Brecon Beacons Neuadd Valley round – sold down the river   4 comments

On my travels and walks over the last few weeks I’ve been extremely lucky with the weather. Good forecasts have come true and coincided with days when I was able to get out. That run of luck had to change sooner or later and this week it did.

With my new life of relative leisure I decided on day out in the Brecon Beacons. I’d long harboured a plan to walk the full length of the main escarpment. If you do it from the north it involves major effort and lots of road walking to get back to the start point so I thought that starting from near the Neuadd reservoirs in the south would be a better bet as well as maximizing the chances of sunshine at this time of year.

11 miles, 200 feet of ascent

The forecast was for a bright and cloudy morning with increasing sunshine through the day. I woke to a clear morning and frost on the car so I was with some enthusiasm that I headed for the hills after dropping D off at school. By the time I reached the car park there was a blanket of dark grey cloud and all the tops were deeply smothered in grey wet-looking stuff. Still I had the forecast of an improvement and there were some ever-so-faint glimpses of the sun behind the grey mass so I thought I’d go for it. I’d gone about 300 yards from the car before it started to rain!

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Gloomy conditions at the start

I kept with my plan and trudged up the road towards the car park on the pass heading to the Tal-y-bont reservoir. I was taking the same upward route to the ridge as I’d done earlier this year on a walk around the Caerfanell valley (much better weather and photos). Whilst it was kind of atmospheric this time in the low cloud, it was damp, cold and windy.

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Looking towards Tal-y-Bont

I reached the ridge without a break and just carried on along the escarpment towards Fan-y-Big. I saw nothing other than cloud the whole way. As I reached the top the cloud did lift a little and I got some views into the stunning perfect U-shaped valleys to the north.

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Cwm Oergwm

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Fan-y-Big

I dropped down to the col before the climb to Cribyn and seeing as it was still in the murk I saw no point in climbing to the top. I followed one of the sheep-tracks that curve under its NE face which at least allowed me to get out of the wind and have a long rest to recuperate after walking all the way from the car without a break. It’s a great situation and as I was out of the cloud I felt a little brighter.

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Cribyn NE Face

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Fan-y-Big

Refreshed I carried on and took up the chance to walk one of my favourite paths that traverses directly across the N face of Cribyn. If you’ve never done this I urge you to give it a go. It’s easy to find the start from either end and you can still climb/descend the north ridge of Cribyn either before or after to take in the summit. It’s an airy traverse but never difficult as long as you have a head for heights. Today it was out of the cloud and the grim conditions gave it more of a brooding atmosphere

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Looking west across Cribyn N face

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Looking east across Cribyn N face

All through the day I’d been clinging to the hope that the weather would turn. When I reached the col before the climb to Pen-y-Fan I decided enough was enough. It looked dark and miserable (if anything worse than earlier) further on so I abandoned the plan and just headed off on the path back to the car. The path traverses the south slopes of Cribyn all the way to the col under Fan-y-Big before picking up the roman road back down the valley. I’d in effect walked all around Cribyn so that was minor interesting achievement to the day. Alas the walk back to the car didn’t improve my mood. The Neuadd valley is a great round at high level but the valley itself and the long roman road are a little dull especially on a dreary day like this. To add insult I was trying out my new boots and had the wrong sock combination on so I had sore feet and blisters as a result. It became a grim route march that was totally out of character with my normal mountain mindset and I reached the car in a pretty dismal frame of mind

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Looking back to Cribyn from Neuadd valley

I tried my best to enjoy what I had but I just couldn’t get my mind to gel with the day. Usually on days like this I can still enjoy the experience but not today. Whether I wasn’t in the right frame of mind or whether it was the disappointment of a the forecast letting me down I can’t say. Whichever it was, the walk became a test of my own stamina as to how long I could keep going and how far/fast I could walk. This goes against everything I normally strive for when out walking. To me walking is not a test of endurance or a set of goals and targets to achieve (I have enough of those at work – at least I did anyway :)). It’s about immersing yourself in the scenery and atmosphere and revelling in the fact that even on the less than great weather days there is still plenty to enjoy and there are much, much worse places to be. What I should have done this day is simply have shrugged my shoulders and turned back, shortened the route, or taken a different or lower level route. That way I could walked at a more leisurely pace and settled for and, more importantly enjoyed, something different. What it turned into was a day like I used to have when I was younger when I felt I HAD to go out and HAD to climb something big or it just wasn’t worth it. I don’t want to go back to that mindset so I hope I’ve learned that lesson. I’ve since been out with Jane to the Radnor Forest hills and I think I’ve got my mojo back. 🙂

Flickr slide show this time – enjoy!

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Posted November 25, 2011 by surfnslide in Brecon Beacons, Wales, Walking

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4 responses to “Brecon Beacons Neuadd Valley round – sold down the river

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  1. It’s odd how you find yourself responding to disappointing weather isn’t it? Some times appalling weather can actually add to the enjoyment in a perverse way (I’m thinking in particular of long distant days on the Fannichs and Creag Meagaidh – that’s you two squares closer to a line) and at other times it just seems like a bad idea to be out. I was out around Kentmere last weekend (post soon hopefully) and had fairly shabby weather again, but still enjoyed it on this occasion. It wasn’t raining mind.

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    beatingthebounds
    • Over the last couple of years I’ve been more amenable on poor weather days, I quite enjoyed that dreary wet morning at Grasmere. I must be mellowing in my old age.

      I remember those couple of days you mentioned, classics of wild winter weather. Probably has something to do with solo walking. If your mood isn’t quite right then you have no-one to lift the mood. When I got home Jane asked me if I’d had a good day and such was my reaction she thought something had gone wrong!

      Probably been spoilt by the past few outings or more likely I was just in a grump

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  2. Maybe you are just becoming old and grumpy Andy? I have to admit that some days I enjoy in the hills more than others, no rhyme or reason, although usually it is raining, or my knee hurts or my feet are sore……….

    Look forward to reading about the Radnor hills as it is many years since I visited them. I bet you had the place to yourself, not many folk know about them.

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    backpackingbongos
    • Hi James – hope you had a good weekend out, looking forward to the tales. I think perhaps I must be getting old and grumpy. One of my work colleagues calls me a GIT – Grumpy Irritable T*sser. 🙂

      I think this day was a combination of bad weather, sore feet and going solo. File under “don’t be afraid to change plans and stay low”

      Halfway through the Radnor post – should be up by the end of the evening

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