Friday, 20 May 2011

Cadair Idris from Barmouth 11.5.11

 18 miles - 6-7 hours.
I had planned to do this Welsh highpoint since deciding to go back to Shrewsbury to stay for a week. It was only £16 on the train to Barmouth, from where I had decided to start this trek. Not a bad price considering it takes about 2 hours from Shrewsbury, but I would have to change at Machynlleth.

 So it was an early start from Shrewsbury, the forecast was 'white cloud', I had considered going the next day originally but the forecast was grim, heavy rain and hail for the Barmouth area, not good! So this day was seemingly the only day to do this - this week. This would also be a lone hike, very Wainwright! I also thought I had mastered the name Machynlleth, but seemingly not as the guard on the train told me to change there, pronouncing it, well and I can only describe it as, a stereotypical Welsh throat clearance really. Tricky stuff!

 The train made it's way through the Shropshire countryside, and over the border into Wales, and arrived in Machynlleth at around 8am where it was raining. Although this was my holiday, my boss decided to ring me about a software problem at work, and said he was going to ring me in about an hour to sort it out if I didn't mind... great, just what I want to be doing.
The Barmouth train came bang on time, and the weather was really closing in now, the high hills were cloud covered and heading towards the coast the sea looked rough too! But there was a glimpse of sunshine out at sea, so I hoped the weather was set to change a little. It was still raining on reaching Tywyn, but you could make out some of the slopes of the southern Snowdonian mountains which surround the town, totally cloud covered though still. Just before you reach Barmouth the train goes over the Mawddach Estuary via a long and rickety bridge which I remember pretty well from a field trip with school in 1990 to study Estuary life!
 On reaching Barmouth the rain had stopped! I stepped off the train into the small station, and out onto the seafront. Almost instantly my boss rang me, so I spent the first 20 minutes or so there trying to sort the problem they had. After sorting it, it was now time for the trek!

                                                                          Stage 1:

 After walking up through the pretty town, I made it to the Mawddach bridge...
Looking down onto Barmouth Harbour and the Mawddach Estuary...
You can walk over the bridge, but it has a toll booth and adults need to pay 90p! But the booth was closed thankfully on this day, and so onto the weak looking bridge I trod...
Looking towards the impressive Craig-las, which is a western satellite of Cadair Idris...
When you make it to the other side of the bridge you come to Morfa Mawddach Station, from here you turn left along a small lane which leads onto the Mawddach Trail, which has been made famous recently by Julia Bradbury after her Dolgellau to Barmouth Railway Walk. You need to go through the gate seen here...
You are now on the old track bed which is the Mawddach Trail. You need to follow this for about half a mile...
Continue past the advertised RSPB turn off...
After about another 200 yards or so to your right you will see a not so well trodden track leading through a farm gate, and out onto a field...
In this pic taken in the field, the hall you can see on the right is where you need to head too, it is called Garthyfog. It has a bridleway entrance next to it which cuts up past the scree you can see middle top left here. But be careful crossing the busy A493 road in front of the hall...
Go up the steep entrance lane, and you will see this bridleway on your left...
This is where things start to get steep, tough bit of the hike this up through these woods...
The pathway starts to level out a little when you reach this farm house...
Continue past the house and follow the farm track upwards...
This ends at a gate, and you make your way onto a high lane...
Walking up this steep lane you get some better views towards Craig-las...
At the top of the road you come to this cross roads. I went left here...

Stage 2:

