|OS Route Map →||GPX Route file →|
Date: 01 Jun 2021
Start: Rhydymain / Finish: Llanuwchllyn.
Map: Explorer 023 Cadair Idris.
|Day 1||Pen Ochr y Bwlch, Pen y Brynfforchog & Glasgwm||7.5miles / 2730 feet (12.1km / 832m)|
|Day 2||Aran ridge||8.1miles / 1614 feet (13.0km / 492m)|
Finally after more than a year of CV lockdown and an 18 months hillwalking layoff, we set off on our first backpack of 2021.
Local walks in the flatlands, some over 20 miles, have been fine for maintaining distance training but do nothing for ascent. With some apprehension we chose a reasonable mountain route to test the effects of the hiatus and that should be easy to reach by public transport without significant difficulty. This is a shorter modified version of my Aran Ridge south-west trip using the same approach from Rhydymain, a good choice for solitude for most of the route during a holiday week, and the description below for the first section on the byway track is copied from there.
The weather was holding after a glorious bank holiday weekend but the sky turned milky, resulting in a poor flat light for most of the first day and improving on the second. A strong wind made for an interesting high pitch on Glasgwm and became a lot stronger on the main ridge.
As expected after so long away, the ascents were very slow and tiring, but this was a tonic of a backpack and a real morale booster.
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.
At Bwlch Oerddrws we turned left up the fence for a steep and quite punishing climb to a minor top then eastwards for the ascent to the summit of Pen Ochr y Bwlch, an obvious top but unmarked. The views down the valley and over to mighty Maesglase were drained of contrast and colour today.
A slow plod alongside the fence gained the next summit of Pen y Brynfforchog, giving a dull view of the Arenigs dominating the distant skyline ahead. At the top the wind had increased dramatically, requiring fleeces and making us mindful of our intended high level pitch. The next checkpoint was the forest corner where the boundary fence would be followed to the foot of the ascent to Glasgwm, much tree felling having taken place since our last visit.
The northern edge of the forest crossing Bwlch y Fign was free of awkward bogginess and shielded from most of the wind, but we were again blasted on reaching the ladder stile on the other side. The ascent from here is not steep but was really tiring at this late stage and took a long time. Eventually we reached Glasgwm and Llyn y Fign and scouted for a pitch, deciding on a fairly sheltered position on the northern side of the lake.
The sky had finally turned mainly blue and we had a grand view towards the evening sunset and the Cadair Idris ridge. By the time we had pitched, the wind had already increased and turned into a north-easterly producing a distinct compression of the porch on my side.
In the night I awoke to an alarming scenario: the wind had increased dramatically and the tent porch on my side was bulging severely inwards almost to the ground, while the whole structure was skewed over to one side. Lying flat on my mattress, my end of the short overhead cross-pole was just a few inches from my face.
Using my empty pack to prop up the porch a bit, I got out to inspect. I was sure something had broken or come adrift, but no: everything was secure, all pegs were firm and holding, all pole sections and clips were in place. What I was observing was the natural flex of the pole hub structure that, I must say, is surprisingly resilient and impressive. However if this had been winter and we had taken the stove, using it in the porch would have been impossible even in moderate winds.
De-pitching the tent in the relentless wind with our precision routines gained over the years, we were packed swiftly for an early start with Microlite down jackets to the fore. Conditions were a lot brighter than yesterday and we had grand views as we made the long steep descent of Glasgwm to the bwlch.
Though you would never realise it, a distinct 2000' summit lies ahead between this bwlch and the main ridge. In the hill-list world, Waun Camddwr is one of those sorry tops that bedevils both compilers and completers alike: there are two possible summits, fiendishly difficult to distinguish on measured height and neither contributing any interest or appreciation to this fine wild landscape. Indeed the only evidence of any significant high ground hereabouts is an unwelcome small loss of height en route to the main ascent to the ridge and, regaining that height and ascending beyond, it disappears against the background in retrospect.
The tiring ascent to Aran Fawddwy took a long time, switching to windshells as the temperature rose and taking frequent breaks. This traverse was an exact repeat of the conditions on my solo trip here, strong winds but fine views. On the main ridge the wind was more variable but fiercely strong at times, making some sections even more arduous.
We made the familiar very long descent into Llanuwchllyn meeting the first walkers of the trip and also families clad in skimpy beach tops and shorts, we wondered how they would fare up on the main ridge if they were going that far.