Distance: 8.5 miles / 13.7km
Ascent: 4000ft / 1220m
Terrain: Good paths, rocky summits, grass, scree, easy (grade 1) but loose scrambling requiring judgement
The classic Cadair circuit ascends the Minffordd path through the stunning Cwm Cau to the main summit, Penygadair and descends from the neighbouring top of Mynydd Moel. It’s between these two summits that we spice things up a bit, by descending the infamously eroded Fox’s Path and contouring along beneath the mighty northern escarpment to regain the tops by a straightforward but potentially pant-soilingly loose scramble up the north ridge of Mynydd Moel. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…
- From the Dol Idris car park at grid ref: SH 732 115 follow the path along the tree-lined avenue, past the tea room and up, steeply through the trees alongside the tumbling Nant Cadair. Pass through a gate, catch your breath and continue along the path, ignoring any turn offs and staying on the left side of the stream.
- Continue as the path rises gently and turns into the hidden Cwm Cau. The steep crags of Craig Cau soon come into view but it’s not until more height is gained that the lake, Llyn Cau can be seen nestled beneath. Shortly before reaching (or shortly after visiting) the lake, head up onto the ridge crest on the south side and follow the good path round the rim, climbing steadily to the top of Craig Cau.
- Continue on the path, first descending before the final pull up on to the summit of Cadair Idris, Penygadair where there is a trig point and nearby roofed stone shelter (a good place for lunch in bad weather). Mynydd Moel can be seen away to the east, across the grassy summit plateau. Resist temptation to head straight for it.
- From the summit shelter head NE along the edge of the rim overlooking Llyn y Gadair to a narrowing rocky upthrust and scramble along and down it to be deposited at the top of the Fox’s path on a small, cairned promontory. Alternatively, arrive at the same point by skirting round the boulder field to the right (south) of the rocky section.
- Descend the scree of Fox’s path with care. It is loose throughout, but generally not too bad. At the base of the scree, shortly before reaching Llyn y Gadair, turn right onto grass and head along the undulating ground at the base of Cadair’s huge north face. There is a faint path through heather and boulder field for some of the way but the terrain turns grassy soon enough and makes for easy going. Just keep heading up, aiming for the base of Mynyndd Moel’s rocky north ridge, which now forms the horizon.
- From a grassy shoulder at the base of Mynydd Moel’s north ridge, survey the way ahead. The true crest of the ridge is steep and firmly into rock climbing territory so, staying to the right of a shallow gully, make your way upwards over rock outcrops interspersed with grassy ledges as best you can. BEWARE! The rock here can be very loose and requires great care – test all holds before committing. A person-sized flake of rock came away in my hand and slid away down the hillside, almost taking me with it…
- Eventually you will pop out at the summit of Mynydd Moel, most likely surprising walkers who have come straight over from Penygadair. After a brief rest in the boat shaped summit shelter, it’s time to descend.
- The ‘normal’ descent from Mynydd Moel heads south over grassy slopes to meet a fence which is simply followed downhill. A path soon asserts itself and eventually takes you over a slate slab bridge over the stream, to meet the outward path where it emerges from the steep woods. Simply follow this back down to the car park. For a more interesting variation, that cuts out some of the tedium of the normal route, head SE from Mynydd Moel, following the rim above steep crags down to a small col. Head south from the col to join and follow an infant stream. As you approach a wall crossing the hillside, veer off right to eventually intercept the wall and follow it to meet the usual descent route described above. Then simply turn left to follow the path down.