Whew, exams are finally finished for this semester and I have week too myself which means a triumphant return to my poor neglected blog. Also the months of rain that have been drenching Wales over the last few months appear to have at last subsided. So the sky is clear, the sun is shining and I’ve got a few free days, what am I going to do.
Its been 4 months since I climbed Elidir Fawr, my last mountain, and I was inching to go out and start walking again. I decided to head for Yr Aran (The Peak), just south of Snowdon and one of the peaks on my to do list. Weather forecasts had predicted snow in that region overnight so hopefully I would be set up for a nice snowy walk.
The drive to Yr Aran looked promising, huge snowfalls covered the Snowdonian Mountains and mist clung to the freezing lakes. Parking at Bethina, I geared up for a cold walk and began my route up the Watkin Path, which would lead me towards Snowdon and Yr Aran. Within minutes I’d had already removed most of my layers, the blazing sun made for a unusually hot winters day.
Following the Watkin Path, I passed several vast waterfalls, buoyed by melt-water cascading off the mountains. I soon reached the glacial cirque of Cwm Llan, occupied by a large abandoned slate mine. Here I immediately left the Watkin Path and turned left, following a rising track that skirted around the cirque, taking me under the shadow of Yr Aran. In front of me, the white monolith of Snowdon rose up into the bright blue sky, it looked very tempting but I knew I didn’t have enough hours of light to climb both peaks in one day.
Following this track, I soon came across the first patches of snow and frozen puddles. Honestly I had more fun breaking the ice than any sane person probably should. Sadly this path soon disappeared and I was left hiking over tough, frozen grass, edging my way slowly up to the col between Snowdon and Yr Aran.
Near to the col I reached the snowline, unfortunately the snow wasn’t the soft, powdery pillow that I’d hoped it would be, instead it was hard, brittle and a pain to walk on. The snow had obviously been there for some considerable time and deep-settled, day old footprints were evident in the snow. When I finally reached the col, I settle down for some lunch with a lovely view of Bwlch Cwm Llan and the Nantlle Ridge. I opened my flask of hot chocolate, which I’d finally remembered to bring with me after years of having of it, only to immediately notice that my beloved hot chocolate was ice cold. Stupid flask.
By this time all my layers of warm clothes were back on and I headed up the final stretch to Yr Aran’s summit. I soon came across a slight hiccup when I found the path before me suddenly fell away and a bit of scrabbling was required to get back on flat ground.
As I headed up, the grassy path soon turned to scree, which soon turned to frozen snow. The snow was rather precarious as it was both slippery and very solid, I found myself literally walking in the footsteps of others, unfortunately for some one with size 12 feet (in UK sizes), this can make walking in peoples footsteps pretty difficult because other people tend to have ridiculously tiny feet. So I was pretty much hammering my boots into these footprints in effort to give myself some better ground to walk on.
As I drew ever nearer to summit, a thunderous roar erupted behind me, and I looked up in time to see the Mountain Rescue helicopter flying overhead. Snowdonia skyline was actually pretty busy today, with hot air balloons and military jets both passing above me. I’d seen the helicopters all throughout the day, flying over Snowdon. However when the helicopter suddenly turned around and head back towards me, I realized this was more than just a flypast.
It was soon clear that the crew were preforming a set of drills or tests, as they piloted the helicopter to hover just above Yr Aran’s summit, attempting to maintain a stationary position as best to their ability. They did this several times as I slowly made my way up the mountainside, in some cases the helicopter was less than 100 feet above me. I quickly made my way to the top, took my photos and headed back down, not wanting to get in the way of any vital drills and as I left I again heard the churning of rotors as the helicopter passed once more over my head.
We are very fortunate in Snowdonia to have such a dedicated rescue team, who are ready night and day to help those in desperate need, even in the worse weathers. Sadly lives are lost but this is in stark contrast to the thousands of lives which are saved on a yearly basis by these teams that work hard to keep the mountains safe.
Anyway, after leaving the summit, I descended down Yr Aran’s eastern ridge, I soon reached a midway point and from there was able to descend onto the grassy slopes again. After that it was simply a short strain down on to the track and then onto the Watkin Path and back the way I’d come. By 4 o’clock I was back in my car, warming up my cold hands, with the walk taking me only around 5 hours to complete.
Though to some Yr Aran is only a glorified subsidiary peak to Snowdon, and at 2,451ft it is a small mountain, but the peak still has its own challenges and fortunately lacks the huge crowds that plague Snowdon, after leaving the Watkin Path I didn’t seen another walker all day. It’s summit also gives a spectacular view of Snowdon’s south face (a rare view) and of the surrounding Welsh countryside since the mountain lies on the border of the Snowdon Massif. Definitely worth a venture if you don’t mind giving Snowdon a miss, or if you’re feeling strong and want to do both.
This walk has been shared with Jo’s Monday Walks, a page for walkers of every caliber to share their adventures, so if you want to check out some other walking bloggers click on the link.
Thus concludes my tale, if you enjoyed this story feel free to write in the comments, or leave like and thanks for reading.