Wednesday, 23 July 2014

98 - Aran Fawddwy - Merionethshire - 9th July 2014

Last year I was joined on on of my expeditions by Bournemouth Chris (I call him that because I have another climbing friend called Chris from Portsmouth and this one is from Bournemouth), anyway we had a great time despite the weather and it was now time to take another trip together to climb another high point.

I left Portsmouth on July 8th and picked Chris up from his home in Bournemouth and then we made the long drive up to north west Wales, on the way we stopped off at Marlborough for some lunch and took a fair few winding roads through the English and Welsh countryside. Not too far from our destination my sat nav decided to take us on a small diversion over a toll bridge, we didn't need to go that way but we were interested to see the bridge and drive over it. The bridge is called the Penmaenpool bridge and cost us a whole 70p to cross it. The bridge seemed to be entirely made of wood including the roadway and it was well worth the crossing, we decided to go that same way on the way home too. After the excitement of the little wooden bridge we drove through Barmouth and along our last few roads finally finding our Campsite for the next 3 nights at Shell Island.

Shell Island is Europe's largest campsite, it is situated on the west coast of wales amongst the sand dunes and it has miles of beach to explore, it is quite an amazing place to stay. We drove around for a while exploring and eventually found a location with some shelter and easy access to the toilets and other facilities, it really was an amazing place to stay and we soon had our tent pitched up and we were settled in. After dinner we had a nice walk along the beach, at first I was a bit disappointed as the beach was covered with rather large boulders however just around the bend the huge sprawling golden sands stretched away into the distance and just at sunset it really was rather stunning.

The next day was climbing day and Chris was kind enough to cook a delicious bacon and egg breakfast, after washing up we headed off on the 40 minute drive to the village of Llanuwchylln where we parked the van and got ourselves ready for the climb ahead. On leaving the car park we left the village along route of an old railway line but soon turned off away from this and across the fields up towards the first slopes of the day. Ahead of us we could see a series of hills and mountains, around 4 of them, I spend a short time working out what they were and where we were aiming for, the highest I could see looked very high and I thought that would be our destination however it soon became apparent that the mountain we were heading from was actually way beyond these mountains.

Not long after we left the fields we found ourselves amongst the sheep which regular readers will know is a common thing on my walks, sheep are fine but as you may remember from my climb up Moel Famau cows and bulls are more of a challenge and sure enough we found our path crossed straight through a field of bulls, Chris was more confident than me (he didn't have to deal with the bull stampede last time) and we crossed the field with much ease making our way over the style and out into open countryside.

We first made our was past the first small hill and then up and around the next small hill, every so often we would have to cross a style or go through a gate, there was one small descent to make then a flat piece of land and then it was back to climbing upwards again along the western sides of the hills. there were some muddy patches to cross but in general is was pretty dry, slowly we climbed up and up hardly meeting anyone on the way up, just a few glimpses of people ahead of us or behind us. Further we climbed and higher we got, the views behind us were stunning, you could see along the whole valley, in the distance was Bala lake and the village, then beyond that was the rest of the Snowdonia mountains stretching off into the distance. Ahead of us all we could see was the mountains ahead of us and not too far away was the bit of a steep climb.

We approached the steep climb and  before we tackled it we sat down for a rest and a quick drink and snack to boost our energy and then we headed onward and upwards, the path was zig zagging all the way up and eventually we reached the top of this steep climb and for the first time we could see our destination ahead, Aran Fawddwy could be seen just over a mile to the south and to get there we had to walk along the top of the ridge of mountains. It was along this part of the walk that 2 RAF jet planes started to chase each other around the mountains, they were flying very fast above and below us and we could see them for miles around. We carried on towards Aran Fawddwy, the path dipped and rose up to smaller peaks a few times, we passed a small lake (which I always think is odd to see on top of a mountain) and crossed over a few more styles and passed a couple of people, then we reached our last climb up to the top of Aran Fawddwy. The final climb was the steepest one yet, it was not far but quite steep and we were using our hands quite a lot to scramble up, the path was hard to find but it was more of a case of just finding the best route possible.

After 4 and a half hours worth of climbing we finally reached the top at 905 metres sea level, it had taken longer than expected but we had made it, on top of the mountain was a trig point and there were amazing views, the mountain slopes dropped off almost vertically below us which meant we could see right down to the valley floor below us and for miles and miles to the east and south. We stopped here for sometime having our flasks of tea and our lunches, it was quite windy but we managed to find a fairly sheltered spot behind the trig point where we could watch the world going past and the occasional fighter jet too. We must have been at the top for 30-45 minutes and after food we took lots of photos and then collected up our gear to make our way back down to the car.

The walk back down was a bit quicker than the walk up taking us 2.5 hours and we passed the same people who had set up a tent next to the lake on top of the mountains, it was quite tricky at times walking back, because it was a much easier walk back down we were walking much faster and we kept losing our footing and I even fell over at one point due to a hole in the ground but we made it back to the civilization and through the field of bulls and then a different road back to the car. It had been an amazing climb and well worth the effort as the views from the tops were awesome. That evening we headed back to the campsite where Chris cooked up a lovely meal and we relaxed for the rest of the evening tired but happy.

The next day we awoke to a heatwave, our tent was like a furnace where the sun had heated it up, Chris cooked another lovely breakfast and then we headed off for a drive, we drove through Harlech and took a quick visit to Port Merrion and then we headed to Porthmadog for an ice cream and walk around the harbour and town, We looked in some shops and got some chips and then we headed back to the campsite for our dinner and another walk along the beach. On our last morning we woke up to a heatwave again and packed up the tent and all our equipment, then we went into the little cafe to get a cooked breakfast ready for our long drive home, It had been a lovely few days and shell island was a wonderful place to stay. 

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