I’d been circling Yr Aran mountain a long time. I first noticed it years ago from the Rhyd Ddu path en route up Snowdon. Then it was a steep detour from the main attraction. Later, when visiting Capel Garmon burial chamber in the east, I looked west and saw a distinct, peaked mountain beckoning me. It wasn’t Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) but its deputy, Yr Aran, its hand in the air saying ‘this way’!
Recently I’ve been gazing up Yr Aran’s long sloping flanks from Dinas Emrys, ‘the Fort of Fiery Higher Powers’. More than its other three guardian mountains, Yr Aran rises up directly from, and looks down over, this ancient, sacred gathering place. It both conceals and points to Snowdon. If there were ever alchemists, sorcerers, prophets and dragon whisperers doing business at Dinas Emrys – as I believe there were – some of them must surely have taken it upon themselves to climb this alluring peak. I had to follow their footsteps.
Finally the right day came. Monday 18th November. The forecast was fair for the time of year. Ali and I started from the Craflwyn car park just before noon. For the first hour the going was good. As we ascended, Dinas Emrys shrank into the shadowed valley below. But our route was heading round to the Watkin Path so we had to strike off the beaten track up towards our chosen peak.
If there’s a path up this side of the mountain we didn’t find it. But it didn’t matter. We made our way over soft grass, crunchy bracken, springy moss and rounded rock. It was steep and got steeper, but somehow, buoyed by the sun’s warmth, clear views and the windless air, we bounded up. But on the final stretch we gladly joined the easier path from Cwm Llan and Rhyd Ddu.
We soon knew we were climbing an archetypal mountain: conical in shape, perfect in proportion, rising to the heavens. At the summit we found no trig point, not even a cairn of stones to mark the top. Rather a craggy outcrop offered natural shelter in a space not much bigger than a house. With the air warm and still it felt snug, uncommon on usually cool and breezy mountaintops. It was a superb spot from which to take in this epic and legendary landscape. With barely a cloud in the sky the all round view was stunning.
To the southwest over Beddgelert hovered Moel Hebog, silhouetted by the lowering sun. Beyond was Yr Eifl, guarding the head of the Llŷn Peninsula. Following the horizon around clockwise we saw Moel yr Ogof, the Nantlle Ridge and the Drws y Coed Pass into the Nantlle Valley. Mynydd Mawr stood above Llyn Cwellyn in the GwyrfaiValley, and through the gap we saw the silvery gleam of the Menai Strait, Ynys Môn and, in far distance, Holyhead Mountain. We saw the south of Moel Eilio (we see it from the north) and the long ridge above Cwm Clogwyn to the dramatically snowed-on Snowdon. We could see Crib Goch, Bwlch y Saethau (the Pass of the Arrows), Y Lliwedd and, far to the east-northeast, Moel Siabod. Along the eastern ‘English horizon’ were the dark heights of Yr Arddu, the Hill of the Young Bullocks, Cnicht and beyond that the shrouded Moelwyns. In the south-southeast Cader Idris loomed and to the south were Harlech and the shining sea of Cardigan Bay.
We’d have seen even more from the summit of Snowdon: the Isle of Man, perhaps the Wicklow Mountains... But we wouldn’t have seen spectacular Snowdon itself. And there’d have been a café, a train, a bustling crowd and a queue for the top. Snowdon has been sacrificed to the City. Its summit is a mini metropolis. Better to scale a lonely peak, perfect in its scale and simplicity: a fairytale mountain. On this day we saw only one other person.
And far below in the wooded valley is Dinas Emrys, Eternal Citadel, forever remembered in story and associated with dragons, wolves, alchemy, magic, inspiration, prophecy and Merlin. This is THE Mountain of THAT place. And some of the wizards DID come up here. That’s why, even now, it is a powerful place to sing, pray and call out to the great ones all around. One feels closer to the spirits. It offers a profound eagle-like perspective on the majestic realm of Eryri. It swells your soul. It is a multiple peak experience.
So, don’t go there! There’s no path, you’ll get lost and end up stumbling about in the dark. Better by far to go to Snowdon up the beaten track. But, if you insist and are determined, you might just be the one who makes it up Yr Aran that day. If so, you will be blessed.