Backpacking the Aran Ridge, Snowdonia
Sunday 1 April 2018
I always enjoy exploring somewhere new and I love wild camping. This trip, I got to do both, walking some of the Aran ridge, a less frequently visited part of Snowdonia. We stayed out two nights, walking nearly 23km with 1300m of ascent (see our route). Perhaps that doesn't sound that far, but with the deep snow and winter gear in the backpacks it was tiring work.
30th March - to Cwm Du
We parked in the late afternoon in Llanuwchllyn and aware there wasn't too much light left, opted for the quiet lane along Cwm Cynllwyd rather than the footpath which would have undoubtedly been slower. Passing isolated houses and farms, we made our way up Cwn Croes, the Aran ridge towering high above to the right. As the inhabited farms ran out, entering the boggy Cwm Du I began to wonder if I would find a suitable spot to spend the night. Fortunately we found a somewhat flat patch of ground that wasn't completely waterlogged. Not the greatest campsite, but a peaceful place to spend the evening, and good to be back out in the wilds.
31st March - onto the snowy Aran ridge
It rained heavily in the night, and although I slept well, I was glad when I heard the rain had stopped. Woken by the light, I could see something wasn't quite right though. The tent was half collapsed - the rain had turned to snow! Quite a surprise this low down, there was about 5cm on the ground, with more falling. As we climbed higher, of course the snow got deeper. In places where it had drifted it was often over knee deep which made for very slow progress. Still, I enjoy snow more than rain so I decided to stay high rather than head lower and risk getting wetter. It was an epic day, with very limited visibility, temperatures around zero and often quite a breeze. Navigation consisted of following fences and compass bearings, noticing that small features in the fog often looked much bigger than they actually were. With limited visibility, we accepted a small horizontal patch of land on the Aran ridge as a campsite for the night, stopping fairly early in the afternoon. Finally here we saw a few people, otherwise we had been alone all day.
1st April - Along the Aran ridge, Arran Fawddwy and Aran Benllyn
It was below freezing overnight and our boots were frozen solid in the morning. Nonetheless I got out of the tent early to catch the sunrise! Moments like that make everything worthwhile, as the sky and mountains turn so briefly but brilliantly pink and yellow. Then packing away the camp, we climbed upwards towards Aran Fawddwy. Soon we were breaking trail in the deep snow, enjoying the fleeting sunshine. The cloud danced over us on the summit, but we lingered and were rewarded with clear views in all directions, with hardly a breath of wind. Perfection! Then the glorious wide ridge along to Aran Benllyn, still deep in snow, for a lunch stop with wide ranging views from Cadair Idris to Snowdon. Finally lots of height to lose, saying goodbye to the snow and feeling like spring with the lambs in the fields.
I'd love to hear what you think...
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