Because of a big Welsh adventure we are planning we needed to find a decent 4 seasons tent. We are planning to walk in winter on the mountains of Wales for 9 days. So I came up with the idea of doing a one night walk up Cadair Idris to try out one of our tents, the Vango Tempest 200. Cadair Idris lies on the southern side of The Snowdonia National Park in Gwynedd, Wales.
Cadair is a 10km walk that can easily be done in one day, but I planned to split it in two, leaving mid afternoon with time enough to reach the top and camp before dark. The reason I chose Cadair is because of the close proximity it has to our base in Wales and the benefit of having a shelter at the top in case things do go wrong.
Cadair (meaning chair in Welsh) is said to be the chair of Idris the giant, others say Idris refers to Gweiddno a Welsh prince that won a battle on the mountain against the Irish many many moons ago. It is said that he was known as Idris the giant. This alongside the fact the scenery is beautiful and the walk pretty doable makes it one of the most popular walking routes in Wales. It has a main carpark with toilets, a visitor centre and cafe. The car park can be found at- Tywyn LL36 9AJ.
I arrived at 14:15 at the car park and the first thing I realised I had done wrong is not bringing money for the car park as it is pay and display. Digging around the van and all my pockets I managed to find the minimum charge for the day which is £2.50 for 4 hours. If you want to park for the whole day up to midnight, it is £5, but it doesn’t say anything about overnight.
The walk doesn’t mess around and begins with a steep section heading straight up very steep steps for around 1km, there are some sections that have handrails for help. Roughly at that point is where you will join the path the next day on your way down. After this, the path starts turning west heading towards the lake with a more gentle climb.
Not far from the lake, the path comes to a fork, if you want to take a closer look at the lake or plan on pitching your tent there take the right hand path, if not take the steep lefthand path. Keep climbing south till you reach the beginning of the ridge that you will be following pretty much all the way to the summit.
The track along the ridge is very well marked and very easy to follow, but you must take special care in bad weather as the path runs along next to the edge of the cliff face on your right. From the fork at the lake, you climb for another 1.5km until you reach Craig Cwm Amarch, the second highest point of the walk. In bad weather you will know you are there when you reach the stile.
From here there is a short section of path that heads downhill. It is very slippery in winter as the rocks are wet and uneven, but it isn’t too technical, just be careful. After that it’s the final ascent to the summit. You can either follow the path that goes round a patch of rough terrain, or set up a bearing and go straight to it. If you choose the second option be aware of big loose boulders that are extremely slippery in places. After a stunning late afternoon, with a lovely sunset I got to the summit and with that the first clouds started to roll in…. They were to stay for the rest of the night and the whole next day.
Just below the summit there is a refuge, but as mentioned before, I was going to stay in a tent I needed to try it. The wind was blowing hard and although there is space near the refuge to pitch a tent, I didn’t want to be so exposed, so found a little place that someone had built before (thank you!) where I could pitch the tent with some protection from the wind.
The night was long, very long. You can’t escape technology these days! There was full 4g mobile signal at the summit! So I had a video call with Pata (the other 50% of watchoutworld), and after a meal by Expeditionfoods it was time to sleep. The wind was quite strong for most of the night although it was 100% quiet at times.
The tent- Was as expected to be honest. It is not a very bulky tent, but the size isn’t very light at 2.6kg for what you get. This wouldn’t be a problem if the tent performed well, but unfortunately the moment there is a bit of wind, the flysheet is pushed against the inner at the lower part and if there is dense fog like that day the water starts coming in. Another negative point is the height, not enough even to sit down comfortably to cook. On the plus side, the ventilation was supper as even with water coming through from the bottom bit, there was no condensation inside, just a little puddle inside. Luckily for me the tent was on a bit on a slope and the water stayed away from me.
The morning came as the night went, with high winds and little visibility due to low cloud, it was quite miserable to be honest. The path from the summit follows the line of the cliff to a fence for just under 1.5km, the path isn’t very visible specially on a day like that, so special care is needed to avoid having a fall. There is a fork before the fence, but with the bad weather I couldn’t find it.
Once you get to the fence, the navigation is pretty much done and the rest of the walk is downhill following this fence for 1km ish. The path comes to a fork over a stile where you cross the fence and head southwest till you meet the track you used to come up on the day before, from there, just retrace your steps from day 1 till you reach the car park. All the way down is very steep, with a lots of loose rocks which makes the journey very uncomfortable.
It took me a total of 4h to do the whole walk (in 2 days) and a total of almost 10km. As I said at the beginning, you could easily do it in one day, but it is the perfect walk to try wild camping.