Archive for the ‘Drws Bach’ Tag

A Cheeky Wild Camp in the Arans   12 comments

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I had a Sunday walk planned with a few friends in Shropshire and with a decent forecast thought I could make a proper weekend of things with a one night wild camp and walk in the Arans.  It was pretty gloomy when I parked up with little sign of the promised evening sunshine.

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It was also warm, humid and airless and a very, steep climb into Cwm Cywarch. I was dripping sweat all the way up and bothered by flies and midges whenever I stopped. I feared the lack of wind would continue and I’d be sharing my planned site with tiny unwanted friends. I was beginning to regret the decision to head out and I wasn’t in high spirits.

All that changed as I reached the broad col below Glasgwm. The sun was emerging from below the mask of heavy cloud and throwing some promising sunlight onto the surrounding hills. Even better there was a breeze to blow the flies away and cool me down

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Within minutes there was more abundant sunshine. My mood was lifted immeasurably

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I was heading for the summit of Glasgwm to camp. The climb up to the top is a steep one and on the way up I’d been dreading it. Amazing how sunshine improves your mood and your energy. I fair romped up the steep slopes

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The views just got better and better as I climbed, keeping ahead of the setting sun so it was still out as I reached the summit

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On the top it was just stunning. The summit was swept with swirling mists and low angle sunlight

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The light was fading fast so I had to concentrate as much on setting up  camp as admiring the views (forgetting that even once the sun has gone down, it doesn’t get really dark at this time of year)

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I’d targeted the summit as a good place to camp on a previous visit. Its broad and largely grassy with numerous spots to throw up a tent (although the grass and turf is only a couple of inches thick before hitting rock)

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The small Llyn y Fign provides a useful water source although has no outflow worthy of the name so needs to be boiled or filtered to be safe

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I pitched just below the summit cairn. There is no better feeling than a summit camp especially at sunset

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I made a brew and watched the sun sink and bathe the summit in glory

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It took me a while to set up camp while admiring the views

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I had a very refreshing wash in the lake before I turned in. The views across the lake were amazing with a deep pink sky and thin mist over the water. Alas I hadn’t taken either my phone or my camera so the views went unrecorded other than in my memory.

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It was pushing 11pm and quite chilly so just lay inside the tent watching the sky darken

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The sense of peace when wild camping is quite hard to explain and I drifted off to sleep in happy mood

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The fickleness of the weather brought me back to reality with overnight rain and unzipping the tent to realise I was in the cloud

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Still I had my feast of Bacon and Eggs to cheer me up and it was still a fine if rather blank spot in the cloud

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As morning progressed it kept threatening to clear and then mist up again but after an amble about the summit area looking for other possible pitches for future visits it did clear

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The photo below was taken from the summit cairn at 772m and shows the green and expansive summit plateau. Sadly being more focused on views than where I was putting the tent meant it wasn’t quite as flat as it appears!

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I packed up and headed off for a stroll around the Arans

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It was another warm and muggy day but there was a breeze to keep me cool and the day became sunnier as the morning ticked over into afternoon

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As always I rejected the main path for an off piste route to the top of Gwaun y LLwyni. It’s a very rough walk and a short steep grassy climb but worth the effort as the views across the deep Hengwm Valley and Cwm Cywarch are immense.

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A quiet grassy path leads along a broad ridge and then along the edge to Drws Bach

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On Drws Bach I stopped for lunch and the sun came out in force

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The views across to the main Arans ridge were superb and I felt I had to make the effort to make the summit. I hid the pack and went briskly two the summit unencumbered.

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I have a fondness for the Arans as they have a proper, rocky big mountain feel without being difficult or busy. I only saw a handful of people on this day. Looking north to Arenig Fawr

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West to Cadair Idris

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North along the ridge to Bala and its lake

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And east over Craiglyn Dyfi

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Selfie to prove I didn’t steal the shots from the Interweb

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I headed down in the best weather of the day as blue skies took centre stage

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Hengwm valley

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Gwaun y LLwyni & Drws Bach

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Looking back up Hengwm

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And full circle to my route of ascent the previous evening

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A cracking little over-nighter and reward for taking a chance on the weather. One of the best sunsets of I’ve seen in the mountains for a while. Time to head off to meet up with good friends for the second half of my weekend

