|OS Route Map →||GPX Route file →|
Date: 19 Sep 2019
Start: Rhydymain / Finish: Llanuwchllyn.
Maps: Explorer 023 Cadair Idris.
|Day 1||Bwlch Oerddrws, Foel Benddin & Glasgwm||11.6miles / 3932 feet (18.7km / 1198m)|
|Day 2||Aran Fawddwy & Aran Benllyn||8.0miles / 1592 feet (12.9km / 485m)|
A solo traverse of the Aran ridge from south to north, taking a new approach from the south-west to include Foel Benddin, our only unclimbed Dewey 500m summit in the range.
Foel Benddin is most inconsiderate in its situation and topology: forming a final spur off the southern end of the ridge, it is dauntingly steep on all other sides, difficult to access, pathless and rarely visited or mentioned. This route approaches the ridge around the south-western slopes of the Arans and uses a zigzag forest track on the flank of the hills to gain most of the height, leaving just a short out-and-back to gain the summit.
Conditions were strange on this trip: both days had superb clear views in unbroken sunshine, but overnight the wind increased from almost zero to very strong with gale force gusts over the hills, often making the ridge walking difficult and tiring. The whole route was deserted until I met a handful of walkers ascending the lower slopes near the end approaching Llanuwchllyn.
A short walk down the road from the Rhydymain bus stop is the footpath sign indicating the way across the Afon Wnion by the old dismantled railway bridge, an attractive spot with mossy rocks and sunlight glinting through the trees. The old railway is part of the Ruabon to Barmouth line that was axed in the rail carnage years ago. Of the four footpaths that fan out on the far side, the route takes the most prominent walled track straight ahead to a minor road and onwards at another signed but ill defined path leading to the main byway track heading south-westwards.
The track gives around three miles of good easy walking as it curves around to meet the A470 at Bwlch Oerddrws, crossing the Afon Celynog and Nant Helygog and emerging on access land with attractive open views up to the ridge and westwards towards the Rhinogydd.
I continued along the road verge to the Bwlch Oerddrws car park and took a path on the far side around the lower slopes of Cribin Fawr that I've called the Cribin path. The thin path gradually ascends south-eastwards and picks its way across a steep craggy face to grassy slopes beyond. On reaching the head of a ravine, the path becomes vague and I descended the steep grass slope directly towards a track, marked on the map, that crosses a ford and gives an exit to the main road. The Cribin path gives a splendid view of Maesglase and the valley below.
Another short walk along the road verge brought me to a byway track that forms the entrance to Pentrewern. Just before the buildings I forked left onto the forest track, ignoring any side branches and keeping to the main track that gradually gains height as it crosses the substantial Nant y Graig-wen and Nant Llwydwyn and zigzags up to the 482m spot height at a hairpin bend. Here I contoured to the fence and slanted down towards the bwlch, leaving a short steep pull up to Foel Benddin, an unremarkable flat grassy top.
Returning to the bwlch I began the ascent of Y Gribin that, like Foel Benddin, has acres of excellent soft grass for tent pitching but of no value today - I was planning a pitch on Glasgwm. The view into Hengwm was partially in deep shadow but there was a sunward view of Foel Dinas with the silvery sheen of its resident Llyn Foeldinas.
From the next bwlch I ascended steeply on a path alongside the fence to the rim of Craig Cywarch. The path, a little wet at times, continues along the fence line at an easy angle and leaves it at a bend to head directly for the summit, arriving first at Llyn y Fign. There wasn't a breath of wind here and the lake was like a mirror with plenty of flies and midges about. I quickly dismissed the idea of a lakeside pitch and climbed to the summit cairn where there was just a little air movement and located a better pitch spot.
I pitched the tent and opened its kickstand vent to slightly improve the meagre air throughput. Surprisingly after a clear blue day the dusk sky showed promise and the sun finally set behind the southern Rhinogydd against a soft glow of orange and red.
In the middle of the night I was awakened by the loud flapping of silnylon: a stiff breeze had kicked up that continued to increase and became a strong wind later blasting the tent, though it was very stable. The sky was still clear and a pleasing sunrise followed over the eastern hills. A minor inversion could be seen to the east of the Arenigs over Llyn Tegid.
In the gusting cold wind I broke camp and set off in a Microlite down jacket with the hood up, a stark contrast from the heat of yesterday, and slowly made the long and quite steep descent to the bwlch. Memories of this broad and very boggy expanse were vague, but I spotted the thin line initially taking a detour around to the left to avoid some of the rough bog. The path then reliably hugs the eastern side of the fence all the way to the summit rocks of Aran Fawddwy, intermittently aided by duckboards and a couple of bespoke wooden arrow signs.
As the temperature rose and the wind strengthened I switched to my pertex windshell, a feather-light and versatile top that I haven't used for a long time. The rearward views to Gwaun y Llwyni and Glasgwm were excellent with Cadair Idris beyond.
The traverse of the major summits from Aran Fawddwy to Aran Benllyn gave superb clear views. Progress was rather slow and tiring in the now strong wind and powerful gusts that frequently blew me sideways and made the descents tricky, but on an excellent day like this it hardly mattered.
Reaching the lower slopes above Llanuwchllyn the wind had abated to a warm breeze and I met a few walkers toiling upwards, the first encountered on the trip.
In Llanuwchllyn I was in good time before catching the bus to use the public toilets - if you use them remember to leave a donation in the box to support the local community in maintaining them.