Helen (heleninwales) wrote,

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Cadair Idris -- not the second highest mountain in Wales

Well, I think that counts for my exercise for today. I've been up Cadair Idris and back with my daughter Ali. I'm ashamed to admit that although I've lived here for 26 years, I've not climbed our local mountain in all that time. I have climbed it once before, but that was when I was student on the geology course at Aberystwyth University.

It's not far as the crow flies but it's quite a climb. Actually, that should probably be "as the raven flies", because (unlike crows) they like craggy mountains and there were a couple of them on the summit. It's not a difficult climb, however. Mostly it's just a case of walking up a steep rocky path, which has in many places been built up into steps with slabs of rock to help fight the erosion of the thousands of feet that tramp up it every year. So, apart from a couple of places that are more scrambly and require hands as well as feet, it's just a long hard slog.

Looking back towards Dolgellau

Looking back again from higher up.

Looking up this time at the cliffs we didn't want to get blown over.

Going up was fine, though we did find the wind something of a challenge when we got higher. Also Ali did liken our climb through the grey, mist-shrouded tumble of rocks to Frodo and Sam's ascent of Mount Doom. Though sadly we were just 500 million years too late for the volcano. When we reached the long ridge leading to the actual summit, the wind was so strong you could lean into it and neither Ali nor I wanted to go too near the edge of the cliffs for fear of being wafted over by a sudden gust. (Though I did creep near enough to take this photo.)

Looking down

Looking up. Ali with the summit just beyond.

There were pockets of calm created by sheltering rocks, but we had long decided that the sandwiches and honey buns we had so carefully packed into the rucksack would now be eaten on the way down, somewhere more sheltered; and when we were taking photos of each other on the summit, I really felt I had to cling onto the summit cairn to keep myself upright in the wind.

Me at the summit of Cadair Idris...

... and Ali ditto

With hindsight (isn't that a wonderful thing?), we ought to have set off an hour or so earlier because then we would have made it back before the rain really started and we wouldn't have been soaked through and chilled to the bone on the descent. As it was, the plan to eat the picnic on the mountain rapidly altered to, "eat the picnic back at home, along with a hot cup of tea and a bowl of soup."

At this point the walk became just an exercise in putting one soggy foot, carefully, in front of the other. It doesn't do to underestimate British mountains because a little slip can twist or break an ankle and the cold rain and wind can soon lead to hypothermia. A young woman just in front of us did slip and fall to her knees, but when we went over to see if she was OK, she said she was and, indeed, when she set off again, she wasn't limping so she must have been telling the truth and not just doing the British stiff upper lip thing. (Actually, I think, from her accent, she was German, but you know what I mean.)

Finally we dropped low enough to be out of the wind, so we warmed up a bit, though we were completely wet and squelchy by then. But soon we reached the car and from there it's only about 5 minutes drive home to towels and dry clothes, sandwiches, hot soup, tea and blissful central heating.

P.S. The bit about "not the second highest" in the subject is because there is a misconception that Cadair Idris (Idris's Chair) is the second highest mountain in Wales after Snowdon. This is far from the truth as there are quite a few mountains in the Snowdon massif that beat Cadair easily, however, Cadair Idris is perhaps the second most famous mountain in Wales and certainly, in its setting by the Mawddach Estuary, one of the most spectacular.

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