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Northern Arenigs / 3 days / 38 miles (61km)

OS Route Map → Map GPX Route file →

Date: 11 Apr 2007
Start / Finish: Bala. Parking on the main street or town car park.
Maps: Explorer OL18: Harlech & Bala.

Day 1Moel y Garnedd, Arenig Fawr & Moel Llyfnant11.0 miles / 3820 feet (17.7km / 1164m)
Day 2Carnedd Iago & Arenig Fach11.6 miles / 2680 feet (18.7km / 816m)
Day 3Carnedd y Filiast & Foel Goch15.2 miles / 2120 feet (24.5km / 646m)

A circuit of the little frequented Northern Arenig range from Bala, where good navigation and terrain skill is required. The second day has sections of tough trackless terrain, especially around Arenig Fach, and some of it can be very wet or boggy outside summer. This April has been unseasonally dry and warm and the worst was merely squelchy, though progress is always slow and generous time allowance should be made.

The reward for this effort was a wilderness trek in almost complete solitude, we met only one other person despite being a warm and mainly sunny Easter week.

Day 1 - Moel y Garnedd, Arenig Fawr & Moel Llyfnant

A lane leaves Bala roughly opposite the leisure centre, and at 912362 we forked L up the Penlan farm access road to a path junction where it meets the bridleway coming down from the farm (the signed footpath that cuts off part of the access road is confusing and not recommended!). The shallow dome of Moel y Garnedd came as quite a surprise after the pastoral approach, the terrain changed in an instant to rather rough wet ground more typical of moorland and there is no trace of a path. Aiming WSW to the left of some small plantations on the skyline, it is an easy climb on rough grass to the large trig point which gave enticing views to the Arenig peaks ahead.

Arenigs from Moel y Garnedd
Arenigs from Moel y Garnedd (11 Apr 2007__09:31:02)
Clouds over the Arenigs
Clouds over the Arenigs (11 Apr 2007__09:32:45)

A thin path heading WNW from the summit splits and fades lower down, where the slopes are considerably rougher with spongy tussocks and reeds, but after crossing a tiny stream a yellow-topped post appears to indicate the stile. The footpath curves around on an embankment and drops to ford a small stream, and after some messing about at the buildings of Cynythog-isaf we gained the minor road. We followed the lane SW and NW to pick up the surfaced byway ascending N to Open Access land at a footbridge (857367). From here it was a case of picking up any faint tracks and sheeptrods that assisted progress on the pathless grass as we curved around towards the dam of Llyn Arenig Fawr, crossing a small reedy stream head which topped up our water. No water issued from the parched dam outflow though, another sign of the dry April, but the lake was resplendent in the sunshine and deep blue as we climbed the steep ridge.

Llyn Arenig Fawr
Llyn Arenig Fawr (11 Apr 2007__12:41:05)
Llyn Arenig Fawr
Llyn Arenig Fawr (11 Apr 2007__12:51:29)
Climbing Y Castell on Arenig Fawr
Climbing Y Castell on Arenig Fawr (11 Apr 2007__12:52:09)
Snowdonia peaks from Arenig Fawr
Snowdonia peaks from Arenig Fawr (11 Apr 2007__14:36:47)

The twin peaks of the summit were splendid as always and gave extensive views, but the part we always enjoy most is the south ridge, a delightful area of rocky tors and lakes with the mountain as a towering backdrop. Descending WSW from the southern tip, we collected excellent water at a streamlet and crossed the valley to slant slowly up the very steep slopes of Moel Llyfnant, a fine tent pitch awaiting us near the summit.

Arenig Fawr from the South ridge
Arenig Fawr from the South ridge (11 Apr 2007__15:23:03)
The Arans and Dduallt from ascent of Moel Llyfnant
The Arans and Dduallt from ascent of Moel Llyfnant (11 Apr 2007__16:58:55)
Pitch on Moel Llyfnant
Pitch on Moel Llyfnant (11 Apr 2007__17:49:26)

Day 2 - Carnedd Iago & Arenig Fach

The morning was cool and cloudy as we descended to follow the damp forest edge to Moel y Slates and turned N along the ridge to the edge of Penllyn Forest. Rounding a boggy corner, a short walk beyond is a gate onto a forest road (not shown on the map) through the felled trees that makes an easy descent to the old dismantled railway trackbed leading to the A4212 at Llyn Tryweryn. A short way along the road on the far side, we crossed the fence and followed the forest edge below the crackling power pylons. There is a hint of a line through the tussocky heather and the going is not too bad. Turning another boggy corner at Cors yr Esgob, we passed a patch of enormous chest-high tussocks by the rocky outcrops, the largest we had ever seen. From here to the B4391 the ground is a rough mixture of average tussocks, heather, reeds, sphagnum and reindeer moss, and of course a few wet boggy bits to be negotiated.

