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Climbing Cadair Idris via the Cyfrwy Arete in Snowdonia was the highlight of our Wales road trip adventures in summer 2021. (Cadair Idris is also spelt Cader Idris.)
This isn’t a technical guide about the climb & scramble. Rather, it’s a picture guide to entice you to embark on this adventure yourself, with our without kids in tow. My children were 8 & 11 years old at the time of the climb.
We enlisted the services of an amazing climbing guide who had also guided us in the past. I highly recommend Bob Thomas at Contour Outdoor for any climbing or mountaineering activities in the UK or beyond. Once you’ve experienced the best, it’s hard to settle for anything less.
About Cadair Idris
Located in southern Snowdonia in Wales, Cadair Idris is a spectacular mountain with an elevation of 893 metres above sea level. Without the crowds of its northerly cousin Snowdon, it’s a tranquil place to visit that offers stunning views. Cadair Idris also forms part of the Welsh Three Peaks – the other two peaks are Snowdon in northern Snowdonia and Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales.
Top Tip: There are several routes up Cadair Idris. If you prefer to walk Cadair Idris without the need of climbing and scrambling, there are two popular routes: the easier, Pony Path, starts at Ty Nant Car Park near Dolgellau. And the more challenging, Minffordd Path, starts from the Dôl Idris Car Park near the Minffordd Hotel. We have only taken the Pony Path (up via the Cyfrwy Arete and down the Pony Path), hence don’t have any experience with the Minffordd Path, yet.
About the Cyfrwy Arete
The Cyfrwy Arete, on the north side of Cadair Idris, is a classic mountaineering route. It’s graded VDiff and appropriate climbing equipment is required. It’s a mix of climbing and scrambling, plus the walk-in & walk-out.
Our climbing guide, Bob, suggested climbing a multi-pitch route up Cadair Idris via the Cyfrwy Arete which turned out to be the most amazing climbing adventure for us. It was our first multi-pitch climbing route and what a great one to start with! After climbing up via the Cyfrwy Arete, we walked to Cadair Idris’ summit, called Penygadair; and finally returned via the Pony Path.
Facts about the climb/ scramble/ hike
Starting Point: Ty Nant Car Park, LL40 1TL (Grid Ref: SH 697153)
Distance: 13.17 km
Elevation Gain: 1,282 m
Moving Time: 4h 12m
Elapsed Time: 8h 2m
Ordnance Survey Map: OS Explorer OL23 Cadair Idris & Bala Lake
Cadair Idris Map & GPX File: View Route Map & Download GPX File
For a technical guide about this climb, check out Bob Thomas’ article Bob’s Route: Cyfrwy Arete.
GETTING TO THE START OF THE CLIMB
After meeting our guide, Bob, at the Ty Nant Car Park at 9:30am, he introduced us to the day’s plans, safety measures as well as checked and supplemented our gear. We then set off at 10:10am and made our way towards the Pony Path by turning right out of the carpark.
The walk-in follows the initial sections of the Pony Path which leads through grass and heather as well as crosses a stream.
After walking for about 1.5 hours, we arrived at the bottom of the scree that we had to cross in order to reach the start of the climb. In the image below, Bob points out our climbing route on the Arete.
Crossing the scree at the lower section was fun for the kids as it felt like a big maze. We had to watch our every step though as the rocks were loose and thus wobbly.
A little patch of grass gave our feet a little rest from scree-crossing and allowed us to savour the view towards Llyn y Gadair.
At this point the scree slope became steeper and the stones smaller, which made it more strenuous to cross.
We then crossed the final section of the scree before reaching the start of our climb.
It took us about 30-40 minutes to cross the scree. We then settled at the base of the climbing route and got geared up for the climb. Fortunately – after postponing our climb by a day due to unfavourable weather – the weather was dry.
On most pitches, the kids climbed first and I followed second. I savoured the views and took it all in while I was waiting for my turn. The views were stunning as we could see all the way to the Irish Sea to the West and to northern Snowdonia to the North.
Very unusual for the Cyfrwy Arete – as it’s a very quiet climbing route – there were other parties on it as well, so that there was a little queue. We were able to overtake them and go ahead.
Penygadair, the summit of Cadair Idris, was shrouded in clouds during our climb.
Once we finished climbing and scrambling up the Cyfrwy Arete, we walked up to the summit of Cadair Idris, called Penygadair. It’s a roughly 1 km walk and takes about 30 minutes. This is well worth the time and effort even on a cloudy day.
The descent follows the Pony Path all the way back to the Ty Nant carpark. It’s about 5 km in length and takes 2 – 2.5 hours. The views are beautiful towards northern Snowdonia to the North and the Irish Sea to the West. Saviour the views and tranquility and with a bit of luck you’ll have this special place all to yourself.
Where to park for Cadair Idris
Park at the Ty Nant Car Park, LL40 1TL (pay & display); which is also the carpark for Cadair Idris’ Pony Path hike. You will return to the same carpark after the climb.
Weather for Cadair Idris
As with any activity in the mountains, always check the weather forecast.
The Mountain Weather Forecast by the MetOffice website or app is very useful.
Campsites near Cadair Idris
We stayed at the Cwmrhwyddfor Farm campsite which is a 20-minute drive from the Ty Nant carpark for the Pony Path. It’s a simple campsite with a relaxed feel to it. This is also a great location to stay if you’re planning on walking up the Minffordd Path as it’s only 0.5 mile away from the Dol Idris carpark.
Climbing Cadair Idris via the Cyfrwy Arete was the absolute highlight of our Welsh adventures in summer 2021. It was our first multi-pitch route and it definitely wasn’t the last. We’ve got our first taste for climbing in Snowdonia and we will be back! We all got out of our comfort zones and grew; because that’s where growth (or, the magic!) happens. I love seeing the kids grow; and what a privilege is it for me to grow alongside them?
Adventuring solo with kids isn’t about doing it all by yourself. Rather, it’s about initiating it yourself without having to rely on someone else to join you; be it a spouse, partner or friend. So, plan that climbing, canyoning or rafting trip and book a guide! I only recommend guides/providers that we used ourselves and were happy with. Check out Top 20 Family Outdoor Activities in Wales for various activities and recommendations for guides & providers.
- Climbing Overlapping Ridge Route (First Pinnacle Rib), Tryfan
- Amphitheatre Buttress: A Classic Climb in North Wales
- Top 20 Family Outdoor Activities in Wales
- Top 12 Family Outdoor Activities in Snowdonia
- Snowdon Watkin Path with Kids: The Ultimate Picture Guide
- Devil’s Kitchen Snowdonia with Kids: The Complete Picture Guide
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