Arenigs circuit – long overdue   10 comments

In a couple of recent posts I’ve alluded to the fact that in my younger days I tended to focus on the bigger well-known mountains at the expense of the less frequented ranges. My experiences in exploring the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons and has taught me the delights of the quieter routes so over the past few months I’ve been keen to try to get to know some of the Welsh mountains I’ve never been to before.

To aid me in my quest I’ve purchased both volumes of the excellent Cicerone guides “Hillwalking in Wales” by Peter Hermon. It describes almost every possible route up all the 2000 feet plus mountains in Wales and in its own right is a very reasonable read for a guidebook. You can use these routes to make your own circuits although each chapter does recommend decent circuits and it was one of these that re-introduced me to the Arans described in an earlier post. If you are looking for a guide-book to the Welsh mountains, this is a great purchase.

One of these ranges that I’d previously dismissed was the Arenigs. For reasons I can’t work out I’d seen them as just a dull massif in the shadow of the “better” ranges in the main Snowdon massif. As hopefully you’re about to read a serious oversight on my part.

The forecast looked really promising for the Sunday a couple of weeks ago so Jane kindly indulged my longing to get out. It’s a fair trek from Hereford so I was up at 6am and away while Madley slept. It was a lovely drive through the Shropshire hills, the Dee valley past Llangollen and down to Bala which was blanketed by mist. As I drove up to Llyn Celyn the views across the lake to Arenig Fawr and Mynydd Nodol were breathtaking so I had to pull over and take a photo or two.

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Arenig Fawr across Llyn Celyn

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Mynydd Nodol across Llyn Celyn

I’d decided on what the guidebook decided was the classic Arenig Fawr circuit also taking in Moel Lyfnant. This involves a bit of road bashing but I found a huge parking area opposite a quarry about halfway along the road stretch to break it up. The weather had been mild but this morning it was cold with a ground frost and decidedly chilly as I set off down the road. Once I started up the path towards Llyn Arenig Fawr I hit the sunshine and the views exploded with sunlight. It was and was going to be a stunner of a day.

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Arenig Fach

The green path along to the lake is a delight with views back across Llyn Celyn and Arenig Fach and south towards the Berwyns and the Arans. The lake surrounded by crags was just sensational and couldn’t believe my luck to have such a stunning day so soon after my day out on Plynlimon.

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Llyn Arenig Fawr

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Llyn Arenig Fawr

Just by the dam of the lake is very cute and very tiny MBA bothy. It’s perfectly situated and has a couple of sleeping platforms (for the shorter person) and a fireplace but really only big enough for two. It would be a great place to spend a solo night but only if you could be sure you’d get it to yourself.

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Llyn Arenig Fawr Bothy

I was keen to get up high to soak up the views so I pressed on up the decent path that wanders up the east ridge. With every step the views just got better and better.

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Llyn Arenig Fawr & Carnedd y Filiast

I paused briefly for a snack at the point where the ridge starts to level out and the summit itself comes into view. You kind of expect the summit would be above the lake but in fact it’s over a km further back.

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Arenig Fawr

The path seems to skirt under the easter flanks so I took off on a more direct route to the main ridge following some pretty good sheep tracks. Suddenly I crested a small rise and got another one of those “wow” moments as the whole of the Snowdonia massif, the Lleyn Peninsula (with of course my friend Carn Fadryn prominent as ever), the Rhinogs and Cadair Idris leapt into view.

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Main Snowdonia massif

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Arenig Fawr & Rhinogs

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Distant Llyn Peninsula

I stood on the stop and just marvelled at the splendour. I shook myself from this stupor and pretty much ran the last few hundred metres to the top for a well-earned rest.

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Your truly on the summit

When I reached the top I realised the complete folly of my pre-conceived idea of what the Arenigs are like. The summit crowns a majestic craggy mountain and because its higher than most of its neighbours and fairly isolated the views were simply magnificent. It was pretty cold and windy so after a few minutes carefully rearranging a few choice stones I had a nice seat out of the wind and in the sun.

