Craig y Cilau – Slippery when white   16 comments

A bit behind with my blogging again so here’s a little walk report from a couple of weeks back

I’ve not been out for a proper walk for a while now. Since I went off skiing without the family for a week I thought for the next few weekends at least they needed some quality time with me. That and the fact that I’m trying to keep their interest in walking going means I’m taking on some shorter walks at the moment whilst still trying to get out on the hills to some degree.

This walk is one I’ve had my eye on since we moved down this way in 2002 but never got around to. It’s an area of limestone edge tucked away between the Black Mountains and the industrial Welsh valleys to the south. With interest in all things speleological I’m a bit of a fan of Limestone scenery and this walk didn’t disappoint.

Craig y Cilau, 4.7 miles, 1,200 feet of ascent

There had been an armageddon style forecast of heavy snow for the previous night so we had made some provisional plans to go sledging. However all that materialised was a couple of inches of very wet slush so we thought a walk would be a better plan. We parked up just above the village of Llangattock, near Crickhowell and set off on a walk taken from my Jarrold pathfinder guide They are pretty good books for exploring the areas away from the obvious mountains if you ignore their propensity for pointless detours to villages and pubs – I’m all for a pint on walk from time to time but not at the expense of detouring from and missing out a fine walking route.

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Slipperiness begins...

Where was I? Yes off for a walk. As soon as we set off we realised that said few inches of wet slush was treacherously slippery, a feature that would come to dominate most of the day. The walk starts by dropping (read slithering) steeply down into the Cilau valley. As we turned across a steep slope to pick up the path heading above the river I slipped onto my a*se into a very pleasant combination of watery snow and brown mud that left an interesting coloured mark on my trousers. As they say in Viz “luckily I saw the funny side”, well I didn’t really but you get the idea.

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Frozen Field

The stroll across the fields towards Llangattock was very pleasant with thin sunshine lighting up the Sugar Loaf ahead and glimpses of the limestone world we’d be reaching later.

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The Sugar Loaf

We talked about our holiday plans for the rest of this year which will be pretty much the same as last year (if it ain’t broke don’t try to fix it) and also about the possibility of a “special” holiday somewhere far away in a couple of years.

The path eventually drops down to the Brecon and Monmouthshire Canal where the Pathfinder guide takes in an extra mile to walk through the village of Llangattock. We decided to cut the corner and got our canal kicks from a very short 10 yard stretch between bridges. They are repairing this section so it had been drained of water giving the kids a chance to really how the canal was constructed and just how much mud collects in them.

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Family by the Canal Bridge

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Frozen Canal

Leaving the canal the walk heads up along an old tramway that used to carry stone down from the quarries, towards Craig y Cilau and reaches the “crux pitch” of the walk. There is an incline that was used to lower the wagons loaded with stone down to the trams to carry them to the wharf on the canal at Llangattock. It’s arrow straight and very steep and I thought the kids were going to plod up at an inconceivably slow pace. Always ready to prove me wrong they both raced up it leaving both me and Jane trailing in their wake.

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Kids leaving me and Jane trailing

At the top before the second incline section up to the edge the route emerges from the trees and there was a very nicely sited bench with views across the Usk Valley to the Black Mountains. Can’t waste opportunities like that so we sat down for a second lunch and as is the habit now, brewed up a fresh cup of tea for me and Jane. Sitting with a cuppa looking at snow dusted mountains watching the kids play in the snow with no-one else about, life was pretty good just then.

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Tea time

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Happy families

Refreshed we carried on up the second incline to the bottom of the cliffs. From here the route follows another old quarry tramway that takes and almost level traverse under the cliffs. It’s a truly stunning stroll along what at times is quite a precarious path but never that difficult although today it was made interesting in the snow.

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Tramway path

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Usk Valley and Black Mountains

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Tramway path

The area is riddled with cliffs and caves and the edges had some wonderful ice falls on them. The kids were particularly interested in these while my interest was piqued by the numerous caves that clearly needed exploring.

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Ice falls on the cliffs

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Ice falls on the cliffs

The sun was out by this stage bathing the edges with low sunlight and creating some lovely effects.

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Jane and L on the slippery stuff

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Arty tree shot

The path then heads back down onto the lower slopes and this path was absolutely lethal, with everyone slithering and sliding and taking ages to get down. Just before the final climb to the car the path traverses a really unusual and very boggy meadow that gave long lingering views back across the escarpment.

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Surprise Meadow

The whole area reminded me of the limestone escarpment near Llangollen we’d visited earlier in the year

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Pen Cerrig Calch

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The Sugar Loaf

Another new route and another cracker. It would be a wonderful walk on a summer’s day with lots of opportunities to linger in the sunshine. I’ll be back. Enjoy the musical slide-show and big thanks to David over at Luachmhor for recommending the music of Ludovico Einaudi – cracking background to some wonderful scenery.

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16 responses to “Craig y Cilau – Slippery when white

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  1. Looks like a cracking walk. Amazing ice formations. Like the music too, I think – needs a second listen probably.

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    beatingthebounds
    • I’m really getting a taste for this mellow style of music as I use it quite alot on my slideshows now for which it’s perfect. You’ll have loads of it to listen to if you bring your Hard Disk up to Suie and I can copy some stuff over for you

      This is one of the walks I was planning for when you come to see us in June. Really interesting one for the kids and not too hard or far if you take it steady

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  2. Brilliant…looks a good day out 🙂

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  3. Looked really nice, but very slippery! I’ve never thought about it before but I’d no idea it was a limestone area. I tend to just think of the White Peak and the Dales in that category!

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    • There is a surprising amount of Limestone scenery down that way. Nothing on the scale of the pavements in Yorkshire or the valleys of the White Peak but some nice scenery including this area. I’ve been caving down this way a couple of times (one was the muddiest little slice of hell it’s ever been my misfortune to encounter) and of course you have the famous Dan yr Ogof show caves as well. Well worth a trip.

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  4. Here my photo of Pen Cerrig-calch on a clear blue day – http://www.flickr.com/photos/60837371@N06/5541934585/

    Tramway Path looked very precarious, my legs would have been shaking and I’d be digging my walking poles about a foot into the ground on every step!

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    • Hi David – sorry only just seen your comment. I’ve only just this week been praising WordPress and it’s spam filter and then it dumps your comment in my spam tray – should have known 🙂

      Cracking photo, Pen Carrig Calch and that whole corner of the Black Mountains is superb. A quiet part of a quiet range of hills. Went up that way in the late September heatwave last year:

      https://surfnslide.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/indian-summer-weekend/

      The Tramway path really was excellent, snow made it even more “interesting”. I’ll be dping that walk again on a summers evening walk after work I reckon

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  5. Lot of limestone in the South of Cumbria and North Lancs too, but not many caves (wonder why?). Fortunately most people drive past on their way to the Lakes.

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    beatingthebounds
  6. More new territory, I’ve not heard of that limestone area before – further south than we’ve ventured. The traversing path in particular looks excellent.

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    • This area is right on the doorstep of the industrial valleys but there is an expansive area of Limestone scenery I’ve never explored south and west of the Balck Mountain that’s pretty remote.

      That traversing path really was a delight with loads of caves, edges and sink-holes to explore

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