15 Mar 2011

Backpacking in the Arans

I have not been to North Wales for over 15 years and choose the Arans for my first trip back. It is a quiet area to the west of Bala in southern Snowdonia. The route came from v-g backpacking in Britain, an excellent site, if I only have 10 or 15 minutes to spare and want to go backpacking this is where I normally head.

We started the long drive from Dorset early on Saturday morning and eventually arrived at the southern end of Lake Bala. We left the car in Llanuwchllyn and slowly climbed the track up into the mist.  The ridge to Aran Fawddwy is a series of smaller summit gradually increasing in height. As we reached each top the mist cleared enough to see the next top. Would we have started this if we had seen the full route to the top at the start? Probably not.

We passed the only other walkers we would see all weekend before we reach the summit of Aran Benllyn. Surrounded by cloud we moved along the ridge with glimpse of the valley on either side. As we came off the main ridge and down towards Drysgol we could finally see Creignlyn Dyfi, a small tarn sat high above the valley.

Camped on some relatively flat ground near the bottom of the valley, we were opposite the outflow from the lake digging a groove in the steep side of the valley.

After we had eaten the rain started and we were then subjected to 5 hours of rain followed by 5 hours of buffeting winds. In the early hours the wind would die down, then you could hear it rush over the ridge above us then five seconds later hit the side of the tents.

When we clambered out of the tents to see snow of the eastern slopes of Aran Fawddwy. As the clouds were still low and I didn't want to hang around so we started straight up the slope to Foel Hafod-fynydd.  I struggled up the steep climb to the ridge and as we made our way along the fence line to east the sun began to push through the clouds.

We dropped down to Cwm Du contoured along the steep valley sides and past the old farm at Cwm-ffynnon. The views back to the main ridge were amazing even though the tops were still in mist.

Before we started the back down the valley to the car we stopped for breakfast. Sitting in the green valley looking back at our route.  The sun was on us but there was still a cold wind. After a bit of a trudge along the road we returned to the car. 15 years away from North Wales and it welcomed me back with rain, howling winds, snow and a beautiful ridge walk ... fantastic.

6 Mar 2011

Around Shipton Hill

With one away on a geography field trip and the other taking part in a mammoth game of football at the park, I escape for a run upto Shipton Hill. It was a wonderful afternoon.

Forget birdsong and daffodils, the first sign of spring is when you get too hot in your Helly.

2 Mar 2011

What next

For the last few years I have run the Grizzly, this year I have decided against it. I was lucky to get a place as they are taken very quickly once the entries open. I have managed to pass on my place to a friend who has the joy of the valley of bogs ahead of him.

I am not exactly sure why I am not keen to run it this year. It is always difficult to articulate to other people why you do these things but surprisingly easy to justify to yourself. This time I could not really talk myself round. The other thing is this year I want to do more backpacking trips. So on the weekend of the Grizzly (12/13 March) I am going to walk along the Aran ridge.  So I will be enjoying the clear blue skies of North Wales instead of running over beach and bog in South Devon.