A Perfect Day – Arans October 2012   17 comments

Sometimes it all comes together. Sometimes for intangible reasons it becomes the perfect day. Sometimes everything just “works”. I’ve had more challenging walks. I’ve had more exciting walks. I’ve had walks with better weather. I’ve had walks with better views. This day I enjoyed myself more on a day in the mountains than I have for a very long time. Maybe I’d had a bad week at work. Maybe the endless grey drizzle of the previous few days had ground me down. Perhaps it was the company of D and TBF. Perhaps it was the simple pleasure of sharing a previous route with others. Perhaps it was the cold clear and crisp feel of a winter’s day. Whatever the reason, THIS was a good day 🙂

Aran Fawddwy, Craiglyn Dyfi

Aran Fawddwy above Craiglyn Dyfi

I’d travelled back down to Wales to join up with the family in Clarach. TBFs mum was with us and she kindly agreed to look after L for the day so we could head off for a full day. We had thought about Snowdon but I couldn’t be bothered with such a long drive on what promised to be a fine day. A check of the map revealed that the southern end of the Arans was no more than an hours drive away and even though I’d done this route last year I thought it was well worth repeating. I’m shamelessly lazy so I’ve just re-used the route map from last time. It’s the same walk other than the omission of Glascwm, a fine summit but too far for shorter day.

8 miles, 3,500 feet of ascent

After another very chilly morning in the caravan we were off to the mountains

Cwm Cywarch is one of the finest valleys and mountain corries I know and provides a stunning and secretive entrance the Arans.

Cwm Cywarch

Cwm Cywarch

Cwm Cywarch

Cwm Cywarch

The car park was busy and startlingly cold but with sunshine and with the massive cliffs above us it’s an exciting place to begin a walk. The route up into the higher reaches of Cwm Cywarch is wonderful, a picture perfect rocky valley surrounded by peaks and filled with tumbling streams and waterfalls, backed by blue skies and scudding dark clouds. I recalled my visit last summer when I sat on the rocks in the warm sun and paddled my feet in the stream – not that kind of day today.

Cwm Cywarch

D in the upper reaches of Cwm Cywarch

We made swift progress. D is now of the age where he is starting to pressure me for pace uphill and leaves TBF in his wake. This was easily his toughest day in the hills. Cadair Idris was his previous highest summit but the Arans are much wilder and untamed. He seemed thrilled by the path up the valley as it twisted and turned amongst the rocks and finally emerged onto the broad saddle between Glascwm and the Arans themselves.

Cwm Cywarch

D approaches the head of Cwm Cywarch

Pen yr Allt Uchaf

TBF, Pen yr Allt Uchaf behind

The view was stunning with the Rhinogs standing proud above the Mawddach estuary and the Arenigs and its outliers to the north.

Rhinogs, Cwm Cywarch

Rhinogs from the head of Cwm Cywarch

The wind was cold but I revel in these conditions, much happier than on a warm sultry summers day. The cold clear air lifts my spirits and refreshes my soul like nothing I know. I even find some of the wilder winter weather positively inspiring. Once on Bheinn Liath Mhor Fannich, I was in a chipper mood that even a vicious hailstorm couldn’t quell. After a wonderful steep climb up a hard snow slope to the summit a couple of friends arrived on the top, tired and dispirited by the hail to find me prancing about on the summit, grinning wildly playing air guitar with an ice axe. Exasperated by such inappropriate cheerfulness, it was more than they could stand and promptly turned tail and went down. The rest of the day contained some of the nastiest hail showers I can remember mixed with blue interludes over a winter mountain landscape. Over 20 years on it’s still a day I recall with great fondness. As I’ve said in previous posts, sometimes, I think I’m not wired in the head properly

Back to the present. The route from the col traverses some seriously boggy ground, most of the worst parts have planks lain across but it’s still a soggy old spot. I’m becoming a devotee of trail shoes rather than boots even in such terrain. However one issue I hadn’t thought of is when the ground is frosty, the bog-water is cold (obvious I know). My feet were cold most of the day so much as I love the light weight and nimbleness they provide, in winter I’ll need to revert to more significant footwear.

Rhinogs, Cwm Cywarch

D and TBF float on a sea of bog

Rather than head straight for the summit I headed off-piste towards the ridge of Gwaun y Llwyni, rough but not as soggy as the main path with a steep climb to the ridge. It’s well worth it for the sensational view back down Cwm Cywarch and across Hengwm. The ridge gives wonderful grassy stroll high above the Hengwm with views back across to the distant Rhinogs and beyond.

Gwaun y Llwyni

TBF & D traverse Gwaun y Llwyni

The ridge ends abruptly above an immense grassy cwm at the head of Hengwm a superb spot that I’d used the previous year for a stop but far too windy this time.

Gwaun y Llwyni

D on the summit of Gwaun y Llwyni

Aran Fawddwy, Gwaun y Llwyni

Aran Fawddwy from Gwaun y Llwyni

I’d spied a collection of rocks on the path to Drosgol that looked ideal for lunch and so it proved, out of the wind and perched above Hengwm for great views. I’d wanted to lunch on the summit but I figured it would be a little chilly.

Aran Fawddwy, Gwaun y Llwyni

Time for a break

Refreshed we continued around the NW rim of Hengwm to climb steeply up to the summit Drosgol with its memorial cairn to an RAF rescue airman who died after being struck by lightning. It’s a truly marvellous, albeit solemn, spot right on the edge of the grassy cliffs with far-reaching views to the Berwyns, the Long Mynd and what I’m pretty sure was the Wrekin near Telford.

