Archive for the ‘Gwaun y Llwyni’ 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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Arans 2

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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

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.

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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.

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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.

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Aran Fawddwy summit ridge

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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.

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Summit winners

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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

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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.

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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

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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!

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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