Impromptu Guiding on Cadair Idris
Jake // October 22, 2019
I was coming back from a few days of rock climbing in Snowdonia and although it’s a fantastic area, the drive is usually horrific coming in at between 6-10 hours. As I was trying to build up my route portfolio for guidebook articles anyway I thought I would stop on the way and tackle the tallest mountain in southern Wales, Cadair Idris at 893m. Due to farming boundaries you’re forced to follow one of the tourist paths to the summit, the main route takes you straight up and back, however there is another circular route that includes another minor summit but due to logistics I chose the up and back.
The route was as expected, a well laid path. But the gradient and terrain varied. I found it a nice change to Snowdon’s routes, I dislike tourist paths but I actually really enjoyed the climb. The scenery was diverse which was a good change of pace, through a forest, past a beautiful lake and along a ridge. There were lots of people on the route but not to the extent of your average day on Snowdon, which would make this mountain a good alternative on a day that is expected to be busy.
As I approached the summit it was obvious that visibility was disappearing rapidly. The path quickly disappeared as the ground got more broken. This is where people have issues, you expect a path all the way to the top and unfortunately that’s a rarity. I even whacked out my compass to make sure I wasn’t going to miss it. I summited and found my way to the shelter which is one of the nicest I have seen, unfortunately it has the same problems as most. People don’t respect it and leave crap behind. Why those kinds of people climb mountains is beyond me.
This is where I met Ben and Julie. By now the wind had picked up and visibility was practically zero. We exchanged pleasantries over lunch before the conversation turned to the route down. They asked me for advice as they had come from the other direction and couldn’t see a clear route through the scree. They were well equipped which was nice to see and I’m sure they would have been fine but as soon as I noticed some concern, I felt that as an experienced mountaineer I had a duty of care to make sure they got down safely. I insisted on leading them down, at least through the difficult bit. I think they felt slightly embarrassed that I offered to help but I wasn’t taking no for an answer and who can turn down free guiding, especially from the best mountaineer in the world *this is 100% factually true.
I was on a mini rescue mission, how exciting. As we left the shack, there was no visibility. I led them down the scree slope getting through the worst of it and finding the path. Then suddenly the summit cleared. What a view, it was stunning. My work here was done however they were a nice couple so I stuck with them all the way down and we had a nice chat. They were on a week-long walking holiday to escape their teenage daughters. Julie worked as a freelance drama teacher so we had lots to discuss being a freelancer myself. They were a really interesting couple and I really enjoyed meeting them, it made the descent fly by!
Cadar Idris was a really nice mountain to climb, I highly recommend it especially if you’re from the South West and looking for a shorter commute. The path is of a high quality until a few 100m below the summit where it becomes an easy scramble. However please don’t underestimate the mountain, climbing any mountain is a serious undertaking so make sure you are dressed and packed correctly. If unsure, hire a guide or go with a more experienced friend.
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