#65 – A warm, sunny day on Cadair Idris – in February?!

Penygadair, the summit of Cadair Idris

My mum would have said, “it’s neither one thing nor the other”, in the way that mums do.  Now, I like my winters cold and with loads of snow, and last week held the promise of real winter conditions at last, but then what happens?  It gets warm again, that’s what!  As I said, neither one thing nor the other.

The Visitor Centre near the Minffordd car park

If we can’t have a proper winter I’d rather have it warm, which isn’t as unlikely as it might seem. In February 2008, Chris and I had a day on Cadair Idris that was as sunny and warm as mid-summer.  The visitor centre at Minffordd had opened for business, but we didn’t linger – February days can be warm, but they are always short.

“….the path emerges from the wood….”

The path from Minffordd starts by weaving up a wooded hillside with interesting stream cascades over to the right.  As the path emerges from the wood, the southern flank of Penygadair suddenly comes into view.  The path then curves round to enter the delightful hollow containing the small lake of Llyn Cau.  From there, a steady pull up the hillside leads to the top of crags enclosing the lake below.

Approaching Llyn Cau

Craig Cau with Llyn Cau below

As the view unfolds, the Welsh names suddenly start to make sense, especially if you know a few words of the language.   Cadair Idris means ‘Idris’s Chair’, though from a distance it’s more like a throne for a king.  Penygadair means ‘The Head of the Chair’ (‘c’ sometimes mutates to ‘g’ in welsh), Llyn means lake, Cau means enclosed or shut and Craig means rock or crag, so Llyn Cau is ‘Enclosed Lake’, and the surrounding crags (Craig Cau) take their name from the hollow below.

Steep gully looking down to Llyn Cau

Llyn Cau from Craig Cau

The summit of Penygadair from the top of Craig Cau

We followed the steep cliffs above the lake, circling round the hollow before heading upwards to the summit of Penygadair, with great views west towards the sea near Barmouth (or Abermaw in Welsh).  Then, suddenly, we were at the top.  The summit has the usual triangulation column, made redundant in an age of aerial surveys, but there is also a surprise in store.

Looking west towards the sea

The surprise in this case is the small stone shelter at the summit.  What is even more surprising is that it’s clean inside, with no litter or sheep muck – a board placed across the door opening keeps the sheep at bay and a brush encourages visitors to maintain cleanliness.  The hut would make an ideal bothy for anyone wishing to spend a night on the mountain.

Looking down to the summit shelter at Penygadair

Another view of the hut

It should be stated, though, that an overnight stay is not without risk – an old legend says that anyone spending a night in the hut will wake the next day either as a poet or a madman!  We decided not to take any chances regarding the latter and after a brief stop we set off for Mynydd Moel (the ‘Bald Mountain’), followed by one of the roughest descents we had followed in a long time – a small price to pay for what had been a summers day in February.

Mynydd Moel from Penygadair

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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12 Responses to #65 – A warm, sunny day on Cadair Idris – in February?!

  1. stan bonnar says:

    enjoyed the walk paul. great views.


  2. maenamor says:

    Great photo’s and write up Paul, looked a nice day for the camera.. I was meant to go to ddault but thought I,d try some man flu instead…


    • It was a challenging day for pics, and I don’t have your skill – low sun, bright subject, black shadows, etc – striving to improve 🙂

      Get well soon, that man flu is deadly – well, to men anyway!


  3. I rarely get such good conditions on Cadair and hence have never managed to find the route down from Mynydd Moel in cloudy weather – last time me and Richard (I’d taken him up to see the wonderful Cadair Idris but we saw nowt) ended up descending down a steep scree gully between horrendous crags! 😮

    Your photos are superb though 🙂

    I have to say I like my winters warm, even though I like a trip on the easier mountains in good, hard snow… But I’m a proper softie about the cold!

    The first time I went up Cadair on my own, it was a really hot summer day and I ended up with a (rare for me) thumping headache. So, to try to cure it, I spent most of the afternoon sat up to my neck in Llyn Cau to try to cool my blood supply down. Can’t remember if it worked or not. No doubt a trip to a tea-shop for some cake afterwards would have done the trick if not though 😉


    • Thanks for the kind words, Carol.

      Have you tried Cadair Idris from the north (Foxes Path and Pony Path) – gives you a completely different view of the mountain.


      • Yeah I have – I thought I’d find the Foxes Path scary but, as an ascent, it was fine and I’ve done it a couple of times. Not sure I’d like it much in descent though as it’s a pretty big scree at the bottom and I hate descending scree! I’ve done the Pony Path too, plus walked off the 2 ends of the long ridge (east and west) – liked West best I think over Tyrrau Mawr 🙂


  4. Also, forgot to ask on the above comment – have you ever tried that horrendous stone-shoot which goes up to the col just before the summit?


  5. Pingback: #67 – Pen y Ghent on skis | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

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