On St David’s Day (1st March) we went up Cadair Idris. For some reason, there is an enduring myth that this is Wales’s second-highest mountain – I’m pretty certain that we were taught this when I was in junior school and a lot of people still seem to think it’s so, but my mountaineering (and climber of pretty much all of Wales’s mountains of note) husband, tells me this is not the truth. In fact, there are, he tells me, at least 17 mountains in Wales that are higher.
However, that is not to say that Cadair isn’t high. It certainly felt high enough to me on Saturday. We had elected to go up the north side, up the Pony Path, and we started on a lovely, sunny morning, warm enough not to need jackets. Looking across to Cyfrwy – the lower peak that we needed to get around or across to reach the summit – and to Cadair itself, we could see that there was still some snow remaining, but it was bright, sunny and cloud-free.
The Pony Path is a work of art in itself – a stone path laid by hardworking, dedicated volunteers that guides you up a twisting, turning route, curling around the milestone of the enormous split rock (you’d like to think it’s halfway, but of course it isn’t – the summit is halfway, cos you’ve got to come back down again…) and ever onwards and upwards.
We passed a family with a young lad – he couldn’t have been more than about six – who did very well; eventually mother and son admitted defeat and headed back down while dad powered on up to the summit, reaching it just behind us, before overtaking us at breakneck speed on the way back down.
As we got higher, the clouds began to come in, the rain started spitting and the wind picked up, and by the time we’d finished our picnic lunch (with biscuits for Bertie), it had turned grey and cold. That couldn’t dampen our spirits though – we just put on our waterproofs and extra fleece layers – and headed for the snowline.
Some of the snow was still surprisingly deep, and there were pristine virgin patches just asking to be stomped through. The views were still pretty spectacular, especially looking down to Llyn y Gader, and there were ravens cronking and circling overhead, tumbling around and flying upside down, maybe hoping their aerial acrobatics would be rewarded with a bit of left-over lunch.
I don’t know if anybody left any lunch behind, but the ranger who we met on his way down was carrying at least one carry-mat and a plastic bag full of other debris that had just been abandoned by some ignorant f***wits at the top of the mountain. I cannot understand people who would make the effort to trek up to see and admire this sort of amazing wilderness – and then happily trash it.
Anyway, we got to the top with a little bit of scrabbling over rocky, snowy outcrops, and stopped to take in the views across to Mynydd Moel on the other side, and to have another welcome cup of hot tea outside the summit shelter, before heading back down the way we had come.
So, I’ve been to the top of the 17th-highest (or thereabouts) mountain in Wales. It was great – and I’d just like to say a personal thank you to all those volunteers who laid the Pony Path. But can you just make the steps a little lower next time…?