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Southern Arenigs / 3 days / 28 miles (45km)

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Date: 11 Jul 2006
Start / Finish: Llanuwchllyn. Small free car park, also roadside parking.
Maps: Explorer OL23: Cadair Idris.

Day 1Arenig Fawr South ridge7.0 miles / 1980 feet (11.3km / 603m)
Day 2Moel Llyfnant, Foel Boeth & Nant yr Helyg11.0 miles / 2160 feet (17.7km / 658m)
Day 3Rhobell Fawr, Dduallt & Waun y Griafolen10.0 miles / 1880 feet (16.1km / 573m)

A circuit of the little trodden mountains and wilderness regions of the southern Arenig range, a good choice for summer and we saw no other people at all in the three days. The main aim of the first day was to spend some time exploring and savouring the South ridge area of Arenig Fawr from our camp, a pitch we had wanted to make for some time. Another principal objective was to investigate the badlands to the East of Dduallt, a wildly haunting and remote region that we had earmarked for exploration on previous visits to these hills.

Parts of the route on days two and three are boggy even in summer. Much of Waun y Griafolen is also difficult arduous terrain, though this route involves only a short traverse and the area is very rewarding on a clear sunny day, casting a spell like very few others.

Day 1 - Arenig Fawr South ridge

A warm sunny climb out from Llanuwchllyn was soon a familiar Welsh scenario of battling with rights of way that were unsigned, overgrown or virtually impenetrable, and the track through Y Lordship forest came as a welcome relief. The dragonflies were out in force, cruising the forest roads and firebreaks sheltered from the wind. The bridleway westwards from Cwm Tylo was a damp little used affair enclosed by the trees, but there is a path and it soon improved at the more open top as the first views appeared. Emerging from the forest, we climbed steeply up the slopes of a minor top Foel Boeth and the views really opened out.

Arenig Fawr South ridge
Arenig Fawr South ridge (11 Jul 2006__14:29:40)

Scanning the trackless landscape ahead, we aimed for a grassy rib to the N and contoured to the infant Dolydd Bychain to collect water. A final climb along the fence and we were at the southern tip of the ridge, labelled Llyn Crafanc on the map but there are several pools in the vicinity. We spent much time pottering around the lakes and rocky knolls of this fine area before pitching our tent, a splendid setting with Arenig Fawr dominating the scene beyond a lake.

This left plenty of time for camera experiments with our recently acquired Canon 350D, including our quest for a workable camera support. We had recently bought 'The Pod', a beanbag full of ultralight plastic granules with an inbuilt screw bolt, but we are still awaiting a remote control to fire the shutter. The Pod proved very stable and adapted to almost any shape of rocks, even the loose stones of a cairn. This leaves the problem of getting some height when no convenient props are available.

Arenig Fawr and lake
Arenig Fawr and lake (11 Jul 2006__15:26:45)
The Arans from Arenig Fawr South ridge
The Arans from Arenig Fawr South ridge (11 Jul 2006__15:29:44)
Pitch on Arenig Fawr South ridge
Pitch on Arenig Fawr South ridge (11 Jul 2006__16:14:06)

Day 2 - Moel Llyfnant, Foel Boeth & Nant yr Helyg

Hopes of a good dawn sky were dashed as we opened the door to thick grey mist which began to clear on the descent from the ridge. We replenished water at the head of Ceunant Coch and crossed the valley. The steep pathless climb of Moel Llyfnant doesn't get any easier but at least the top was clear - another good test for the camera Pod perched on the cairn in a wind almost strong enough to blow us over. We sheltered for a while and watched the swirling patterns of mist as Arenig Fawr finally cleared. The circuit around to Gallt y Daren and Foel Boeth was rather wet as usual but nowhere difficult and there were cloudy grey views to the western mountains.

Arenig Fach and clouds
Arenig Fach and clouds (12 Jul 2006__09:00:39)
Gallt y Daren & Foel Boeth
Gallt y Daren & Foel Boeth (12 Jul 2006__11:18:37)

The forestry track through the Coed y Brenin forest allows easy progress S to the unsigned bridleway track into Cwm yr Allt-lwyd, which is getting overgrown with prickly young conifers to make life interesting. Climbing out of the valley alongside the Nant yr Helyg with its little falls and cascades, the mist was coming down and clipping the high tops again as we rounded Foel Gron and the upper crags of Rhobell Fawr came into view: time to pitch at the foot of the upper slopes.

Pitch near Nant yr Helyg
Pitch near Nant yr Helyg (12 Jul 2006__17:05:57)

Day 3 - Rhobell Fawr, Dduallt & Waun y Griafolen

Despite the rain in the night the morning was crystal clear as we resumed the climb through the pathless wet grass towards the trig point of Rhobell Fawr. The abundant moisture was rising in the morning air as we approached and causing swirls of mist to come and go around the summit, a phenomenon we have often seen before that makes the views more dramatic. This is an underrated craggy mountain that would be far more popular but for its location and has only intermittent signs of a path.

Turbulent mist on Rhobell Fawr
Turbulent mist on Rhobell Fawr (13 Jul 2006__07:37:56)
Arenig Fawr & Moel Llyfnant from Rhobell Fawr
Arenig Fawr & Moel Llyfnant from Rhobell Fawr (13 Jul 2006__08:34:35)

An enjoyable descent E through the crags brought us to the forest road. The unsigned firebreak through to Dduallt was a very wet business in the sopping vegetation, although a few token wooden boards have been placed to help underfoot. Emerging at the far side, we collected water at the ravine and climbed to the forest corner for a grand prospect of the southern slopes of Dduallt. A thin path hugs the forest edge through rock slabs and emerald green bogs, archetypal wild Wales, and quickly fades out. We freelanced up the slopes to the ridge and the summit cairn, where just beyond near the edge is a good vantage point for surveying the route ahead: our plan was to aim for Cerrig yr Iwrch.

The Rhinogydd from Dduallt
The Rhinogydd from Dduallt (13 Jul 2006__11:14:54)
Waun y Griafolen from Dduallt
Waun y Griafolen from Dduallt (13 Jul 2006__12:03:56)

Descending the N ridge to Bwlch-y-Dduallt, we turned R down an easy shallow grassy breach in the cliffs. There is a superb prospect of Waun y Griafolen from here, a vast open wilderness with the mountain backdrop of Moel Llyfnant and Arenig Fawr beyond, formidable yet enticing. The E face plunges into a deep dense sea of gruesome tussocks and heather, but the crossing from here is short and surprisingly dry if very slow!. The precipitous E face is well seen in profile from here, in full sun today and lacking the menacing darkness that gives the mountain its name 'Black Height'. Beyond the heather we veered NE to follow a reedy line to the valley fence, physically easier terrain but very wet and boggy. Eventually the going became easy as we climbed to Cerrig yr Iwrch and another great view of the area.

The East face of Dduallt
The East face of Dduallt (13 Jul 2006__13:01:36)
Arenigs & Cerrig Chwibanog from Cerrig yr Iwrch
Arenigs & Cerrig Chwibanog from Cerrig yr Iwrch (13 Jul 2006__14:07:37)

The ridge fences lead easily on to Craig y Llestri with good retrospective views to Dduallt along the valley of the Afon Fwy. Descending to the footpath and footbridge over the infant river, we followed the very obvious well worn path over the hill and it disappeared in the bracken to leave us at the top of a cliff - big mistake. Suffice it to say we should have used the ladder stile just after the footbridge and aimed directly for the intake wall near the old mine at Dolhendre!.

Notes

1. The byway running N from 871311 is a sunken green lane (not the adjacent farm track) with obstacles like branches and fallen trees further up, but it is possible to walk outside it on the R after the first field.

2. At the path junction at 868318, the footpath NW is not signed and needs careful mapwork, but the stiles are in place.

3. At 842298, the obvious path goes over the hill towards Graig ddu and leads nowhere. Bear L to the ladder stile then take the best line to the gap in the intake wall at 849306.