Thursday, February 18, 2010

Accomplished #1: Climbing Cadair Idris

I pulled into Dolgellau later in the day than I had planned.  It was about noon, which meant that I would not begin my ascent of Cadair Idris until 1pm.  This would turn out to be perfect timing.  Since I was in Dolgellau I chose to take the longer, easier route up the mountain, which was also the closest to town.  This is called the Pony Path, and begins just outside Dolgellau at the car park for Ty Nant.  Above is the picture of the mountain looking over the farmhouse at Ty Nant.  Cadair Idris is an imposing sight despite it's smallness as a mountain.

The Pony Path is one of the easy routes up the mountain, but being out of shape and carrying a large pack with my sub-zero sleeping bag and other overnight needs I was definitely stretched even in some of the early parts of the walk.  Somewhere along the second half of the climb I was having some significant pain in my hip, which felt like a pinching nerve.  This caused me to have to stop every couple hundred yards as I neared the top, and slowed my progress sufficiently enough to wonder if I would be okay with this crazy plan to sleep on the mountain in the winter.

To make matters worse I had dropped my beloved black gortex hat somewhere along the path while rearranging my gear, and it was too late to go back for it by the time I realized what happened.  There were other hikers going up and down the mountain, and I asked them to leave it at the car if they found it on the way down, but I gave up seeing my old hat ever again.

I reached the summit as the last people descending were leaving.  Between stopping for the many photos I took and to sit down and rest my hip it was a long slow climb.  It was clear for most of the climb.  This is somewhat rare for Cadair Idris I am told, but as I reached Pen-y-Cadair (the summit) a bank of gray clouds rushed in from the west like a fast moving train, and enveloped me, and the top of Cadair.

Just below the peak was a stone hut, which is used by campers to spend the night.  Needless to say I was the only one there on this winter night.  So, I hunkered down in the hut, and set up my sleeping spot on a wooden bench which was frozen with an thin ice sheet across it's top.

This darn mountain had better make poets out of madmen, because I was sleeping on an ice sheet like a madman and the legend that sleeping on the mountain will make you mad or a poet was going to be at least half true by the time the night was over.

Below are some of my many photos of the climb:

a passage up the mountain between some craggy barren trees.  The land of Wales so often reminds me of the stories from J.R.R. Tolkien's stories The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  It is such scenes as this which bring this to mind.
As I came to the top of the first section of the walk a couple was standing on the mountain.  People of all ages, couples, friends, runners, day hikers, and those on a daily regimen workout were coming and going.  This was not a large number on this winter day, but I can imagine that the numbers do grow large in the summer months.

In the second section of the climb this was the first real view of the summit.  If you click on the picture you will see the monument cairn which marks the Pen-y-Gadair (the top of the chair) Cadair Idris means The Chair of Idris - for more on the name see my post here

The Pony Path winds close along the edge of steep cliffs as it nears the top.  In the winter it is not recommended to stray to close to the edge as ice shelves, and snow banks can give way and go plunging down the face of the mountain.

The cairn at the peak as seen in winter from the Pony Path.

My humble abode for the evening.  Toasty and accommodating looking isn't it?  This is surely a five-star resort.  I'd better get some good poetry coming out of me after staying here!

This is my comfy little set up on a frozen bench in the Pen-y-Gadair hut.  Of course the flash on my camera is making look a lot more inviting than the reality of arriving just before sunset with a gray cloud bank chasing me up to the summit.

The dramatic rush of deep gray clouds which enveloped me can not be captured by still photography, but here you can see the front edge of the cloud bank as I near the summit.  The mountain went from bright and sunny to gray and dreary in moments.

The next post will cover waking and descending Cadair Idris.  The verdict is still out on my insanity or my poetic prowess.

part two of the photos and story


  1. You are incredibly fortunate Phil, it could so easily, have been otherwise. Looking forward to the next episode :)

  2. The day before was otherwise. It was an absolutely gorgeous day for my climb though. Albeit coooooooooooooooooold. But that's what all the layers, and the -15F sleeping bag were for.

  3. Breathtaking... that path DOES look like Tolkein.

    Gosh I need to go talk to the trees in the Isles. SOON. *shivers with glee*

  4. Hi Keiran,

    Breathtaking was the best and only word I knew to describe a number of moments.

  5. That's why I walked you up Barbury Castle , to see how fit you were - marginal with a very strong will - the latter tipped the balance in your favour. You've done incredibly well. I'm proud of you!

  6. Hi Stephen,

    No, no you misunderstand "breathtaking." I mean that it was so awe inspiring at times that it literally caused me to stop breathing, or made me gasp at the wild wonder of it.

  7. No surely not? You're pulling my leg, 'cause I may surely be pulling yours! LOL
    Applying ambiguity and various levels of meaning to a word is rather a delicious aspect of British humour - poetic licence even. ;~)

  8. Well Phil, look forward to hearing your poetry... but I'm already claiming a Bard's right to regale you with a toast and a song next time I can get you to a pub. :)

  9. great posts; making me homesick.

  10. Hi Aled,

    Hiraeth isn't a bad thing. Hope all is well with you.