From here the road ascends a fair bit, you will then come to a gate, pass through this and continue along this long road...
I made a slight detour here after seeing this standing stone perched up on a bank...
But now back to the road, after another half mile or so you should pass by Pant-y-llan Farm on your left hand side with Pared y Cefn Hir sticking up behind it...
You will eventually come to a T-Junction in the road, continue straight ahead here towards Dolgellau...
The road turns left just after this junction and follows the outline of Craig-las, I was getting a bit bored of walking this road now, I wanted to ascend these magnificent looking peaks that were now towering above me, particularly Craig-las...
Deciding to now come off the road, and scale the incredibly steep looking slopes of Craig-las...
After about half way, I thought this was crazy. My heart was pounding and I was gasping for breath, and it looked as though it got steeper further up...
This was a punishing climb, but on reaching the top of the slope the views were great...
Looking back down onto the road, now far below, with the Mawddach Estuary and bridge just about visible...
On the top I was relieved to find a pathway, which had ladder stiles to cross over the fences too. Here's one on the very summit of Craig-las...
From here you get your first glimpse of the main part of the Cadair Idris massif, and the boggy path you need to follow to get to the famous 'Pony Path'...
Eventually you will come to the Pony Path after a fairly gruelling slog along the above path, which ascends and descends regularly. Here about to climb over the ladder stile that allows you onto the well trodden and fairly walker busy Pony Path, Cadair Idris after all is Wales's second most popular mountain to climb...
At this point the part of Cadair Idris you see in the above picture had a few people walking up it. After asking if you could also reach the summit that way, it seemed you could. So a detour left I went up over the clonking and banging loose boulders that lay on the mountain side...
This was starting to get a bit dodgy now, these loose rocks would just love to snap or at least severely sprain an ankle, especially now I'm nearly into the cloud! Here following the few and far between cairns which seem to mark out a trail...
Alarm bells were ringing now, this wasn't looking good. I came to a fairly grassy area, and managed to get back to the Pony Path again...
Back on the Pony Path now. I wish I'd stayed on it from the start!...
Cloud still hanging onto the summit, but it does seem to be clearing fast!...
Just before you reach the rocky summit, you have to pass through a narrow v-shaped gully, which has a very severe drop down into Lyn y Gadair, a small lake situated in side the 'chair' of Cadair Idris.

At this point I was lucky, the cloud cleared as I made it to the Trig Point of Penygadair, the summit of Cadair Idris at 893 metres...
The view was awesome, you could see right back along the route I came, all the way to Barmouth...
Also on the above pic that peak below is know as Cyfrwy (The Saddle) This is where I would have ended up if I had continued that cairn marked path... Not good!
Here looking across the summit plateau towards Mynydd Moel...
From the summit plateau there are steep gully's descending from either side, on one side Cyfrwy (The Saddle) which looks a heck of a drop, but on the other side of the summit is a huge drop, about 400 metres straight down into the lake called Llyn Cau...
Unlike Cross Fell, which is the same height, Cadair Idris actually feels, and for that matter looks like a mountain.  Here's the trig again in relation to Mynydd Moel, and the mountain hut at the base of the summit...
Looking down into Llyn Y Gadair starting the descent...
Here is the v-shaped gully you need to cut through to reach the summit...

                                                     Stage 3:

Looking back at the summit, with it's Trig Point just about visible...
For some of the way back, I followed the same route. Back towards Craig-las again...
Looking towards Aran Fawddwy...
Looking back at Cadair Idris from Craig-las...
And across the estuary towards a cloud covered Diffwys, and Barmouth and Mawddach Bridge...
 So rather than descending Craig-las in the same place as I ascended, which would probably have been quite foolish - I decided to walk around the ridge of this great corrie...
Diffwys out of the clouds now...
One last view of Cadair Idris...
Is this even a path from here?...
Seemingly not, after descending this slope slowly I came to a rather boggy long grass field, reminiscent of the grim bit of land between Great and Little Whernside! Eventually after crossing this unforgiving bit of the corrie, and scaling a few dry stone walls, and barbed wire fences, I came to ladder stile - which lead me onto a path back towards the standing stone I detoured to earlier on the hike...

Stage 4:

Back onto the high road again!...
Remember to turn left here!...
Walking back along the Mawddach Bridge...
Arriving back at Barmouth Railway Station...
After a Guinness in the Last Drop Inn, which proudly displayed the slogan on it's A-Board outside 'As seen on Julia Bradburys railway Walks -You've walked the walk now talk the talk' I was staying overnight. I stayed at the Ocean Drive Hotel, which I would recommend. Here's the views from my room.
Early start the next day for a Barmouth Cliff walk, but that will be my next blog entry!
 I would recommend this walk to anyone who is a regular walker, in all this was about 20 miles so pretty tough. But well worth it I hope you'll agree?! Thanks for reading :)
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