in the final week of my eight-week residency at Stiwdio Maelor. During those weeks I did a number of local walks on a regular basis and so was reasonably fit. This week’s hike, however, took place after only one local walk and my fitness level barely coped. Luckily, my hiking companions, Freya and Yuki, made frequent ‘rock stops’, which helped me recover for the next stage and gave all of us time to appreciate the stunning landscape all around us.
The walk itself goes through a number of stages (*). Once you leave the Pay-as-You-Go car park (£5), you stroll through a lightly wooded area that includes some American redwoods, planted during the time of the Idris family estate.
|On the early part of the walk|
You then climb a steep ravine cut by a rushing stream, through a canopy of oak trees that provides cover for mosses, lichens and ferns.
|Looking back down Nant Cadair|
In the open mountain area beyond, you reach a fork in the path. You can go left, which takes you up the Minffordd Path, or go right, towards Llyn Cau, one of the deepest natural lakes in Wales. Last year I went right, then around the llyn and up the inside of the mountain. This time, we also went right, for a brief stay at the llyn before heading back to the Minffordd Path.
|The crystal clear water of Llyn Cau|
After resting at the top of Craig Cau, you descend down to a short flat section before the last climb along a slippery path through a rocky boulder field to Penygadair, the highest summit of Cadair Idris, which is marked by a pillar on top of a rocky knoll.
|This is where I climbed out of the crater last year|
|View back towards Craig Cau|
Although Cadair Idris is the 19th highest peak in Wales (893 m, 2,930 ft), it is the second most popular after Mount Snowdon. This is understandable given the magnificent views available on a clear day: west to the Barmouth estuary, east to the Cambrian Mountains, south to the Brecon Beacons, and north to the Rhinogs and the main Snowdonia massifs.
After we rested at the knoll, enjoyed the far and wide vistas, and checked out the stone hut that proves useful in bad weather, we started our descent across a wide grassy ridge and then hugging the side of Mynydd Moel, which involved crossing a number of trickling streams and boggy areas.
Every now and then we stopped to take photos of the great views back to Craig Cau and Penygadair and marvel at how far we had come, how high we had climbed. The whole track is 4.4 kilometres (2.7 mi) long and involves two climbs of over 300 metres (980 ft), but the trip seemed so much longer and harder than this suggests (though this was probably more a reflection of my fitness ability than anything else).
Eventually, we came to a stile and began a steep descent on a loose, pebble-strewn path that after a while became welcoming slate steps.
|View back, showing Llyn Cau, Craig Cau and the knoll of Penygadair. And we actually climbed that high!|
|Same view from even farther away!|
After another stile, the path flattened out and we made our way to the stone bridge across the Nant Cadair, where we filled our water bottles with the brisk mountain water and cooled our heads.
Because of our regular ‘stone stops’, the hike was taking longer than expected. However, I joked during the descent that the reason I was lagging behind was to make sure we arrived back at Corris after The Slaters Arms opened, which Yuki and Freya thought sounded about right.
Soon we were retracing our footsteps down the ravine and through the woodland to the car park, where we unhitched our packs, took a few minutes to cool down our muscles, then jumped in the car for the drive back.
I ended the day with sore hips, knees, calves and feet, some sunburn and also sore shoulders, because of the weight of my over-prepared pack. All this was forgotten, however, in the coolness of that first beer and the achievement of having climbed and enjoyed the mountain for a second time, in a different season, with convivial companions.
Cadair Idris, Again
Always the mountain teaches you—
In bee-touch and staccato caw of circling crows
In star-moss, toppled trunks and swelling rowan berries
In quartz-laced rocks, in quickening shadow, in loose footing
In gouges, in jagged crags, in matted bulges, grey, green, brown
In mist, sweat, sunburn, sheep-dung and dying heather
In slow wind-shimmer across the lake far below
And always in gaping silence, as it waits
That’s it for now. As always, I welcome any comments.
(*) Some of the material I used comes from the Cadair Idris information booklet (www.naturalresources.wales) and the following websites: