|OS Route Map →||Route file →|
Date: 05 Jun 2016
Start / Finish: Llanuwchllyn. Car park at Pont y Pandy (maintained by the local community: remember to put £1 in the donation box to support them).
Maps: Explorer OL23 Cadair Idris.
|Day 1||Aran Ridge & Gwaun Lydan||7.0miles / 2987 feet (11.3km / 910m)|
|Day 2||Creiglyn Dyfi, Foel Hafod-fynydd & Cwm Ddu||7.3 miles / 994 feet (11.7km / 303m)|
After a long hiatus we decided on another short visit to the familiar territory of the Northern Arans, a typical short route ascending from the north to Aran Fawddwy and curving around over Drysgol to Gwaun Lydan. The return descends into the Llaethnant valley to reach Creiglyn Dyfi and traverses Foel Hafod-fynydd to Bwlch Sirddyn and the little used pass route through Cwm Ddu.
The warm humid air afforded only hazy views today and, being a sunny Sunday, a fair number of walkers on the usually quiet Aran Fawddwy.
On arrival at the car park we noticed the appearance of a donation box and information board explaining that it was maintained by the local community and suggested a very modest £1 donation to help - excellent work, we gladly contributed.
The long route up the north ridge to Aran Benllyn proceeds by a series of tiers on its western side and each of our ascents seems longer than the last, especially today in the sultry warm air. We had a theory that God sneakily adds another extra tier between our visits, but seeing a few other walkers overtake us and disappear into the distance, there might be another explanation …
Since our last ascent the ladder stiles have been adorned with small discs bearing their OS grid references. While not exactly obtrusive visually, this seems to be yet another minor example of the sanitization of our (relatively) wild experiences by people who won't stop meddling until every modicum of skill and challenge has been removed. Still, the Arans have been quite unmolested in this respect and remain vastly better than some appalling parts of more popular areas.
Finally passing the 800m contour, a cooling stiff breeze was welcome as we made the final pull onto the north top of Aran Benllyn and Llyn Pen Aran, the true 885m top is a short walk beyond.
The ridge walk over Erw y Ddafad-ddu to Aran Fawddwy was excellent as always, usually with few if any people, just a couple today. The view back to Aran Benllyn gives the first good prospect of its steep rock cliffs.
Ascending quite steeply to the trig point of Aran Fawddwy on the edge of the vertiginous drop to Creiglyn Dyfi, the bulk of the walking weekenders had arrived from the more popular southern side of Cwm Cywarch and were scattered around the summit area taking selfies and the obligatory group photos. This was the largest number we have ever seen here, unusual for this mountain but still very quiet compared to the summits farther north - heaven knows what Yr Wyddfa must have been like on this fine Sunday.
The fine walking continues to a smaller 870m rise at the southern end where we descended south-eastwards to the memorial cairn at Drws Bach dedicated to Mike Aspain, a member of MRT killed on duty by lightning. Speaking of which, the MWIS forecast had predicted a very significant possibility of thunderstorms at the northern end of Snowdonia just 25 miles away, the main reason we chose the Arans for this trip.
From Drysgol there is a great view along the east face of the Aran crags. Here we passed a long crocodile of walkers ascending on what appeared to be a guided walk whose leaders were contemplating the final approach to the ridge. Our route diverged from the main Cwm Cywarth path and continued east along the fence towards the peaty and tussocky Gwaun Lydan where we pitched at the grassy bwlch.
The night was warm and we could have left the sleeping bags at home, yet the high humidity made the flysheet sopping wet. The breeze had almost died when we opened the doors and we anticipated the rapid appearance of midges: time for the repellent and a hasty striking of camp.
Descending steeply from the bwlch into the Llaethnant valley, a slight breeze was welcome as we curved around the small rocky ribs and easily crossed the infant river to ascend to Creiglyn Dyfi, a most enjoyable spot to relax a while and cool down with the towering east face of Aran Fawddwy above.
On the climb to Foel Hafod-fynydd we encountered the sad sight of a ewe standing over her very young dead lamb, still reluctant to leave it. Seconds afterwards, as if to emphasize the unemotional balance and renewal of nature, a red kite glided low overhead and began circling above, the first we have seen in the Arans and almost certainly setting its sights on this next meal.
From this ascent the sweeping curves of Erw y Ddafad-ddu are well seen, the only breach in the eastern crags giving a walkable line between the lake and the ridge.
A short walk east from the summit a fence drops steeply to Bwlch Sirddyn, usually a pretty boggy spot but dry today. The footpath into Cwm Ddu starts easily around the corner of a steep cleft at its head, but despite being an obvious mountain pass route and marked on the map as visible on the ground, it rapidly disappears and is evidently little used. We slanted down taking the best line through the reeds and grasses towards the buildings at Cwm-ffynnon. Foel Hafod-fynydd shows its more interesting side from this vantage point.
From Cwm-ffynnon the footpath takes a gently ascending line beside a small plantation and across the fields to Nant-y-barcut farm and the head of the narrow lane through Cwm Croes to Talardd. The quiet lane along the flanks of Cwm Cynllwyd gives a good prospect of the ridge. Approaching Llanuwchllyn a footpath descends through the trees directly to Pont y Pandy.