So, where are these Aran Hills then? I Have to confess that for years I didn’t have a clue where they were, and I didn’t get round to tracking them down until a year or two ago. It was only in the last month that I actually got my boots on the ground, and discovered yet another hidden corner of Wales, ignored by many.
The valley of Cwm Cywarch has one of the narrowest roads in Wales – it doesn’t need to be bigger as there are only a handful of farms in the length of the valley. For connoisseurs of remote ‘trad’ style rock climbing, there is the additional attraction of Craig Cywarch, about 2kms of imposing steep rock with a climbers’ hut (Bryn Hafod) below. The valley head is also the springboard for exploring the Aran Hills from the south
The day had started with a dental appointment for Chris – following the fun and excitement of that, she had decided against a hill day, but Border Collie ‘Mist’ was happy to make up the numbers. I started up a gradually rising path heading for a big grassy plateau below Drysgol, with great views back towards Craig Cywarch and the upper part of Cwm Cywarch.
The height gain was easy, but there was still more to come. Drysgol was passed with the Aran Ridge coming into view as I headed for the memorial cairn at Drws Bach. The cairn was built by members of the Royal Air Force mountain rescue team of St Athan, in memory of team member Mike Aspain who was killed by lightning whilst training with the team in June 1960. Serious accidents to rescue team members are thankfully rare, but I paused here a while before heading on to what was, literally, the high point of the day – Aran Fawddwy
With an altitude of 905 metres, Aran Fawddwy is the 16th highest peak in Wales. It is a mere 9 metres (30 ft) short of reaching the old yardstick of 3000 ft, which is probably a good thing for all concerned – the 15 Welsh peaks above 3000 ft can all be done in a fairly long and strenuous day, but Aran Fawddwy is more than 40kms (25 miles) from the Snowdon hills as the crow flies. Had this peak been added to the ‘Welsh 3000’s’ it would have presented an insurmountable challenge for most ordinary mortals.
The summit cleared of mist long enough for a quick photograph, before I set off down the line of the ridge heading southwest towards Glasgwm – that would have to wait for the next day though, so I turned down the valley, heading down to the hut at Bryn Hafod. I had seen just one other person all day – yes, that missing 9 metres on Aran Fawddwy is definitely a good thing.
To be continued ….
Text and images © Paul Shorrock