As I write this now, I find it hard to describe in words the elation I feel sitting on a summit with no-one else around taking in a full 360 degree view like this. It really does make me feel alive like nothing else and helps me put the everyday grind of daily life into perspective. Sometimes problems that were preoccupying me the day before seem to melt away. There is just so much to see up here, from the big mountains right down to a particular patch of sunlight on a slope or the glimmer of a distant tarn. I normally find myself planning infinite numbers of routes for my next visits and reliving routes I’ve done before from the recent and distant past. Today it was the Moelwyns that were catching the eye and I had the maps out planning a grand circuit from Croesor taking in the Welsh Matterhorn of Cnicht. Bit of cliche I suppose but this is my natural high

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Moelwyns

As I sat there my first sign of life for the day appeared over the south top. We chatted as he arrived on the summit and it turns out he was doing my route in reverse having just come from Moel Lyfnant. We both admired the views and exchanged some reflections on the day and our plans for the rest of the day

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Moel Lyfnant & Rhinogs

He looked like he was struggling to find a decent spot to enjoy the views so as I’d been here a while I thought I do the gentlemanly thing and gave up my little constructed seat in the sun for which he was very appreciative. I launched off down the grassy south ridge towards Craig y Bychau a stunning area of small rocky knolls and glistening tarns.

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Craig y Bychau

The walking was awkward, twisting and turning between bouts of rocks, tarn and bog but there were sheep tracks through most of it and it was a real pleasure of micro route finding. It would be a great place for a wild camp if you could find a dry spot. I walked right the way to the final knoll (it was too nice not to) before plunging down the grassy slopes towards the col below Moel Lyfnant.

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Arenig Fawr from Craig y Bychau

The col was hard work with a mixture reeds tussocks and the inevitable squelchy bog to trap unsuspecting hikers with holed North Face boots (not that I’m bitter about that). However it only took  a few minutes to get across before I started the climb to Moel Lyfnant up it’s steep and grassy east face. There was a grassy rake that lead up to the ridge that was exceptionally steep but on a day like this I barely noticed it. The ridge above was equally steep but the views back across to where I’d come from were great – I like a decent view back to my previous footsteps. There were some surpring little rocky sections that added some interest to the final climb onto the grassy summit.

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Moel Lyfnant from the soggy, boggy col

Moel Lyfnant doesn’t look much on the map but it’s a terrific summit standing alone above the moors with even better views across to Snowdonia than Arenig Fawr. It was no real surprise to find it deserted and it feels like a summit that’s not often climbed.

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Moel Lyfnant summit

Having taken a load more photos (the afternoon light was as stunning as the morning effects) and as is my want, I spent a few minutes searching out the best spot and then settled down for some more quiet reflection, this time on my own private summit. Another great spot for a summit campsite if you can haul some water with you

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Posing again

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Cadair Idris and Rhinogs

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Arenig Fawr

Eventually I had to concede defeat to the clock and start to head down (I’d promised Jane I’d be home to carve the meat for Sunday roast tea). I looked at the map and realised I still had a long way to go. Off down the easy angled and grassy north ridge with Arenig Fawr towering above me to the east.

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Snowdonia Massif from Moel Lyfnant north ridge

I passed the ruined farmhouse of Amnodd Bwll and on to the even more ruined farmhouse of Amnodd Wen. From there it looked like an easy path back to the road, had it not been ankle-deep in bog for the first mile I’m sure it would have been easy. The last part of the walk was a pleasant stroll along the track and back along the road to the car. As I dropped out of the sun the temperatures dropped again and it was a pretty cold and very tired Andy who reached the car after an absolute stunner of a day.

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Arenig Fawr

It was 11 miles and 3000 feet of ascent so quite a taxing day when rolled into a 5 hour round trip drive but well worth it. The Arenigs are up there with the best of what Snowdonia has to offer and the fact that I saw one of other person on a day as stunning as this is testament to its solitude. The whole range has plenty of great routes so I’ll be back to explore further butif you’re looking for aclassic mountain route away from the crowds this should be high on your list

And to think as I approached the Bala turning on the A5 I nearly carried on to the “well-known” peaks of Snowdonia. Lesson finally learned 🙂

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10 responses to “Arenigs circuit – long overdue

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  1. looks like a fabulous day out, that wee bothy looks a cracker, bet its pretty cosy with a fire going.
    I left the Cairngorms for long enough as I had the idea that they were boring featureless rounded hills, always looking to head west for the more pointy/craggy mountains. Its funny how wrong we can be about the less spectacular looking hills.

