Today's primary goal was a simple one. I wanted to photograph Arenig Fawr, a mountain near Bala, as it was bathed in the crimson rays of early dawn.
Although they are neither the most extensive nor highest range in Snowdonia (Arenig Fawr, the tallest peak, tops out at a modest 854 metres), I like the Arenigs for the solitude they offer, the fact that their central location affords great views of the whole national park and the seemingly endless moors that surround them.
This walk is just over 13 miles long. It involves an unusual approach to Arenig Fawr and mostly follows paths that aren't marked on the OS map but are reasonably clear on the ground. There is a long section of road-walking, though most of this is quiet and pleasant and the worst bit is easily avoided by varying the route. The total ascent is 3,250 feet. A GPX file of the route can be downloaded here.
I parked in the hamlet (a stretch of the word) of Maestron, 4 miles due west of Bala, where there is a small pull-in at grid reference 86135 35891. I wanted a route that would get me to a view of the dawn-facing (i.e. eastern) slopes of Arenig Fawr in the shortest possible time and this seemed about as close as you can get in a car.
While driving the hour or so from home in darkness, I'd flitted between clear night skies and swirling mists and fogs. As I parked and got kitted up, the fog was firmly down and I could barely see my hand in front of my face. I knew that I was only a few hundred yards from a coupe of farmhouses; however, you wouldn't have guessed it.
Heading off into the mountains in the dark fills me with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. When there's fog about or you can't make out the weather in the darkness, there is also the possibility that the whole exercise, including the ridiculously early alarm call, will be a complete waste of time because I won't get any of the images I need to inspire my painting.
Anyway, I was here now, so off I set.
I left the road and followed the signposted footpath (not visible on the ground, at least not in the dark) that bears north west towards Foel Blaen-y-Cwm. Skirting left of a stand of conifers, crossing a boggy field and then tracing a wall, I eventually reached the first of several collapsed ladder stiles that I would encounter