One Minute Mountain: Cadair Idris

Alex Roddie continues his bite-sized intros to Britain's favourite hills with Cadair Idris, seat of legend and jewel of southern Snowdonia

Cwm Cau, Cadair Idris.  © Myfyr Tomos
Cwm Cau, Cadair Idris.
© Myfyr Tomos, Oct 2016

Height:893m (2,930ft)

Personality: An exile from Snowdonia marooned amongst lesser hills, Cadair Idris would be more at home in the Ogwen Valley. It's a compact massif of crags, ridges and cwms, of interest to the hillwalker and rock climber alike.

What's in a name? Cadair Idris is Welsh for Chair of Idris, Idris being the name of a giant (or, alternatively, a reference to the 7th-century prince Idris ap Gwyddno. But our money's on the giant).

Hidden gem: Cwm Cau, on the south side, is a popular spot – but you may not have noticed the ancient graffiti inscribed on the huge boulders not far from Llyn Cau. It's evidence that this mountain has been a destination of choice for a long time.

Greatest route? For variety and majesty the Minffordd Path from the south side is hard to argue with. Starting steeply through moss-shrouded ancient woodland, it soon breaks out onto open rocky slopes and makes a splendid ridge circuit around Cwm Cau before climbing to the highest point, Penygadair.

  • For a longer day out try the classic full traverse of the massif from the north, as per this UKH Route Card

Cloud flow over Cadair  © Wulfrunian
Cloud flow over Cadair
© Wulfrunian, Nov 2014

Will I go mad if I bivy on the summit? Maybe! Legend has it that anyone who sleeps on the summit will either go mad or become a poet. Why not give it a try? The option of a summit shelter should the weather turn nasty makes this a fairly rational choice for a high level bivvy.

Any other myths or legends? Plenty! Folklore claims that Llyn Cau, the lake nestling in the cwm beneath the summit on the south side, is bottomless – and home to a Welsh water dragon that once attacked and terrified local people. King Arthur is said to have tamed the beast and dragged it up Cadair Idris to release it in Llyn Cau. So if you're wild camping beneath the crags and hear something splashing about in the water after dark, best stay in your sleeping bag.

Pub quiz trivia: The northern side of Cadair Idris is home to one of the first recorded rock climbs in Wales. Rock-climbing extraordinaire O.G. Jones climbed Cyfrwy Arête in 1888, at the start of his brief but brilliant career, and graded it Difficult (a grade the standard route retains to this day).

Where to stay? Doleinion campsite at the south side, or the Kings Youth Hostel, Hafod-dywyll, for routes starting on the north side.

Local pub: The Unicorn, Dolgellau.

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