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Northern Arans #2 / 2 days / 15 miles (24km)

OS Route Map → Map GPX Route file →

Date: 20 Feb 2009
Start / Finish: Llanuwchllyn.
Maps: Explorer OL23 Cadair Idris.

Day 1Aran ridge & Gwaun Lydan7.3 miles / 2970 feet (11.8km / 905m)
Day 2Foel Hafod-fynydd & Esgeiriau Gwynion7.5 miles / 1490 feet (12.1km / 454m)
Llyn Pen Aran

A slightly shortened variation of the Northern Arans 2-day circuit we did last year, following our familiar approach up the northern ridge and circling around to Creiglyn Dyfi, and returning via the very seldom trodden north ridge of Esgeiriau Gwynion. Some of the route description is copied from that previous trip.

Only a week or two previously the country had been severely disrupted by extensive snow and ice and the mountains had the heaviest snowfall in years, yet almost all of it had gone now even around the summit of Aran Fawddwy at just under 3000 feet. The timing was perfect for this circuit: clear summits and sunshine for the high ridge walk and its extensive views on the outward leg, and dramatic vistas of thick trapped mist boiling over the cliffs for the walk through the cwm and return leg via the clear eastern hills.

Day 1 - Aran ridge & Gwaun Lydan

It was frosty and clear in the valley as we started the long ascent of the north ridge, and looking ahead we were really surprised that the snow had receded so quickly from the high peaks. We didn't pack crampons but we were wearing our mid-weight winter boots, and as it turned out we didn't even need those, we could have worn our summer mid-cut shoes. The climb did seem harder work than usual up the succession of tiers but the views were superb, while Llyn Lliwbran was well seen nestling shyly below the cliffs.

Distant snow-flecked Berwyns from the ridge
Distant snow-flecked Berwyns from the ridge (20 Feb 2009__11:09:29)
Llyn Lliwbran
Llyn Lliwbran (20 Feb 2009__11:11:14)

Finally reaching Aran Benllyn, the lake of Llyn Pen Aran had retained a covering of glistening snow and made a splendid foreground to the crystal clear views to the west: Rhobell Fawr and Dduallt across the valley and the more distant and distinctive outline of the Rhinogydd. It felt quite warm here in the sheltered recess, an excellent spot to linger.

Llyn Pen Aran
Llyn Pen Aran (20 Feb 2009__11:32:30)

The highest section of the ridge from Aran Benllyn to Aran Fawddwy is always a joy to walk, just a few patches of snow today including one receding drift that had buried the twin ladder stiles to around half their height. The ascent of the final rockpile presented no difficulty, just the odd trace of ice, and the trig point was quickly reached. The forecast had suggested the possibility of an inversion but we thought it wasn't cold enough for a good one, and pitching early high on the ridge would have left too much for the next day, so we descended to the memorial on Drysgol. This is a grand viewpoint for retrospective views along the cliffs.

Aran cliffs & Creiglyn Dyfi
Aran cliffs & Creiglyn Dyfi (20 Feb 2009__14:25:12)

An easy descent to the bwlch and a short climb brought us to the small cairn of white quartz stones atop Gwaun Lydan, a flat expanse of rough moorland grass with a peaty area adorned by protruding tussocks. By this time some thin wisps of mist were encroaching on the Drysgol spur as the temperature dropped, time to pitch the tent in the same spot we used on the previous trip.

Pitch at Gwaun Lydan
Pitch at Gwaun Lydan (20 Feb 2009__15:39:04)
Peat and tussocks near Gwaun Lydan summit
Peat and tussocks near Gwaun Lydan summit (20 Feb 2009__15:44:15)

Day 2 - Foel Hafod-fynydd & Esgeiriau Gwynion

At dawn trickles of mist were just oozing over the cliffs of the main ridge, weakly inverted and pink in the predawn sky. The descent into Cwm Llaethnant is delightful, always deserted and probably the least frequented wild cwm we have ever walked with no trace of a path, while the mist was gaining form on the cliffs ahead. We crossed the infant Afon Dyfi where a descending fence meets the water and climbed past a striking dark green mossbound pool to Creiglyn Dyfi.

The patterns of wind in mountains can still surprise us, especially today: near the lake below the towering cliffs the wind was terrific and it was very hard work walking against it, forcing us to put on our shell jackets and mountain gloves, yet later on the very summit of Esgeiriau Gwynion it would be dead calm with not a breath of wind and very warm. The mist was now a superb sight, a dense sunlit mass boiling over the rim and flowing down in textured streamers.

A thin path climbs easily to Foel Hafod-fynydd, even easier today with that wind at our backs. This is a grand viewpoint for the main ridge where Aran Fawddwy had very briefly cleared.

A green oasis in Cwm Llaethnant
A green oasis in Cwm Llaethnant (21 Feb 2009__09:07:05)
Mist rolling down over Aran Fawddwy and Creiglyn Dyfi
Mist rolling down over Aran Fawddwy and Creiglyn Dyfi (21 Feb 2009__09:12:27)
Mist rolling down over Aran Fawddwy
Mist rolling down over Aran Fawddwy (21 Feb 2009__09:15:23)
Mist on Aran Benllyn cliffs
Mist on Aran Benllyn cliffs (21 Feb 2009__09:23:43)
The ridge from Foel Hafod-fynydd
The ridge from Foel Hafod-fynydd (21 Feb 2009__10:05:02)

We descended eastwards a short way and turned steeply down to Bwlch Sirddyn and just as steeply up alongside the fence to the final top Esgeiriau Gwynion, another fine viewpoint for the main ridge where the mist was still inverted over the cliffs and continuing the fine spectacle, a spot to remove a layer and relax in the warm sunshine with no trace of wind.

View from Esgeiriau Gwynion
View from Esgeiriau Gwynion (21 Feb 2009__10:49:33)
Misty ridge from Esgeiriau Gwynion
Misty ridge from Esgeiriau Gwynion (21 Feb 2009__11:09:30)

We followed the north ridge on a vague intermittent path, traversing a minor subsidiary top and crossing the fence a bit further on, and descended to meet a contouring farm track and fence above Coed Talardd.Where the fence turned downhill at an external corner, we descended alongside it towards the trees and slanted left to join the farm track at the valley bottom by the river. A short walk L along this track leads to the buildings and road at Pont Talardd. From here we followed the narrow lane to Llanuwchllyn, cutting off the final corner via the footpath down through the wood to Pont y Pandy.