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    • It was indeed a top day – I’ve been lucky with the weather the last couple of months. The bothy would be very cosy, judging by the condensation on the tin roof I guess someone had been in there the previous night. It’s a magical spot.

      My first experience of the Cairngorms was via the ski area in a white-out. It was only when I went back and approached them from the south that I saw the “real” cairngorms. Braeriach and An Garbh corrie is one my favourite spots as is the walk along the edges to Cairn Lochan. Glen Derry is a fantastic wild camp spot under the scots pines

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    • This is indeed a great bothy! If you’re interested in spending a night there then you can see a bit more about what it’s like inside here. https://thingswhatihavedone.wordpress.com/2015/11/08/an-adventure-in-idleness/

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  2. Looks like you have been blessed with the weather once again Andy. A personal favourite of mine, being high and isolated the views from the summit are simply stunning. Camped last year on the ridge with the little lakes, loads of lovely spots to hide away a tent up there. Where are you taking us next?

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    backpackingbongos
    • It was your recent trip with Pete that set the seal on this being my next day out in north wales. Considering the fact it was a weekend and a stunning day I was amazed how deserted it was. As I wrote in my post it was one of those “moments” on the summit where i just wanted to shout. If I’d had my nuns outfit with me I’d have burst into song. But that’s for another day……

      Camping up there must be awesome (have you a post about it?) – I’m harbouring a plan for a night out on a summit up that way or in the Rhinogs in the week before xmas if I the weather is ok and I can avoid freezing to death

      Coming soon to a blog near you, the Cwmdeuddwr Hills, more sunshine, more bog……

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  3. How come you didn’t bring all this good weather with you when you came to ours? Could you arrange some weather like this for the Ninebanks weekend?
    Looks like a stunning day
    Re the sense of elation you experience when sitting somewhere quiet with a fine view: amen to that. I don’t always get it, and can’t really predict when it will happen, but when it does come it can be incredibly intense – I often find myself with a face-splitting grin and laughing and shouting. Naturally, as you say, everything else is seen in a diferent light at that point.
    I like the idea of the photos done on a self-timer, the second one is particularly evocative.

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    beatingthebounds
    • Just been lucky that best weather in the last few weeks has fallen on a weekend and Jane is good enough to let me go out for the day. I’ll see what I can do for Ninebanks. Perhaps some prayers in the nun outfit might work. Perhaps not. I have some plans in mind for another great escape walk while we’re there if the ladies let us off the leash.

      I recognise the “grinning wildy” face I sometimes have when it all comes together like this day. I often just pace about the top taking it all in with the grin (I can do poetry me). I must look a right clot. Sometimes I just sit there and reflect how lucky I am to be able to enjoy this. Suspect I’m in for a nasty day soon. Probably at Ninebanks

      That second photo took some doing, camera kept falling over (had to perch it on my sandwiches) and I got wet lying on the grass to set it up. The things I do for art and blogging. Also tried it on Plynlimon, camera blew off the trig point and scratched the view screen – doh!

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  4. Hi Andy.
    Had a Look through your Fine blog and Photos.Used to go down to Wales Most September weekends on climbing and walking trips.For some reason we thought it would be beter weather than Scotland at that time.Did a route called outside edge route a v.diff which may have been around the arenig fawr area.Climbed a lot in Snowdonia as well.Great area
    bob..

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    • Hi Bob, thanks for the comment, glad you enjoyed the photos and posts. I’m starting to rediscover Snowdonia after neglecting it for a few years. I have about 20 days out planned so lots of catching up to do. Never explored the Rhinogs or Moelwyns so they are high on my list

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