Expedition: Arans, Wales

I usually have at least one annual expedition with my friend Andy to some wild bit of Albion but this year for many reasons of bad luck, unlucky timings and having another child on the way we couldn’t go together. The choice was then either go on my own or not at all.

For all the years that I’ve been hill walking and camping I realised that I’d never actually gone on my own. This was my chance to take the plunge and give it a go!

Bala lake, from my camping spot
Bala lake, from my camping spot

I quite fancied going to Wales again and settled on a circular route in the Arans that I found on the ‘Backpacking in Britain‘ website (highly recommended).

Getting there
After driving for 5 1/2 hours I arrived at the pretty lake of Bala and made my way to the campsite on the shore. The view was good and the site was fairly quiet – just as I like it. I have to say that I wasn’t quite prepared for how little faff there is when you travel on your own. With no-one to chat to I got up, had breakfast, packed the tent and drove to the start of the walk in no time. Great so far.

Just starting the walk
Just starting the walk

Day 1 of the walk
I kitted up at the bridge at Ponty Pandy
(great name) and headed off over some fields and towards the ridge. The navigation today was likely to be fairly easy – follow the ridge. Despite having spent quite a bit of time in the hills and being a confident navigator I was feeling a bit apprehensive at first. It soon went once I was up in the fresh air.

It was a glorious day with a few fluffy clouds around and it was great to be out looking at the fine views. Knowing that I wasn’t going too far also allowed me to take my time and stop frequently to check out the scenery and take lots of pictures which I found I could do without the guilt of holding someone else up.

The first peak of the day
The first peak of the day

All day I only met one person, an old guy with a dog. We had a little chat but it was clear that both of us were keen to walk on our own and I made a point of letting him get well ahead.

The walk was essentially a long, wide, ridge with a number of small peaks along the way. Before the end of the ridge is a steep grassy slope in the otherwise impassable cliffs. At the bottom is a beautiful little lake and it was here that I’d planned to camp. When I got there though I discovered that It was only 1 o’clock and I slightly wondered what I would do for the rest of the day. I also found that it was really really windy and I had a modicum of concern about putting up the tent in such conditions. Oh well i was here at least.

A view of the lake I camped by
A view of the lake I camped by

I shed my backpack and did a leisurely circuit of the lake, taking some nice pictures and stopping occasionally to admire the view. Finding that had only taken only half an hour I then went for a more ambitious amble up some of the nearby hills. I spent the rest of the afternoon by the lake admiring the wonderful view and soaking up the fab weather.

With no-one to chat to I fell back on my iPod and some podcasts as I lay in the tent, eventually going off to sleep at the ridiculous hour of 9pm.

The ridge I came down from
The ridge I came down from

Day 2 – The return
I went to sleep to lovely (though windy) weather but I woke to torrential heavy rain. Oh joy. I ate some muesli in the tent but my bladder soon got me up and out. I struck camp fairly quickly and was on my way by 7.30am.

I’d originally planned to walk back via some hills but the weather was so terrible that i decided to go back the more direct route via a track and road. It was a bit of a trudge to be honest with not even much to see due to the low clouds. I got back to the car around 10am a little damp but quite happy. I went for a coffee and a second breakfast in Bala and then drove home.

Loneliness
I had wondered whether I would feel lonely on this trip and pine for some company but to my own surprise, I quite enjoyed it. It was actually really nice to walk with just my own thoughts and spend all the time just soaking up the vistas. It might be different if it was for longer, but for two nights it was great and I’d love to do it again.

As for this bit of Wales, well it was marvelous and it would be super to explore more of the Arans. See all the pictures from the trip.

How about this for a view from the campsite?
How about this for a view from the campsite?
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