Walk up Aran Fawddwy and Glasgwm from Cwm Cywarch
A Boggy approach to Aran Fawddwy from Cwm Cywarch
|15.2 km||1015 m||6 hours|
Activivity Type: Hard Walk
Calculate the time using Naismith’s Rule and factor in your own pace.
Summits and Places on this Route
Limited parking and portaloo. Shop and pub in village.
Wet and boggy, with sections of pathless navigation
Very irregular service to Dinas Mawddwy from Dolgellau and Machynlleth.
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Walk up Aran Fawddwy and Glasgwm from Cwm Cywarch Ordnance Survey Map and GPX File Download
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Walk up Aran Fawddwy and Glasgwm from Cwm Cywarch
Aran Fawddwy is the highest mountain south of Snowdon and the highest summit in South Snowdonia, yet this is a largely ignored hill. It is barely 10m below the magic mark of 914m and often overlooked in favour of its less lofty, but more spectacular neighbour Cader Idris.
Fortunately, this means that a walk up Aran Fawddwy is a much wilder and quieter proposition than Cader Idris, with no sign of tourist paths, or any particularly simple way up. You’re going to have to get your socks wet and your compass out for this one.
The Route up Aran Fawddwy from Cwm Cywarch
The walk up Aran Fawddwy can start in Dinas Mawddwy if you wished, but this adds a good 5 or 6 km to the total. I managed to cadge a lift up into Cwm Cywarch to Fawnog Fawr (SH 853 184) where I intended to start my walk. There’s parking for a few cars here and even a portaloo. All around you are steep grassy slopes, as are the unmistakable crags of Craig Cywarch that dominate the cwm.
The path you need returns parallel to the road, but back down the valley initially, before turning towards the farm called Gesail. You’ll probably be looking at the unassailable slope ahead at this point and wondering how you’ll get to the top. Eventually, you’ll see that there’s a track that zig-zags its way to the ridge above. Because of this, the going is pretty steady until the very last. This is the easiest track on the whole circuit, and does look a bit of an eyesore in places where it’s obviously been bulldozed. Even in the low cloud, Craig Cywarch is imposing from this angle, so you’ve at least got something to look at.
The track ends suddenly and you find yourself on the opposite side of the fence to some unexpected forestry and tracks. There’s a fence and a stile to your right, and beyond this the path starts to climb steeply up along Craig Cywarch itself. It’s not long though, before you’re following the fence far from the edge, and crossing easy moorland.
The faint path follows the fence, but when the fence turns right it continues onwards. This takes you directly to the summit of Glasgwm and the summit lake of Llyn y Fign. This is a unique place, as the summit appears as an island when you first glimpse it. There will definitely be a return trip to wild camp here in the summer. To reach the summit of Glasgwm– the proper one is the one not marked with a height on the 1:25k map (marked as 780 on the Landranger) but marked with a handsome cairn that’s obvious from the lake – cross the stile near the lake before climbing as that’s the only way over this fence.
It was pretty breezy today, and you do feel like the lake surrounds the summit as it curves around to a boggy area and turn around to see yet another small lake. What is finally in view is Aran Fawddwy, with it’s lesser siblings just discernible behind. All that stands between you and the summit is a steep descent, a kilometre of devastating bog and a couple of hundred metres ascent. Of which the ascent is the easiest part.
Cross over the fence, and follow the fence downhill roughly NE and past the aptly named Llyn Bach, which isn’t much larger than a puddle. The path steepens, and care is needed on some of the looser sections. You’re soon at the bwlch though, and the hazard of bogs much more of a challenge ahead. The first bit of ground you reach at the bottom of this slope is a mire, and you’ll have to follow the path left before crossing carefully. Poles and the guts to jump across boot stealing sections essential.
Ironically though, while you’re going to need to cross the boggy Waun Camddwr (which mostly translates to words relating to water), the bogs in themselves aren’t the actual problem. Someone’s installed boardwalks all along the bog, and it’s these that troubled me. One scaffold plank wide, and lacking any sort of grip they felt like walking across a greased log. Most moved as well, and every step had me in fear that I’d descend headlong into the morass. The worst section crossed a small pond, with what essentially amounted to a 15cm wide, greased-up footbridge. I wasn’t able to use my poles to steady me either side as the water was probably a good pole deep.
I’m sure it took me an hour to cross this section, where the only positive is that you can just follow the boardwalks and fences and it spares navigation. It was a consolation also that as it had been exceptionally wet recently, with snowmelt adding to the saturated ground that the conditions underfoot are probably as bad as it can possibly get.
Once this is behind you though, the fence pulls uphill and 300m and 1km later you’re on the summit plateau of Aran Fawddwy. You’ll know you’re near as there’s a stile at a junction in the fence. Make sure you spot this as it’s the easiest descent option to Drws Bach. The summit is furnished with a trig, but very little in the way of a shelter. There’s something that could be called one, but it was barely big enough for one and not tall enough to keep the wind out. So it was disappointing, but the view from here is extensive in fine weather (so I’m told).
My descent followed the plateau, but there was a faint path that took me to Drws Bach. There’s a large cairn halfway down so you know you’re on the right track, or failing that there’s that fence a bit further across to the east. Drws Bach is a scary looking proposition on the map, with a path crossing the cliff face. But you reach the cairn just before Bwlch Bach and realise there’s a steep drop either side, but that there’s also an easy path across. The Cairn at this spot is a memorial to a MRT member, Mike Aspain, who was killed by lightning at the spot in 1960.
The Aran Fawddwy’s summit was now clear of cloud, and the crags across to Creiglyn Dyfi and the other Aran summits in the distance were now visible. The lower Hirnant hills, and the nearer lower Aran tops can be seen, with their tops clearly bog. It’s difficult, and possibly pointless, to determine where the Aran hills end and the Berwyn start but you can certainly walk from here to Llangollen and drop no lower than 480m at any point.
A faint path now takes you over Drysgol, or around it if more uphill’s not to your taste, before descending the boggy slope towards the bwlch below Waun Goch. At the 571 spot height, there’s one final bog to test your boots, before the good path descends diagonally across the slope to Hengwm. It’s a bit narrow in places, and gives the feeling you’re walking on a tightrope as you place one foot directly in front of the other. But you’ve already had practice of traversing narrow planks, so this is a stroll.
Finally, you reach farmland. Just take care with the navigation on this part. The track is initially wide, but splits at a gate down a narrower path marked by a sign. Likewise, further down the path turns a right angle where the map shows a junction at SH854 187, just keep to the path and you’re soon at the footbridge (or you can ford the stream if it’s not in spate) and taking the road left returns to the start in a few minutes.
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