Welsh Weekender (Day2) – 21th April

Summit of Cadair Idris (2930ft)

The morning dawned bright, with misty sunshine. A glistening white coating on the grass a telltale sign that it had been a clear night. Cerys the dog was  out and we ended up walking up the other side of the valley kicking a ball for her to chase. Now fully awake, we were ready, got kitted up and headed down the lane in the van…… pursued by the dog. I took her back, threw a stick as far into the valley as possible and ran back to the van. Mission accomplished!

As we headed to the car park at the centre of Abergynolwyn the sky clouded over, and as we unloaded the bikes the rain started to fall. Light at first, but soon we were sheltering in the van. We’d hatched a rough plan the night before, but we took the opportunity to get OS Explorer OL23 map out and decide a route. Looking out of the van window it looked like it was starting to brighten up.

Sure enough, 15 minutes later we were riding out of the car park, across the B4405 and over into the Dysynni Valley. We turned up the valley, passing the ruined Castell Y Bere, the tarmac soon turning into a gravel track. It was a relentless climb as we followed the banks of Afon Cadair North towards the mountain. After crossing Nant Hafotty the map was out, there were several options, with none signposted. A few minutes spent checking our route now could save us a lot of hassle and wasted energy if we took the wrong track.

Passing a dead sheep carcass we turned off the gravel and were now riding on grass with the occasional rocky section. The trail continued like this from 1300ft  as it gradually traversed the south side of Tyrrau Mawr up to the point at 1800ft where the footpath from the north side of the mountain joins. We had a quick stop at a sheltered spot at about 1650ft to map check and grab a snack. Looking up at the mountain it very rapidly disappeared into the clouds once past the point were the path joined. This would have to be the final stop as up in the clouds probably wasn’t the best place to have a break. Looking at the map it was about 2km from the point were we’d get into the cloud to the summit, with an elevation gain of about 1050ft. We agreed that it would have to be a case of just getting our heads down and going for it as it’d probably be a bit wet up there. To the top, photo, and back down out of the cloud, sounded easy!

We pressed on, getting to the juntion with the path, heading up into the cloud, the track was now a series of rock steps with sections of loose rock between. Very soon the cloud that had enveloped us had caused us to loose any sense of how far we had travelled. Now the rock steps gave way to what can only be called scree, with a faint path running across it. Some was rideable, but large sections were easier to push the bike over, on a good day with fresh legs I’d have given them a try, but it was far easier just to get your head down and push. In some places the track vanished, and the only way to navigate was to look into the swirling mist and aim for the next cairn.

Visiblility was down to about 50m as the trail went left and we climbed sharply. The wind was hard into your face as out of the gloom came an edge… nothing was visible over it except greyness, but it was pretty obvious that it was a long way down. (Having looked on the OS map since its about 720ft!) Was this the top? To our left it looked like it continued up. A walker came up and we could just about hear him say the summit was to the right, and that it was about another 30 minutes away!

The track levelled off now and then climbed slowly, the problem now was the cross wind. Without it the trail would have been easily rideable, but gusts kept hitting you and pushing you off line. With a nice selection of rocks to avoid it made it hard going. Soon the trail kicked up again, riding was just too hard in the cross wind, so we were back to pushing. As we approached several rocky sections we thought they were the summit, only to have our hopes dashed as the now very vague trail continued on.

Leaving the shelter of one of these rocky sections I could see the cloud streaming over the edge of the ridge 10ft to my left, as I moved forward the wind caught the bike and up it went like a kite. I now only had hold of it by one had and could feel myself going with the wind, so I dived on the ground. I tried shouting back to Rob, but he couldn’t hear so I signalled him to keep low. I lay there for a couple of seconds, very aware that I was on a ridge with big drops either side (1000ft to my left and 1200ft to my right) a wrong move in this situation could potentially be my last (I’m not ashamed to say I was very scared at this point). From the angle of the bike it was easier to push on to the shelter of the next outcrop. We had a one minute break in the shelter from the wind, what do we do? We’ve come this far, and with rock on our left shielding us for the next section we pressed on.

Soon we got to an exposed section again, and the cloud could clearly be seen flying over the ridge. But just visible was the Trig point with some people clinging to it. The trail had vanished now, it was just large rocks with snow between. We made the decision to leave the bikes, trying to get them up to the trig point would have been dangerous with the cross wind. So we headed up to the top. A quick photo taken by a walker, one taken by us of his group and it was time to head down. Just in time to get hit by a hail shower.

Heading down was far easier than the way up. Pushing the bikes between the outcrops, as we knew from the way up which ones were funneling the wind and would have blown us over. Very soon we had dropped far enough below the ridgeline to be out of the main blast, and the real fun started. The ride down was simply stunning and the misty greyness that reduced the visibility focussed all you attention on the trail ahead. There was no admiring the views, unless you were a big fan of ‘grey’.

We stopped for a one minute break at one point, and two walkers approached, one keen to talk about the merits of 29er wheels, all very nice, but another heavy hail shower cut the conversation short and we pressed on. Soon we were a the rock steps, we flew down them passing a large group of mountain bikers pushing up at the bottom. “How is it up there?” one asked me “Cold, grey, windy, blasted by hail, and the view’s shit” I replied.

We now ‘accidently’ took a right turn and found ourselves on the footpath leading down the North face, no walkers in sight. This descent was fantastic, out of the wind, and greyness with the occasional blast of sunlight. The track meandered down changing from, rock steps, to grassy  rock stewn flat sections and back to rock steps. Close to 1200ft of descending heaven! Soon we were at the lane that we would now take and follow cycle route 8 along the side of the Mawddach Estuary and up and over into the Dyffryn Valley and then up and over again, back into the Dysynni Valley. These weren’t really steep climbs, at 1050 and 1200ft they were tiny, but tired legs meant they felt higher.

Crossing the final ridge we weren back on tarmac, and flew down. The lane traversed the side of the hill and it was visible most of the way down…. nothing coming the otherway meant we could use all of the road in the turns…. 36.5mph I topped out at. As we approached the bottom two lambs ran out in front of Rob, he was doing about 30 at that point and locked the front (I think) trying to avoid them. Quite how he missed them I’m not sure, if lambs have nine lives like cats both of them had used one up!

A gentle road ride back up the valley gave us great views of the mountains, Cadair was still capped with cloud, and we wondered if the large group of bikers we’d seen on the way down had made it. Suddenly there was a barking to my left and the second sheep dog of the weekend tried to have a go at my leg! Once you’ve been bitten by a sheep dog (Long Mynd – 18th March) do you emit some kind of signal to other sheep dogs that you’re fair game to be bitten?

A couple of miles later we were back at Abergynolwyn loading the bikes, then into Tywyn to the Halo foods factory for a well earned ice cream. Later we headed into Machynlleth, a pint in the Skinners Arms with Robs mate Gareth (Who’s involved in the organisation of the Dyfi enduro) and a across the road into the Taj Mahal for a well earned pizza 🙂

Ride – #65     Bike – Gary Fisher Paragon 29’er

Miles – 25.7     Total 2012 miles – 1459.8

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