Arans – time to go back   8 comments

Before we begin, let me take you back to a Sunday in November of 1983. I was a mere 18 and in my formative outdoor years, carrying a canvas rucksack and full of youthful enthusiasm. We’d been on a university club trip to the youth hostel at Corris. It was grey and wet day but we decided to try the Arans ridge. In those days the only access was from the North or South so the only option was a full traverse. We climbed the lower slopes in the rain but as we reached the upper slopes it stopped and a tiny patch of blue sky appeared. “Excellent” I shouted it’s going to clear up and be nice. Within seconds it was raining even heavier than before and continued without cessation until we got back to coach in the dark some 8 hours later. J was on the walk with us and I spent most of day desperately encouraging her to carry on through the rain and tears. We weren’t a couple in those days so god knows why she has been my partner for some 27 years. In all of the hundreds of days on the hills I’ve had since this still remains one of the worst days of weather I’ve ever been out in. Morals of this story are:

1. Mountain clouds do not have silver linings

2. A truly awful day in the Arans is no substitute for a romantic meal

And we’re back in the room! I tried a couple of further attempts at the Arans a few years after that one but without much success so they have been high on my wish list over the last couple of years. I got an early start and headed to Cwm Cywarch to try out what my guide-book reckoned was one of the classic Aran routes. It was a stunning clear morning and the view into Cwm Cywarch was awesome enough for me stop the car and jump out for a photo. It’s completely hidden from the main roads and it’s an absolute gem.

Cwm Cywarch

Cwm Cywarch

I was the only car in the car park and I was underway before 9am. The crags of Craig Cywarch are magnificent and the path climbs up a stunning picture-perfect valley with a babbling stream.

Upper reaches of Cwm Cywarch

I needed to back early as J was going out but it was too gorgeous not to pause by the stream for a drink and a pause while I had the valley to myself. Once up the Rhydymain col, the climb up to Glascwm looked inviting I hoped to get some good views towards the coast. The views were good but it was a steep climb of 800 feet to the top. There is small tarn, Llyn y Fign right on the summit and it would be a superb summit campsite. The views out to Cadair Idris, the Rhinogs, Snowdon, the Arenigs and the Arans under a clear blue sky were sensational.

Cadair Idris and Llyn y Fign from Glascwm

Dovey Hills and Llyn y Fign from Glascwm

Arans from Glascwm

Conscious of the time I pressed on returned to collect my sack and then took off across some of the deepest heather and tussocks it’s ever been my misfortune to encounter. Although the Arans have now been opened up for access, much of the terrain is still incredibly wild with few well-defined paths. I was heading for Gwaun y Llwyni as my book said the views were great. I wasn’t disappointed especially with the eagle ey view over Cwm Cywarch.

Cwm Cywarch

After battling through the vegetation I was pleased to pick up a faint path on the ridge that I followed all the may round (pausing for lunch on the summit) to the cairn at Drws Bach that commemorates an RAF airman who died walking in the area. From there the path continues as the ground becomes increasingly rocky up on to the summit ridge of Aran Fawddwy and across to the summit perched above the lake of Craiglyn Dyfi.

Aran Fawddwy summit ridge looking North

Aran Fawddwy summit ridge looking South

At 907m it’s the highest point in Wales outside the main Snowdonia massif. another 7 or so metres would make climbing the Welsh 3000’s a distinctly harder task. I saw my first people of the day and found a quiet spot in the sun to relax for an hour. The cloud had bubbled up but there was still plenty of sunshine and the views were still out of the top drawer. I had thought about an out and back to the other main summit Aran Benllyn  (the one named after the famous brand of cough medicine) but I wasn’t sure I had time and it was nice to just to sit in my own world on the top.

Aran Benllyn from Aran Fawddwy

Sitting on the summit is one of the joys of hiking and mountaineering and I don’t subscribe to the route-march approach. I’ll happily sacrifice that extra peak or valley for a long lunch in the sun. Still the time was pressing and I headed back the way I’d come towards Drws Bach and Drysgol and down towards the Hengwm valley.

Aran Fawddwy, Aran Benllyn and Creiglyn Dyfi from Drysgol

I had a half a mind to walk along the next ridge to Pen yr Allt Uchaf but it would have a seriously steep descent directly down or re-trace my steps to the head of Hengwm. I decided to save it for another day. Hengwn is a stunning grass valley with the most perfect descent path I’ve yet found. It traverses steadily and in a direct line all most of the way back to Cwm Cywarch. I stopped for a break halfway down to admire the rim of the corrie bounded by Gwaun y Llwyni and Drws Bach where I walked in the morning.

Hengwm

As neared the bottom Craig Cywarch came into full view and with the clouds breaking again and the sun out it was a fine finish to a cracking day.

Craig Cywarch

9.3 miles and 4000 feet of ascent was quite a trek and I was pleased I’d completed it about 7 hours including my sunbathing stops.

Next time I’ll try the northern circuit to take in Aran Benllyn but there are plenty of other great looking routes. As Arnie once said –  I’ll be back (in the divorce courts). Flickr photos here or you can look through the slide show below

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