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Arans--Dyfi hills--Cadair Idris traverse / 4 days / 36 miles (58km)

OS Route Map → Map GPX Route file →

Date: 21 Aug 2007
Start: Llanuwchllyn. Small free car park, also roadside parking.
Finish: Dolgellau, Eldon Square.
Maps: Explorer OL18 Harlech & Bala + Explorer OL23 Cadair Idris.

Public transport information:- Traveline journey planner
The bus journey from Dolgellau back to Llanuwchllyn is around 20 minutes.

Day 1The Aran ridge & Glasgwm8.6 miles / 3840 feet (13.9km / 1170m)
Day 2Pen y Brynfforchog, Cribin Fawr & Waun-oer6.8 miles / 1940 feet (10.9km / 591m)
Day 3The Cadair Idris ridge10.8 miles / 3610 feet (17.4km / 1100m)
Day 4Llynnau Cregennen & Bryn Brith9.6 miles / 1220 feet (15.5km / 371m)

A splendid linear traverse of the Aran mountains, Dyfi hills and Cadair Idris range, following the natural lines of the ridges via the highest passes and returning via the diminutive but delightful Bryn Brith.

This traverse has been on our shortlist for some time and crosses 14 of the 2000-feet summits. It suggested itself from a study of the map which showed how we could cross from one range to the next at a high pass and avoid losing all the height. The intuitive way from the Arans to the Dyfis might seem to be via Foel Benddin and Maesglase,but the true 363m pass is 2½ miles to the west and lies at the foot of the SW ridge of Pen y Brynfforchog, and is 247m higher. This leads onto the Cribin Fawr / Waun-oer ridge and the 285m pass to Gau Graig and the Cadair Idris ridge.

Day 1 - The Aran ridge & Glasgwm

It was mainly sunny with a stiff breeze on the long climb of the north ridge to Aran Benllyn and the views were extensive from the northern Snowdonia mountains to Pumlumon. Once aloft the ridge is an easy and very enjoyable stroll with a final short pull to the 905m trig point of Aran Fawddwy.

The Aran ridge
The Aran ridge (21 Aug 2007__11:06:58)
Llyn Pen Aran
Llyn Pen Aran (21 Aug 2007__11:10:43)
Creiglyn Dyfi from Aran Fawddwy summit
Creiglyn Dyfi from Aran Fawddwy summit (21 Aug 2007__12:28:40)

The easiest and best way on to Gwaun y Llwyni is to descend from Aran Fawddwy on the Drysgol path to the memorial, then follow a thin path around the edge to the summit that gives great views into Hengwm below. Our descent was SW along the spine of the ridge and NW down alongside the fence to the Camddwr. A thin path climbs to join the main path to the head of Cwm Cwyarch.

Gwaun y Llwyni
Gwaun y Llwyni (21 Aug 2007__13:15:39)

The cloud was thickening and the top of Aran Fawddwy disappeared in mist as we climbed steeply to Glasgwm, and as we pitched the tent by Llyn y Fign just below the summit it engulfed everything.

Day 2 - Pen y Brynfforchog, Cribin Fawr & Waun-oer

At dawn the mist was still swirling around but the rising sun appeared intermittently as we followed the fence SW to Bwlch y Fign and the forest corner, and it finally triumphed as we approached Pen y Brynfforchog for a grand view of the Dyfi hills. A fence follows the SW ridge over a couple of minor humps and drops steeply to a stile onto the road by a small car park.

An old track winds upwards among the rocky outcrops of Craig y Bwlch and joins the fence along the Cribin Fawr ridge to a ruined quarry building. The fence leads directly to the tussocky summit but we climbed R to follow the western edge, a little trodden rib with good views, and crossed a rather wet area to the top.

The Dyfi hills from Pen y Brynfforchog
The Dyfi hills from Pen y Brynfforchog (22 Aug 2007__09:03:51)
Cribin Fawr
Cribin Fawr (22 Aug 2007__09:58:25)

Descending to a bwlch, we dropped our packs and collected water a short way down the ravine. A short steep climb gains the trig point of Waun-oer and then the walking is easy once more along the ridge over Mynydd Ceiswyn with the Cadair ridge looking fine ahead. Passing the ladder stile that marked our descent route, we pitched on the small rise of Mynydd y Waun a little further on.

