On Wednesday MWIS was promising 70% chance of clear summits on the Thursday and Friday. After months of rain, this looked like a chance for an overnight trip over the Arans. However, on Thursday morning the forecast was for only 10% chance of clear summits, but with a promise of clouds clearing in the evening with Friday still forecast as 70% clear.
I decided on a late start from Llanuwchllyn on the Wednesday leaving the small car park at the end of the village about 2:00pm. The weather didn't look too promising. The summits of the Arenigs on the opposite side of the valley were covered in cloud and it looked as though the summits of the Arans were covered too. I set off up the long North ridge of Aran Benllyn. After months of very wet weather, I was expecting the ground to be completely sodden. However, it didn't seem much worse than usual, which is still very wet! As I splashed upwards through the bogs, I could see that the cloud was descending. I was soon in the mist, although it wasn't actually raining.
For some reason the North ridge always seems an awfully long way to the summit (probably because it is). About 200m below the summit I met a group of people descending and stopped for a short chat. Finally the summit cairn of Aran Benllyn appeared out of the mist and I stopped for a rest. I had hoped to continue over the summit of Aran Fawddwy and continue round to the memorial cairn at Drws Bach camping near Gwaun Lydan. As the weather showed no signs of improving I decided to drop down from Erw y Ddafad-ddu to Creiglyn Dyfi. The only sensible way down is via a steep grassy spur, which cuts through very steep ground on the eastern face of the Arans. Finding the top of the spur and picking the correct line of descent in the very limited visibility could have proved very tricky. Anticipating this problem I had loaded up a track from v-g's web site into my Garmin GPS, which lead me safely down into the cwm.
The clag was well down and I only saw Creiglyn Dyfi when I was a couple of hundred feet above it. Casting around for a decent spot to camp, I settled on a very small level grassy area by the northern shore. There was a small stream only a few yards away, which looked as though it might flood my proposed site if there was a storm. However, I decided to take the chance. As soon as I got the tent out it started to rain. This was the first outing for my Terra Nova Voyager Superlite. I had bought this tent in one of Field and Trek's 30% discount, plus another 10% price matching from GoOutdoors. Although I am very happy with my Zephyros 2, it isn't really suitable for two people, whereas the Voyager has plenty of room. In fact it turns out that the Voyager is slightly lighter than the Zephyros. However, it does have one disadvantage. It's an inner pitch first and as I had only put it up once indoors, so wasn't the fastest pitch. Just to make life more difficult, there was only a very thin covering of grass over the stones, so getting the pegs in was hard work. There were several minutes of cursing before I finally got the tent up properly.
Of course as soon as I had got the tent up it stopped raining. As I was very wet, I decided to go for a bit of a wander round the lake before retiring to the tent and getting into some dry clothes. Creiglyn Dyfi is a very inspiring place to camp. The edge was somewhat taken off the experience by the persistent clag obscuring the views of the Arans. I crawled inside the tent, got into some dry clothes and cooked tea. For one the Voyager is super spacious and in the poor weather the large porch was great for cooking and storing my wet clothes.
During the night there were several heavy showers, but luckily the small stream next to me didn't burst its banks. Peering out of the tent at 5:30am the next morning I could see that the cloud had risen above the summit of Aran Fawddwy. I had planned on a quick descent back to the car via Cwm Llwydd and Talardd. However, the prospect of views from the summit ridge was enticing. I decided to retrace my route and savour the views up there.
I packed away and began the long 1,000ft slog back up the grassy spur to Erw y Ddafad-ddu. Inevitably as I climbed back up the steep slope, the clag began to drop again. By the time I reached Erw y Ddafad-ddu the whole ridge was covered. On the plus side, I could see a bright patch where the sun was trying the break through and there was a steady breeze. Sure enough by the time I had reached Aran Benllyn the clag had mostly cleared the ridge, although Aran Fawddwy remained covered. The air was exceptionally clear, so I got great views through breaks in the mist. In some ways this was much better than unbroken horizon to horizon views. Every few minutes a different patch of mist would disperse and I would get a new view.
Dropping down from the summit of Aran Benllyn, I emerged completely from the clag. Somehow the descent of the north ridge seemed even longer than the ascent. Eventually I arrived back to the car, where I got into some dry clothes and made a brew before setting off back . Although the weather was far from perfect it had been a very satisfying trip.