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Sunday, 19 November 2017

Winter on Aran Fawddwy - an overnight wander.

Located in South East Snowdonia the Aran group of mountains to the south of Llyn Tegid (Bala ) are very underrated, Despite it containing many fine summits including the highest in the range - Aran Fawddwy. It is often very quiet with the vast majority of folk ignoring them for the lure of  'honey pot' summits further north - their loss is my gain  and I seldom see many people here on my trips.

I planned this walk as a day walk, that was until my Wife planned a night out so I jumped at the chance of a night out in the hills . I had the choice to go with her - a night out at the dogs , or a night on a mountain summit. It was, for me an easy decision.

Pulling into the car park at Llanuwchllyn I got out of the van to get Myself ready, the roaring sound of the nearby Afon Dyfrdwy indicated the extent of the previous days rain , it was quite mild with drizzle so I donned a windshirt over my base layer , grabbed my pack and took the familiar lane south on the Western side of river .

Further on a signed path branches of SW crossing a very boggy field to a Ladder stile where the path contours around the base of  Garth Fach.

The weather today rendered the landscapes a very muted grey - not the best for photography there was however some nice mist/ cloud on the higher tops to add a bit of interest, so I took a few pics as a record of the day.

Looking South along the Aran's ridge

The path continues past some rocky/craggy summits each one getting higher, affording terrific views on a good day to the valley floor. I've detoured for the views many times, but today there was no point - mist obscuring the views so I stuck to the path.

Looking North along the Arans ridge

Continuing on and getting higher all the time I soon reached Aran Benllyn and Aran Fawddwy came into view. Wandering over to one of the small pools enclosed amongst the crags I found a sheltered spot for a leisurely brew/lunchbreak,I spent around 1/2 hr here in no rush to move on, today was not about miles but more taking time to expore the various nooks and crannies along the ridge.After lunch I continued on to the cairn at the southern end perched on the brink of a precipitous drop - great views from here down to Creiglyn Dyfi a delightful spot where I have camped on a few occasions.

Aran Fawddwy with Drysgol beyond.

This trip I had planned to camp on Aran Fawddwy- a summit I've wanted to camp on for a while. Snow was forecast from the afternoon onwards, I was looking forward to the return of the white stuff - winter wildcamping is the best season (to me) to be out in the hills.

Continuing on I commenced the climb to Aran Fawddwy detouring from the path to explore out of the way potential wildcamp spots , I found quite a few places perfect for bivying, hidden behind rocky outcrops but none big enough to get my tent in.

Creglyn Dyfi from ascent of Aran Fawddwy

I had marked a possible spot on the map beforehand - the widley spaced contour lines showing the possibility of finding a level pitch with a water source nearby so I continued on southwards .
Not long after leaving the summit area I spotted a likely looking spot just of the path , with rocky outcrops for shelter/privacy so I wandered over to investigate - it turned out to be a perfect site - level grass at a little over 2800ft with superb views southwards towards Gwaun y Llwyni. I marked its position then set off to locate water a little further down.

The heavy rainfall over the previous days meant there was running water above the stream line shown on the map so I collected around 4 ltrs of very clear water ( 4 ltrs is the minimum I need for max and myself ) I then commenced to walk back uphill to my spot - it seemed to take forever, no doubt partly due to the 4kg of extra weight I added to an already heavy pack - good fitness training though.

Back at the spot I had found earlier I dropped my pack and set about pitching my Hilleberg Soulo. Soon my 'hotel 'for the night was up and I moved in .

Pittch on Aran Fawddwy.

Pitch on Aran Fawddwy

Pitch ov Aran Fawddwy.

Once inside I put my newly acquired Msr Windpro 2 stove on for a brew, I got this specifically for winter camping to give me better snow melting capability for when the need arises, I have done this with my meth's stoves but it is a very slow process. The much quicker boil times are an advantage in winter as well .. esp. when you're cold and want to quickly make a hot drink to warm up.
I spent that evening lying in my bag , outer tent door open taking in the view whist cooking/eating dinner , a few hot drinks before relaxing with my usual tipple on wildcamps - single malt whisky.

View from tent door  towards Gwaun y Llwyni with the Dyfi Hills beyond

I must have drifted off to sleep, the wind picked up and it started snowing a few snowflake's falling on my face awakening me. I closed the outer door before making an hot chocolate then lying back listening to the wind- snow on the flysheet , I love the feeling of being snug in a down bag , listening to the sound of wind /rain /snow with only a very thin fabric to protect me   its a sensation I never tire of !
I awoke once more during the night the winds had got stronger the Soulo was rock solid it felt very secure and soon I drifted back to sleep.

Morning came and I unzipped the outer door to survey the scene before me -there was a light snow covering. reaching for my skywatch which I'd left out over night I wiped the frost off and took a temperature reading -1 c , I couldn't take a wind chill reading as the propeller had iced up and froze over night, the thick layer of frost on the stiff guylines told me it was probably several degrees below freezing though.As I lay there drinking my morning coffee it started snowing quite heavily accompanied by strong winds, just a shower I thought..

Around 45 mins later ( After breakfast followed by more coffee ) the snow shower passed, I peered out of the tent door - around 2-3 cm had fallen, I then started to slowly pack everything away. whilst doing so it started snowing again, so once I had packed everything away under cover, I made 1 last coffee before getting myself and Max ready to strike camp. I put max's winter walking coat on, then got out of the tent to attempt to pack it away quickly - not easy when its blowing a gale combined with snow . Max sat there with a disapproving look, his face covered in snow. The tent was quickly stuffed into its sack and we headed off.

Usually I'm not a fan of 'out and back walks ' as I said at the beginning this was supposed to be a day walk but I turned it into a 2 day slack pack - I'm glad I did  as it gave me time to explore and get different perspective's without being constrained by the time frame of a longer walk.

Slowly I made my way back to Llanuwchllyn over snow covered summits views back to Bala looking much different to the day before. It was a very different kind of trip from the usual but  I enjoyed immensely- it was more of an 'immersive' trip, a chance to stop and stare, take in the mountain with all its changing character through different weather conditions. Soon I was back at my starting point  and another journey started... this time though I was heading home.

I'll leave you with some pic's from my journey back to Llanuwchllyn.

Thanks for taking the time to read.

Till next time , happy Wildcamping

Daron :-)

View East from descent of Aran Fawddwy.

Aran Benllyn from Aran Fawdddwy.

Moel Llyfnant & Arenig Fawr from Arans ridge.

Approaching Llyn Pen Aran.

Llyn Pen Aran & Aran Benllyn.

Llyn Lliwbran.

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