Drosgol, Glascwm, Cadair Idris

Climbing to Drosgol, Glascwm and Cadair Idris behind

Drosgol, Glascwm, Cadair Idris

Summit of Drosgol, Glascwm, Cadair Idris behind

It also affords a view across the rugged cliffs of Aran Fawddwy cradling Craiglyn Dyfi at their feet and across to Aran Benllyn. The walk from Drosgol and through the easy angled crags to the summit is just a pleasure. A thin path works it way through the crags but simply finding your own way, twisting and turning through the crags and hollows is mesmeric. One of those short sections where the mountain seems to draw you to the top effortlessly. The summit is a very broad level plateau of rocks leading up to the main summit with its trig pillar perched on the edge of the cliffs.

Aran Fawddwy

Aran Fawddwy summit ridge

Aran Fawddwy

D & TBF approach the summit of Aran Fawddwy

It’s a magnificent summit, comparable with the best Snowdonia has to offer but without the crowds. Standing alone the views are far-reaching taking in a full panorama from the Preseli Hills of Pembrokeshire, Plynlimon, Berwyns, Arenings, Rhinogs and across to The Rivals and Carn Fadryn on the Lleyn Peninsula. I fancy a night on the summit here on a warm summers evening, plenty of sites for a bivvy or possibly throw up  a very small tent. D was chuffed to climb his highest mountain to date and pretty good one at that with a real mountaineering flavour.

Aran Fawddwy

Summit winners

Aran Fawddwy

View east from Aran Fawddwy

We sat on the rocks for a quick snack, with our feet metaphorically dangling in Craiglyn Dyfi far below The cold wind and march of time meant it was an all too brief stop on the summit so we reluctantly turned tail and retraced our steps to Drosgol. There had been scudding cloud all day that had added a sense of threat and majesty to the views but as we descended the clouds began to break and we were treated to some spectacular late-afternoon, low-angled sunlight views that are a such a feature of these autumn and winter days.

Glascwm, Cadair Idris

Glascwm & Cadair Idris

It just got better and better as we crossed Drosgol and headed down towards Hengwm. The sunlight on the Hirnants was highlighting every gully and slope giving a real sense of their complex local topography.

Drosgol

Drosgol

Aran Fawddwy, Craiglyn Dyfi, Drosgol

Aran Fawddwy & Craiglyn Dyfi from Drosgol

Drosgol

D & TBF on Drosgol summit

I had both a real (from the grassy slopes) and metaphorical spring in my step as we descended towards the final highlight of the day, Hengwm.

Hengwm

Hengwm

It’s the most perfect grassy glacial valley you could imagine towered over by the grassy ridge and corries of Gwaun y Llwyni to the west and Pen yr Allt Uchaf to the east. As with my previous visit the long grassy ridge of Pen yr Allt Uchaf looked inviting to stride across but time was too short and would involve either retracing your steps or a couple of thousand feet of steep grass to descend.

Hengwm, Drosgol

Drosgol from Hengwm

Hengwm has the most amazingly created path that traces a straight line from top to bottom making for the easiest of descents (especially for those of us with dodgy knees). As the sun began to set behind Craig Cywarch it turned the whole valley a shade of gold that matched my feeling of a truly treasured day. All too soon the sun disappeared, the air grew instantly colder and we quickened our pace back to the car.

Gwaun y Llwyni, Hengwm

Gwaun y Llwyni from Hengwm

Hengwm

The final desent of Hengwm – more “Golden Time”

It had been a day to remember and a fitting end to the British Summer Time as the clocks turned back and the long winter nights were upon us. That feeling of cold, crisp air had fired my passion for the “big” mountains. I wanted another day like it but a total washout the next day put pay to that! A feast from the chippy finished off the day perfectly – faggots chips and mushy peas – a classic.

I’ll apologise for using this Elbow song again (it appeared on my slide show from the Gower from earlier this year). The track is a little anthemic but I love the uplifting melody and words that just seemed to sum up what for me anyway was a euphoric day

“Throw those curtains wide. One day like this a year will se me right” Enjoy!

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17 responses to “A Perfect Day – Arans October 2012

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  1. What superb views – it looked like an absolutely fabulous day 🙂

    Couldn’t eat faggots though, in fact I’ve memories of my parents trying to force feed them to me as a child……I’ve never liked any kind of meat and they just couldn’t get their heads round that as an idea at all!

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    • Just totally in my element that day. I was bouncing about and jabbering like a 10 year old. Such a superb outing.

      I think I must be one of the few people in the world who like faggots must be my Black Country roots. I love haggis as well!

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  2. Looks like a beautiful day! I love the colors with the greens, golds, and reds! What gorgeous valleys and peaks!

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    • Thanks Bob, one of the best days of the year and beyond. The exceptional clarity of the light and the low sun gave some amazing colors, especially as the sun was setting. The Arans are fabulous mountains without the crowds.

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  3. I like faggots too, but I’m from the East Midlands like Chrissie, so it can’t be geographical.
    That day on the Fannichs was one of the most memorable days in the hills. (Although I recall being a wee bit tired at the end.) I remember standing braced on very steep ground, clinging onto an ice-axe and trying to bury my face into my clothes as one particularly spiteful hail-shower hit.
    This looks like another very memorable day. Lucky D.
    Must do something about the fact that I’ve never climbed these hills.

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    beatingthebounds
  4. Lovely clear landscapes in the sun and cloud there, great definition. The Arans will seduce any backpacker, in fact we would be there too often if we always followed our inclinations, we have to force ourselves to go elsewhere!.

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    • Thanks Geoff. The summit of Glascwm would make a great summit camp. Not sure if the tarn on the top has an outflow for drinking water but the whole summit area was littered with little camping spots. I was thinking a long walk from Bala along the ridge, camp on Glascwm and then back would make a great little weekend jaunt

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