Snowdon and Cadair Idris by foot, bike and bus

By Kenny Stocker

It was Friday afternoon and it looked like there was another great weekend on the cards. I didn’t have a plan, Nick had said that he would be around during the weekend but in the back of my mind I guess I really wanted to get back into the mountains and do something that at the end of the year I could say.. that’s what I did this year.

I dropped Col off at home after work, I still didn’t know what I was doing so I threw some pasta in the pan… When Jim found out that I had attempted the Welsh 3000ers last weekend he had asked why Cadair Idris wasn’t included. Now that I was forced to think about it I couldn’t think of a reason either. I had been up it many times as a lad it was a big mountain… surely it had to be at least 3000ft?

The pasta bubbled away and I popped the lid on the jar of pesto, classic basil. When the weather is hot and sunny I think of the mountains around Lecco, I really miss not being able to just step out of my back door and on to a mountain. I thought about the bike in the back of my car, what was that doing there anyway? Earlier in the week I had extracted a link out of the chain with the help of Pete and although the back wheel fell off and I had ended up face first on the tarmac the chain no longer slipped. It was like a raging bull, but I reckoned I had what it would take to ride it.

Stirring in the pesto an idea started to formulate itself… maybe I could do Snowdon and Cadair Idris in a day by bike, and on my bike at that!

First thing to do was to drive back out past Alpkit HQ to Decathlon and take a look at a map, how far was it from Snowdon to Cadair Idris anyway? They didn’t have the maps I needed but I did manage to pick up a puncture repair kit. Next stop Tesco to pick up some supplies. I was going to need energy, I needed Malt Loaf.. Shortly after I was back at Alpkit printing off a Google map. It looked as if it was going to be about 35 miles from Snowdon to Cadair Idris, it sounded like a long way. I had never cycled that distance in my life, but I knew I could walk up Snowdon, and if I could reach Cadair Idris I would be able to walk up that as well. What I didn’t know was if my bike would make it to Cadair Idris without falling apart, whether I could ride that distance, and if I did would I be able to make it back?

These were details I could worry about later. Now I just needed to get back to Decathlon and pick up that bike lock I had forgotten earlier.

I camped out at the foot of Pen-y-Pass and set off at 6.15. I figured that if my bike was going to fail it would be on the climb to the youth hostel and it would only be a short walk back to the car. No such problem and I had despatched Snowdon by 9. The descent to Beddgelert was a joy, if a little chilly, the constant risk of my back wheel falling off kept me alert.

My Google map indicated that I should go through Rhyd, it was the shortest way. It didn’t tell me it was also the steepest way, but what ever goes up must eventually come down and I whizzed pass the Tan-y-Bwlch station on the Ffestiniog Railway. I had been here many times when I was younger, I had had posters on my wall and everything, but before today I honestly could not have told you where it was. From here there was a long climb up to Llyn Trawsfynydd, just manageable on my 32/13 ratio before the long, interminable slog towards Dolgellau.

Head down and peddle. My crank had developed an interesting crunching sound, not really a place I wanted to break down. As each hill appeared out of the haze I wondered if it was Cadair Idris, if not that maybe the next one, or the next, or the next…

Suddenly there were a few more bikes around. I had stumbled upon the Coed y Brenin mtb centre. Today wasn’t the day to check out some of it’s trails but I was glad to have found out where it was, and from here the road started to drop down into Dolgellau. From the town centre it was a steep little climb to the Gwernan Lake Hotel and the start of Foxes path up Cadair Idris, (km 58, 1pm). By now I was quite weary, pushing was easier than riding, I treated myself to a cola in the hotel. I was glad to be out of the saddle and pretty sure that I would be able to recuperate some energy on the walk, and what a great day to be walking. There was nobody on this side of the mountain and I had forgotten how great a mountain Cadair Idris is. The soft and luscious grassy path took me to Llyn y Gadair where it turned all too soon into a steep scree path which led direct to the summit. 2.30pm. I joined many other people enjoying the sun by the summit cairn. While munching on my malt loaf the summit of Snowdon was visible through the haze, I was startled by how far it looked away.

The descent was slow, both of my knees were giving way and I couldn’t see myself riding back. I hadn’t really thought about how I would get back if I couldn’t ride it but now I started going through the options: bus, taxi, hitch, walk. Arriving at the hotel the guys really helped me out by providing some bus information, nothing direct to Pen-y-Pass, it looked as if Caernafon or Bangor would be my best bet. Not wanting to delay I scooted back down into town. Weirdly my knees didn’t feel too bad back on my bike, and I think if I had of had a bike more suitable for the job like a Genesis Vapour I would have been up for it. As it was I was more than happy to hop on the Blaenau bus and cut out the Trawsfyndd section. I was dropped at the Oakeley Arms, half way home.

Even with my renewed energy levels I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about the climb back over Rhyd. I was tempted to head the long way down around Penrhyndeudraeth, but the bus driver was watching me so I quickly snapped my wheels back into the frame and rode off around the corner. It wasn’t long before I was pushing but I was out of sight. The climb went quicker than I was expecting and I cruised into Beddgelert. 6.15pm, I took on some food and water, not far now but it was all up hill. By some miracle I managed to ride to the Pen-y-Gwryd Hotel without resting, was I pleased? believe it!

And so just 13 hours after setting out I was back at the car, happy with what I had achieved and more than ready for a healthy portion of fish and chips in Betws-y-Coed!

In retrospect I think that this trip would be excellent to do over two days, taking a more interesting off road route with bivvy gear. In my haste I had no bike rack, a bike not suitable for purpose, and I really don’t like riding with a heavy backpack hence my decision to do it in a day.

Equipment:
- Retro Rockhopper singlespeed 32/13
- Gourdon 20
- Google maps
- Malt Loaf
- Water
- Sunglasses
- Bus

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