Cadair Idris by the Pony Path
Walk Route Description
Cadair Idris is a popular summit visited by thousands of people each year and is one of the highlights of Southern Snowdonia. The highest point of a long complex ridge extending inland from the coast near Tywyn, it offers a suitable objective for a walk. Routes of ascent vary in difficulty with the southern route from Minffordd offering the steepest and most dramatic approach for walkers. The northern flanks are less steep with a number of different approaches possible including the route chosen for this excursion into the hills. (See walk 1204 for details of the southern ascent route from Minffordd)
This Snowdonia walk starts from the small car park at Ty-nant (grid ref. SH697152) turn right onto the lane and follow this west for a few hundred yards. Just before the telephone on your left take the track that leads onto the "pony path", which trends south-west across rising ground. Ahead are the northern cliffs of Cadair Idris with some sections looking particularly formidable. Over recent years this popular "tourist" route has seen many improvements and progress is quite straightforward. Even where the ground steepens, zig-zags make upward progress quite easy.
Emerging onto a wide col, the route for the summit heads east (to your left) with the main path fairly obvious even in cloud. Rising steadily across the flanks of the subsidiary summit of Cyfrwy, the path is often stony but never difficult. On this particular occasion the cloud base was around 600 metres (2,000 feet) and no difficulties were experienced finding the route. However one must be careful when the path nears the top of the cliffs. Turning right along the edge of the precipice you have fine views down to Llyn y Gadair below. The steady climb continues until some easy scrambling amongst rocks takes you to the summit trig point.
If you are used to mountain walking then this is an easy ascent for a mountain of such stature. The view is wide-ranging although on this occasion the cloud only lifted for a few seconds at a time giving tantalising glimpses of the mountain and coastal scenery for which the summit is renowned. On the subject of weather it is worth remembering that Cadair Idris, because of its location, does see some rapid changes in conditions. In addition it can be clear and sunny elsewhere yet this summit keeps an annoying cap of cloud.
It is well worth spending some time on the summit as there is much of interest. A short walk south gives excellent views down to dramatic Llyn Cau, which is seen to better advantage when approaching from Minffordd. Quite rare on British mountains, the summit also has a substantial stone built hut which can offer shelter in inclement weather. If you are short of time or energy then you should retrace your steps and follow the outward route back to the car park. However for the more adventurous the onward route along the ridge to Gau Craig is well worth the effort.
Leaving the summit on the path heading east, ignore the path descending steeply to Llyn y Gadair, instead following the rim of the northern cliffs towards the rounded summit of Mynydd Moel. Like most of this walk, the going is easy and you soon reach the top. Only a 100 feet (30 metres) lower than Cadair Idris you are able to enjoy the view in peace as very few walkers bother to visit this summit. Views are good in both directions along the northern cliffs and further afield you can pick out many of the Welsh mountains.
Continuing east, the path follows the cliffs to descend quite steeply to reach an area of upland moorland. In theory the path follows the fence but sections of soft ground mean that easier going can be found away from the general line. The final summit of the walk is Gau Craig, the highest point of the impressive south facing crags marked on maps. A small cairn indicates the summit, which is a perfect place to linger with little chance of being disturbed.
The onward route of descent follows the ridge eastwards with the path twisting down through rocky outcrops. The path becomes less distinct as lower ground is reached but by tracking roughly north east you reach the bridle path marked on Ordnance Survey maps at grid reference 754153. This track is grassy and can easily be missed. Assuming you are on target, head north descending to the lane near Maes Coch farm.
Two options are available from here. The most obvious is to use the lane as far as Pandy gader and then using the footpaths heading west to the Gwernan Lake Hotel just along the lane from where you started. The second option is to descend into Dolgellau using lanes and paths through the woods to explore this interesting town. Using a local taxi firm we arranged a lift back to Ty-nant car park not wanting to walk along the road - or at least that was our excuse....
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