Our two previous days in the Aran Hills (see posts #135 and #136) had been in ‘typical’ UK summer conditions, with conditions varying from cool to wet. However, out in the Atlantic the weather systems were shaping up for a big change, and within a week the July heat-wave had arrived. I still had one more Aran trip planned, and it looked as though it was going to be a warm one.
I had planned a there-and–back trip from Llanuwchllyn near Bala to the summit of Aran Fawddwy, visited on the walk in post #135. The map showed an undulating ridge with a total distance of 16 kms (10 miles) and a height gain of 972 metres (3188 ft). Down in the valley the temperature was 26° Celsius, and I had no intention of carrying more gear than I needed, which in this case was a micro-fleece top, a thin windproof jacket, map, compass and GPS and a small amount of food.
It was also quite clear from the map that water was going to be scarce – a few tiny pools were shown on the map, but I suspected that they could well be dry. The light pack more than doubled in weight when I added water, 2 litres for me and 1 litre for the dog. The question hanging over me was this – would it be enough?
Border Collies will work until they drop, but carrying a 20 kilo dog with heat exhaustion on isolated high ground was not an option! With that in mind, I set off prepared to top up the dog’s water with mine if necessary, and to be ready to turn back before things became serious. The lower part of the ridge looked as though my concerns might be real, with the bogs bone dry. Then we arrived at the small lake of Llyn Pen Aran, looking just like an oasis!
By now ‘Mist’ was more than halfway through her litre of water, but I got her to drink at the lake, then threw her in for good measure to keep her body temperature down. Having topped up the dog’s water bottle again, I continued much more confident that that the trip was going to be OK.
From the lake it was a delightful broad ridge from Aran Benllyn (885 metres) via an un-named top (872 metres) to Aran Fawddwy, the objective of the day and the highest peak in the Arans at 905 metres. Views were not as clear as they might have been, which was not surprising in the heat haze, but the Rhinog mountains could easily be picked out to the west.
Steady walking brought us eventually to the summit rocks of Aran Fawddwy, where I spotted the only other walkers I saw all day. The usual photos were taken, including one of ‘Mist’ by the survey trig column at the summit – the photo in post #135 a week earlier, had showed very different conditions.
At the summit I had leaned out over an impressive drop to get a photo of Creiglyn, the lake below Aran Fawddwy and the source of the Afon Dyfi (River Dovey) which flows by Machynlleth before reaching the sea at Aberdyfi (Aberdovey). I needn’t have bothered – on my return I saw a cairn on the shoulder of the un-named top that marked a point where the view of the lake was far better.
The return trip was still hot, but mostly downhill. The water refill and the ‘dog dunking’ on the way up meant that I didn’t have to re-visit the small lake on the way back, but even with that, the dog and I downed 2 litres of water each during the walk. It was the hottest hill day that ‘Mist’ has done to date, with a good bit of distance and height gain thrown in, but it has given me more confidence in what she is capable of when she qualifies as a search and rescue dog – that’s far in the future for now though, with at least one winter to work through first!
Text and images © Paul Shorrock