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Mad, Blind or a Poet

Kings YH, 25th-27th August 2007

There is a saying that if you spend the night up Cadair Idris and live you will come down the next morning “Mad, blind or a poet.” (This is a genuine quote mentioned by the tourist board)

One can imagine the walker who fell asleep on Cadair and woke up in the dark with the full moon overhead. He or she then walked down the mountain towards Dolgellau and came into a thickly wooded valley. After a while stumbling in the dark he came across a clearing in the woods. There was a bonfire with various figures gathered around it. Then a formally dressed man with druidic looking white hair approached something on a table and drew out a knife. Thinking this was some ancient Celtic sacrificial ritual the walker rushed off into the woods in utter panic and was not found till morning………

However if he had waited he would actually have found that this was Leicester Local YHA seventieth anniversary weekend at Kings hostel . this was the celebratory barbecue and Alan was about to cut the cake.

Nearly thirty people came on this weekend organised by Dorothy at Kings hostel near Dogellau which is now the only hostel in the area after the closure of Barmouth, Corris and Bala. It’s in a wonderful situation at the northern foot of Cadair Idris, in a clearing in a narrow wooded valley reached by a winding lane.

The hostel consists of an old building and an annexe. As it is nowhere near any mains it has its own water supply which means water can sometimes only be found at the lower annexe so toilets and showers in the main building don’t work! Apart from that though it was great.

Everyone got here in the end, though some cars decided to do a few detours around Dogellau first. The most unfortunate was the car with Mick, Dave and Stella in it who found that an accident had blocked the road in mid Wales so that they had to make a massive detour and didn’t arrive till 1.30 the next morning. Fortunately Bo had stayed up to let them in.

On the next morning the whole group set off to climb Cadair led by Chris who had quite a task with such a multitude. Cadair is in fact a series of five separate peaks with various tracks going up it from all directions. We opted for the pony path which is a fairly easy but longer walk up the mountain. Other tracks such as the Foxes path or the Minffordd path from the next valley would have been steeper. However as we started climbing from near sea level the actual climb was about 2700 ft which was quite a way.(The summit is 893 metres or around 2930 ft which is just under a Munro.)

The heather looked good and the weather was fine till we hit the mist that covered the top of the mountain. For some time it was just a matter of climbing in the mist and on the way we met two intrepid runners who were on the way to their usual run up the top. Also a large number of dogs and, for some reason red headed walkers (Anne had read an article saying the number of red heads was declining).. When we eventually reached the west to east ridge known as the saddle you could see the beginning of the nearly sheer drop below but nothing else and no sign of the lake Llyn y Gadair about 1000 feet below.

However as we began a steeper climb to the summit we could see blue sky above the mist and eventually climbed out of it. The top was a plateau with several small summits and also a bothy on top. It must be a bit cold in the bothy but would be a wonderful view in the morning. The mist was now beginning to break up and the clouds became quite spectacular scudding past at great speed so that one minute you could see a view and then it went again. In the end most of the cloud cleared and you could see the summits though the view to the south was a bit obscured. It was now a clear sunny day and you could see the Snowdon range foothills to the north and the Mawddach estuary below as well as the two lakes directly below the ridge which were really deep blue, though Liz resisted the urge to jump in this time!

On the way down one of Dan’s boots disintegrated which led him to muse that ‘He had left his soul/sole on Cadair Idris’. Dave is considering making this phrase into a song for Tanners. Further down we passed a plaque commemorating a runner who ran up Cadair in record time of about an hour and a half if I remember and then died in a climbing accident on Cadair the next day. Must be a moral in there somewhere.

After a well deserved break we began the descent in the sunshine and eventually got back to the hostel at 6pm after 8 hours out so it had been a good day and thanks to Chris for having the patience to deal with such a large group.

That evening was then barbecue night organised by Dorothy and everyone chipped in one way or another. The highlight of the feast for me was Rob’s brilliant cake which banished any thoughts of Atkins diets or weight watchers deep into the woods. Stella performed her usual service of tearing down a few trees and dragging them out of the woods, with Andy providing professional horticultural advice and the fire got going while Liz and Bo provided and organised the actual barbecue equipment.

Alan, formally dressed for the occasion gave a speech, the cake was cut, rivers of wine flowed and the fire burned merrily so a good time was had by all and thanks to Dorothy for organising the barbecue.

The next morning we decided to split up. Chris led a walk of great variety including travel by water, train car and foot. They crossed the Mawddach by ferry at Barmouth . had a trip on the Fairbourne narrow gauge railway, drove south and then had a walk. I led another group that had a swim at Barmouth walked over the mile long footbridge over the river then along the old railway track that followed the river .to Dolgellau. Thought he tide was out it was still a,. great walk surrounded by mountains. It was so sunny that at one stage we were forced to take a break in the George Pub in Penmaenpool where we sat with points of beer or Earl Grey depending on preference. Dave thought some people speaking in Welsh must come from eastern Europe. Then up the valley back to the hostel. Some others swam and walked on the beach at Barmouth while others just swam and sat on the beach and thought about walking. Mick and “one boot” Dan went to Portmeirion for the day but escaped without being made prisoner or being chased by any large spheres.

Next day we all went our separate ways. Bill’s car with Anne and I in went via the really spectacular coast road south to the Dysynni valley which is very remote and which used to be tidal marshes till it was reclaimed 500 years ago. In the valley is a quite spectacular outcrop Craig y Aderyn which is home to the only inland colony of cormorants who stayed where they were when the land was reclaimed And commute daily to the sea. There’s also the site of an old castle which was one of the last to hold out against the English.

After that across to Abergynolwyn up the valley to Minffordd by Lake Tal y Lin. This takers you along the south side of Cadair Idris which is far steeper then the north and on to the Dolgellau junction. This is a quite spectacular route and well recommended to anyone driving around there.

So that was that and it was a brilliant seventieth anniversary weekend with good weather, great walks and a fine barbecue with a classic cake.

Thanks to Dorothy for organising it all and I hope she’ll do the centenary weekend and Alan will be ready with the speech again!

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