Dawn sky from Moel y Slates
Dawn sky from Moel y Slates (12 Apr 2007__07:43:25)
Arenig Fach from Cors yr Esgob
Arenig Fach from Cors yr Esgob (12 Apr 2007__09:06:21)

A short way L along the B4391 is a gate onto a forest road that climbs gently past a power generator and descends to a gap, giving access to the open hillside below Carnedd Iago between two large posts. Going through the gap and turning L to a gate, the fence is barbed wire but a section in the corner has been left smooth to enable a crossing. The summit is a short easy climb and gives good views of the deserted heartland ahead, but distant views very thick and hazy.

Between here and Arenig Fach is over two miles of rough wet trackless terrain: in this relatively dry spell, we decided that the direct approach more or less following the fence would be a reasonable bet. It was a case of constantly spying out the best looking line from one point to another and modifying the route as we tacked along the broad depression. Although quite arduous at times this worked well and we remained dryshod, and there is a real feeling of solitude and unspoilt wilderness here.

In terms of terrain, it's fair to say that Arenig Fach is the best defended mountain we have encountered, cloaked in thick heather and rock and almost pathless. Approaching along the N side of Nant Gwyn to its head, we turned SE and crossed the fence to ascend the rough heathery slope to the foot of the steep western face, which has stripes of very loose earthy scree to add to the mix. There is a superb view over the Migneint from the summit, but muted by the thick haze today.

The Migneint from Arenig Fach
The Migneint from Arenig Fach (12 Apr 2007__13:11:44)

Crossing the pathless heathery expanse to the NE, there is a fence stile set well back from the edge which marks the approximate location of a thin path down the NE ridge, but it is hard to locate from above. We edged our way down the very steep spongy slope at a breach in the crags and picked it up a little lower down. From the foot of the cliffs our target was the Trinant which we knew to be a good source of water, but the terrain to be descended depends on the exact line chosen: it all looks the same, but this time we had to contend with very rough deep heather with hidden rocks and vegetated holes. After some time and colourful language we reached the stream and restocked water, pausing to admire the rugged scene behind us. We picked our way along the banks of the Trinant through dense reeds and more heather with welcome short grassy interludes, and eventually the terrain relented to rough grass as we approached the Afon Celyn and forded it. Slanting up to the ridge fence, a thin path takes over and a long steady climb brought us to Carnedd Llechwedd-llyfn where we found a very good dry flat pitch among the boggy bits.

Day 3 - Carnedd y Filiast & Foel Goch

Today would be even warmer and the views hazier and thicker. An easy climb gains the main summit of Carnedd y Filiast with the other Arenigs visible only as pale ghostly outlines. An easy walk NE is Waun Garnedd-y-filiast, but then the terrain becomes rougher again and we found a thin tractor track near the fence that assisted progress somewhat as far as Bwlch y Pentre where it petered out. To minimise the rough going it is easier to climb to Trum Nant-fach and then descend SE with the ruined wall to the valley stream. A short climb above is a good track that signals the end of the rough stuff!

The track makes a very good easy walk along the attractive valley above Llyn Hesgyn with Carnedd y Filiast above. We took the L fork of the track that climbs around the southern shoulder of Graig Ddu and descends a short way to a fence junction: here we crossed the fence R (not difficult with packs off) and walked around to join the public footpath down through Bwlch Graianog farm. The farm access track makes a rapid descent to the road at Pont Mynachddwr (litter bins here).

Llyn Hesgyn
Llyn Hesgyn (13 Apr 2007__09:13:20)
The Nant y Coed from Cwm Hesgyn track
The Nant y Coed from Cwm Hesgyn track (13 Apr 2007__10:07:41)

The surfaced byway opposite provides an easy ascent, becoming a good pleasant track to the foot of the W ridge of Garnedd Fawr. This is a grassy undulating ridge that curves around easily to the main top Foel Goch, normally a good viewpoint but not in the thick haze today. Backtracking to the dip before Garnedd Fawr at 942423, the public footpath follows a grassy track heading SW from a point a little above the bwlch. Careful mapwork is needed at first in this potentially confusing landscape, but once the path turns S it makes a very attractive walk, first with a broad view of the cwm on the Foel Goch side and later, after passing a solitary huge boulder, views of the cwm above Llyn Maen Bras as it contours the lower slopes of Moel Emoel on a good path.

The path arrives at a stile on the Open Access boundary and crosses a surfaced track to a waymarked gate. The next stile is at a woodland edge and the waymark points cheerfully onward, but the coniferous trees just beyond have fallen (932392). We had a fierce fight through the prickly lower branches while avoiding a deep squelchy morass underfoot, but at least the battle was short and the good woodland path appeared on the far side. Signed footpaths now lead down to the byway and road head. At 933373 a footpath crosses fields and Lovers' Walk to the A494 and Bala.