An interesting summit in a remote part of Snowdonia
The path led away behind the small copse of trees where I'd parked the car just off the single track road. The nearby pylons were the only link with the outside world that I'd just left, and the only sounds to be heard were the sheep which inhabit the North Wales Hills and the breeze rustling the leaves overhead. The main road was far enough away to be inaudible. I'd turned off the A4212 just after Llyn Celyn about 10 miles west of Bala and driven for perhaps half a mile along the minor road signposted to Arenig. There was just one other car parked at the start of the path to Arenig Fawr.
Setting off I followed the left fork of the track through the gate and soon passed a small disused quarry on my left.The path climbed slowly and steadily across the grassy uplands while my objective, Arenig Fawr rose steeply ahead just to the left of the path. Arenig Fawr is a little unusual for this area as while most of the surrounding mountains such as Moel Llyfnant also seen ahead, are mainly huge heathery hills rising from the wide grasslands, it has a more craggy nature with rocky ridges and corries - more like the peaks of central Snowdonia which I could see in the distance away to the right. It's also a good deal higher than its near neighbours so is an impressive peak when seen from a distance.
As I approached the start of the ridge, the view to the west gradually expanded and I could now look across the vast moorland landscape to the Rhinogs near the west coast of Wales. To their right rose the shapely Moelwyns and then the high mountains of central Snowdonia. All about was a sense of isolation, for algthough I was still within Snowdonia National Park this is one of the least frequented parts of Wales.
Here the path was almost level and there was a short boggy section to contend with just before a wall. Heading up the slope with the wall on my right I soon reached dry ground as I made my way up the ridge. The remains of what was once an electric fence followed the wall as I ascended the steep tussock country of the ridge, soon finding a faint path which was easier than going straight up. After a steep ascent the angle of the slope eased for a short while and the path led to the right and over the wall by a stile. Now I followed it up the other side of the ridge which soon became steep again and rockier than before though there were no difficulties to tackle, just an enjoyable ascent which took me quickly to what appeared from below to be the top.
This false summit is the end of the steep section, the path now leading gradually around towards Arenig Fawr about half a mile further on. I followed the broad ridge around until a final haul brought me to the peak with the survey column and the monument to the American servicemen killed when their Flying Fortress crashed here during wartime operations in 1943.
I paid my respects to the airmen - flowers had been left by the memorial - it was good to know people cared enough to bring them all the way up here over 60 years later. The memorial faces west - towards America.
Lunch was in the open shelter just below the summit mainly due to the cold wind which now blew up here. Because of its isolated position, Arenig Fawr has some of the most expansive views in North Wales with the whole of central Snowdonia visible from north to west; the south is dominated by the 3 distant peaks of Cader Idris, while back to the east stand the Arans - just short of 3000 feet - and the great whaleback ridges of the Berwyn Range. North of the Berwyns, the foothills roll away towards Llangollen and the Clwydian Range. Away east over the Berwyns and beyond, great clouds had built up - masses of cumulus several miles high though here the weather remained settled if cool for May. Westwards the cloud shadows moved across empty looking tracts of moor and grassland dappled with tarns and dark patches of forest.
Heading onwards, I followed the ridge down to the south and back up to the slightly lower south top of Arenig Fawr. This opened up the view down to the remote plateau linking Arenig Fawr with the next peak Moel Llyfnant - a heathery wilderness scattered with tarns. I followed the ridge #down out of the cold wind . It was fairly steep in places but again easy, being grassy slopes rather than crags, until I found a faint path at the bottom of the slope which led between heather covered hillsides and small rocky outcrops. The way back down was to the rightbut first I headed to where the tarns were a short way further on.
There was no sign of anyone up here nor even a sign that people had even been here recently. I sat by the further tarn and drank some water from my bottle enjoying the warm sunshine and the far off sound of skylarks somewhere overhead. The peak of Arenig Fawr rose across the tarn appearing to stand entirely on its own. Suddenly the sun went in and the clear sparkling waterturned dark and cold looking. It became chilly for sitting around so off I set again thinking what a good campsite this would make.
I retraced my steps back to where a fence was visible below - the way down I'd seen from near the bottom of the ridge - and descended to cross it. Again a faint path - probably made by sheep - led around the slope heading gradually downhill and towards Moel Llyfnant. I was making for the col between that peak and Arenig Fawr from where a wide track would lead me back to the start point.
It is best to head towards this col and double back on the main track as it is fairly steep to just go straight down and while the slope is not particularly craggy, the stream forms a ravine lower down that is best avoided!
The weather was again perfect as I followed the track and gave me clear views across Snowdonia to the west and the only vague bit was just before the wall I'd followed up the ridge. Here a boggy section lasting no more than 200m had to be negotiated just after the ancient ruined farm of Amnodd-wen which itself was quite fascinating. Other than that it was a wide path all the way. The weather didn't hold good on the drive back though - after Bala I encountered torrential downpours and back at the campsite near Oswestry, it hadn't been so good all day. For once the Welsh Mountains had had more sunshine than the lowlands!
Pete Buckley May 2008
Up 550m >>> Down 550m >>> How Far? 12.5km >>> How High? 854m/2802ft
For more walks in Snowdonia please see the table of contents below.