Cadair Idris from Waun-oer ridge
Cadair Idris from Waun-oer ridge (22 Aug 2007__11:45:49)

Day 3 - The Cadair Idris ridge

The morning was beautifully clear with an orange glow on the Cadair ridge and the nearby Tarrens. The path NW from the ladder stile starts clearly enough but becomes indistinct as it drops to a rather boggy area before joining a wall and a good track down to the A487. A short walk up the road is the track leading to the foot of the Gau Graig ridge and we collected water at a tiny stream before the main ford at the stepping stones. Near the top of the field beyond the ford we kept our eyes peeled for the ladder stile some way off to the left that marks the excellent path that climbs Gau Graig through the vibrant heather and rocks with a fine view of the cwm and crags.

Dawn light on the Tarrens
Dawn light on the Tarrens (23 Aug 2007__06:34:04)
Gau Graig
Gau Graig (23 Aug 2007__09:56:34)
Mynydd Moel from Gau Graig
Mynydd Moel from Gau Graig (23 Aug 2007__10:43:01)

Approaching the summit of Mynydd Moel a squirrel was leaping along the edge of the crags. This was the third time we have seen one on high ground in Wales, the previous one was at the summit of Foel Boeth clinging to a fence post and the other on Drum Ddu near Rhayader. The views were superb from the summit plateau and we walked along the edges away from the main central path to maintain the interest on the northern side. There is a fine view of Cyfrwy and Llyn y Gadair from the edge where the Fox's path emerges.

The Gau Graig ridge & Llyn Arran
The Gau Graig ridge & Llyn Arran (23 Aug 2007__12:01:45)
Cadair Idris ridge & Bryn Brith below
Cadair Idris ridge & Bryn Brith below (23 Aug 2007__12:19:47)
Llyn y Gadair & Cyfrwy
Llyn y Gadair & Cyfrwy (23 Aug 2007__12:57:53)

The crowds had invaded the summit area of Cadair Idris as expected with many more streaming up from all directions, but we found a relatively peaceful spot for a snack. Walking around to Cyfrwy, the top was deserted and gave a fine aerial view of Llyn y Gadair and the Cadair cliffs with a strong biting wind whipping over the edge.

Llyn y Gadair & Cadair Idris
Llyn y Gadair & Cadair Idris (23 Aug 2007__14:05:53)

Returning along the edge to join the Pony Path is the easiest way down to the bwlch, where we parted company with everybody and climbed the little trodden ridge westwards to Tyrrau Mawr. The unmarked summit lies on the brink of the precipitous drop and the sudden very strong updraught was a nerve wracking moment. At the next bwlch we detoured eastwards to collect water at the Nant Hafotty and climbed steeply to Craig-y-llyn. The ridge continues around to Braich Ddu with a great retrospective view and Llyn Cyri below, and we made a pitch at the grassy top with a view over Barmouth and along the coast to the Lleyn Peninsula.

Llyn Cyri & Bryn Brith
Llyn Cyri & Bryn Brith (23 Aug 2007__17:09:15)

Day 4 - Llynnau Cregennen & Bryn Brith

The wind soon died the next day and curtains of dank cloud hung over the high tops. For interest the area just south of Braich Ddu summit is now forested but the mapped track descending SW is still there and emerges on the byway. The byway is an easy track that makes a very pleasant walk NE to meet the narrow road to Llynnau Cregennen with Bryn Brith standing out ahead.

Having stared at Bryn Brith several times from a distance it was clearly something of a curiosity, a short spiky ridge of dense heather and rock sitting incongruously above the Mawddach estuary. Today it was ablaze with the pinkish purple of its heather finery and would have looked even more striking with some sunshine, but the low cloud prevailed above.

The map shows a path only as far as the first little top (marked as a hill fort), but in fact it continues easily along the ridge to make a complete traverse and joins the footpath around 672154. This is a little gem of a hill which merits a lazy half-day to itself with more time to potter around the rocky outcrops and visit the two small lakes.

Dawn sky above mist from pitch on Braich Ddu
Dawn sky above mist from pitch on Braich Ddu (24 Aug 2007__06:10:31)
Mawddach estuary & Barmouth coast
Mawddach estuary & Barmouth coast (24 Aug 2007__07:29:57)
Bryn Brith
Bryn Brith (24 Aug 2007__09:32:59)
Llyn Pen Moelyn
Llyn Pen Moelyn (24 Aug 2007__10:09:30)

The footpath continues to a lane and through a wood to Kings youth hostel. A byway leads from here to the road head at Gellilwyd Fawr, a good path through deserted and fairly wild terrain, leaving a short road walk down to Eldon Square in Dolgellau.