Cadair Idris

September 10, 2009 at 6:52 pm | Posted in Walking | 2 Comments

Cadair Idris was a fitting walk for my 60th Welsh summit. I took the Minffordd track via Cwm Cau and Craig Cwm Amarch up to Penygadair, the highest point in the Cadair Idris range. I then looped back via Mynydd Moel, with short spurs off to inclCraig Cwm Amarch and Lyn Cauude Cyfrwy and Gau Graig. It was an incredible September day, with mostly clear skies and strong sunshine, so as well a clear site to down to Barmouth on the coast and across Pumlumon, you could see out across the mid-Wales hills and up to the Lleyn Peninsular, the Rhinogs and Arans and in the distance the far peaks of Snowdonia, while Ireland was a faint outline on the horizon.

As the route is so well known, I was going to use this as an opportunity to reflect a bit more on the experience of hill-walking and the beauty of mountains. But the day provided its own focal point for thinking. As I came down the path from Craig Cwm Amarch across the ridge that steeples down to Llyn Cau – a still, tropical blue mirror below – I came across a group of people on the path. At first I thought they  had just stopped for a break but then I realised that a man was lying down and being cared for. My first thought, or hope, was that it was just a fall, a bruised knee or strained muscle, but someone was already trying to resuscitate him and people were obviously distressed. Fortunately the two walkers behind me were doctors and they took over the attempt at resuscitation but it already looked unlikely as there was no pulse and he had been down for 10 minutes or so. Someone had already reached the mountain rescue service and a helicopter was on its way. There was nothing I could see to do and so I and some others moved on, reassuring each other that that was the best thing.

At the top of the bwlch before splitting off to Cyfrwy from the main route up to Penygadair, I took a break. Watching back to the ridge I could see the group around the fallen man, anxiously waiting for the helicopter. Then I heard the slow thumping deep sound of blades and a helicopter appeared from the east but passed straight overhead towards the sea, then behind me I heard a much louder noise and a bright yellow RAF helicopter rose up from behind the ridge. It headed over the valley towards the accident but then circled without landing. In fact it had dropped the necessary equipment but, as another walker told me, the man was already dead and they were only retrieving the body.

There was a sense of sadness but also a sense of nothing being left undone. He hadn’t died from lack of medical attention, nor from a mistake. He had gone quickly on the hills on a beautiful day. It was tempting to think that this was not a bad way to go. Not a consolation anyone would have offered his wife then but one that his family will have drawn on in the days to come. And all the rest of us could do was carry on walking.Cyfryw and Barmouth from Penygadair

I trekked on to Cyfrwy with its clear views of the cliffs running down the north face of Cadair. Then onto the summit of Penygadair, where two groups of teenagers were joking, testing themselves, flirting. That felt appropriate too. And then they moved off and for a while I had the summit to myself, to sit and just look at the immense stretch of hills on all sides.

Then it was on to Mynydd Moel. This is a easy walk over from Penygadair and the good views continue from the edge of the ridge. As I left the summit I heard the beat of a raven’s wings behind me,  but this was not the usual solitary pair but six birds that gathered for a few minutes over the summit. I watched them wheel over the summit in a silent ballet, punctuated only by the occasional craw and soft beating of wings. After a minute or two they split into two groups, two flying westward and the rest going south with a final croaking cry.Craig Cwm Amarch from Penygadair

From there it was a short bog trot out and back to the outlying peak of Gau Graig. Then back down over heather and a steep track to rejoin the Minffordd path. The sun was just dipping behind the rocks of the ridge as I descended at the end of a beautiful day and thought provoking day.



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  1. […] the open hillside and it was just a short climb up to the ridge. The reward was a lovely view of Cadair Idris to the west. I followed the ridge north from here to the summit of Waun-oer. As you walk to the […]

  2. […] Heading off from Glasgwm, I wavered for a minute to check which way to go around the lake and then followed the fence to the right and then as it bends to skirt the forest ahead. As the mist had cleared now, I cut across the moor to the corner of the forest, then on to the summit of Pen Y Bryn-Fforchog – which apparently means Top of the Forked Hill. It was much clearer now, hot even at times with the sun finally breaking through the cloud. Wheatears and other moorland LBTs (little brown things) were all around – and of course there was a raven waiting as I reached the summit. It’s a nondescript peak but there are decent views to Maesglaes and Waun-Oer and beyond them Cadair Idris. […]

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