There are two main scrambling routes on Cadair Idris, these are detailed below.
The ascent of Cadair Idris from the south (the beautiful Cwm Cae) can be enlivened by a section of scrambling which also happens to provide the most direct approach to the summit.
This is described as a ‘diff’ rock climb in ‘Scrambles and Easy Climbs in Snowdonia’ – however (probably in common with many others), I ‘discovered’ it before this was published and regard it as a grade 2 scramble, with optional more difficult sections. I’ve never felt the need for a rope on this scramble, and most difficulties can be avoided.
Start from the car park at Minffordd (GR 731114) and follow the clearly waymarked path through the woods and into Cwm Cae, trending left towards Llyn Cae (about 3/4 hour). The slabs of Tapia Llwydion are clearly visible to the right of the lake. Follow the lakeside path anti-clockwise, cross the lake outflow and trend up a grassy rise towards the lowest point of the slabs.
There are several ways up onto the slabs, the most difficult up a steep little groove (described in ‘Scrambles and Easy Climbs) at about grade 3, and a couple of much easier ways up just to the left. It is also possible to gain the main slab from the recessed slab 15 m to the right, at about grade 2. Once on the main slab, the route can be followed at will – generally easier to the left, more exposed to the right.
After the main slab, the line becomes more broken with some walking over heather, and the best scrambling lines need to be sought out – generally trending towards the deep gully on the left. After a final short steep section, the scrambling peters out and it is possible to walk straight on to the broad main summit ridge and then trend left to the summit. However, by moving to the right, onto the broken area of grass, heather, gullies and small crags, a great deal more scrambling can be found, at almost any grade – best when dry.
This will take you virtually to the summit ridge and the cairn and shelter is about 15 minutes walk away. Any of the main paths can be used for descent – if returning to Minffordd, the Minffordd Path, over Craig Cae is very scenic.
Another path heads east along the southern flanks of Mynydd Moel and then turns south down a steep spur, over a stile and back to the Minfordd path just before it goes into the woods.
The scrambling can take anything from 25 minutes to an hour, depending on route and variations in the upper part. The whole walk / scramble can be done in about 3 – 3 1/2 hours.
This is a serious scramble and requires a rope. Start at the car park about 4.5km south west of Dolgellau, (Grid ref:698152).
Take the path to the right of the campsite, follow this through the trees, then a series of walls till the path splits four ways (Grid Ref:695492). Cyfrwy arete should be visible on the approach dominating the sky line. Take the left path untill you reach Llyn y Gadair. Take the right path around the lake. Then take a right about half way round the lake scrambling up the scree, this is steep but nothing tricky, try to keep to the right as much as possible. CA is scratched on the wall indicating the start of the climb (Grid Ref:705-1347). Rope up here.
Pitch 1: From the CA stick to the arete for about 20m until reaching a series of pinnacles, belay here.
There’s plenty of polish and gear placements in the greasy corner which can be climbed at about VD, but the arête is a less obvious but easier line.
Pitch 2: Again follow the ridge for about 20m until reaching a flat platform known as The Table. As you climb on to the table there is a small but handy spike, with a sling around this and by dropping down a little you can make yourself secure whilst bringing up your second. Drop off into the gully from the right hand side of the table, the foot hold is there it just requires a little faith, you can belay your second down if needed and hook the rope round a rounded spike for yourself.
The tricky drop off looks worse than it is, but it can be avoided by reversing the route back off the North side of the table then working your way anticlockwise into the gully. Its still tricky though so go carefully.
Pitch 3: Once in the gully head down left for a few meters to a large pinnacle. DON’T belay or lean against the pinnacle which is loose! Climb the steep wall on good holds straight up from the pinnacle for a couple of meters then following the line to the left. Belay when you have got back onto the arete itself. 15m.
An easier route can be gained by stepping down leftwards and working your way up the easier ground on the left of the slab with the odd tricky section back to the ridge.
Pitch 4: Follow the arete over easy ground until reaching a short wall, either climb this up the center or take the easier option on the left.
This is a very enjoyable climb but should be taken with care as there are no escape routes.