Caerfanell circuit – Edges and Waterfalls   14 comments

This is one of my favourite walks in the Brecon Beacons. Slightly away from the main hotspots but with a sense of spaciousness and air from the long walks along the edges. Apart from one very short steep section in the middle (or start depending on which way round you walk it) the route is easy and mostly level and ideal for families looking to introduce the younger ones to more mountainous terrain.

Allt Llwyd, Sugar Loaf

Allt Llwyd, Sugar Loaf beyond

It was just me and D today, TBF having been compelled to take L to the Remembrance service with her Brownie pack at our local church. We’d debated between this route and Pen-y-Fan from the south but as we approached Brecon under clear skies, Pen-y-Fan itself was smothered in cloud so we defaulted to this alternative. I’ve done this walk before last year so knew that D would really enjoy it as would I. The parking area was absolutely crammed with cars perched in every available spot. We returned to the bottom of the road to start the walk there, all it added was a short walk from the lower car park to the waterfalls and avoids having to finish the walk with a steep climb to the original start point. I’ve been lazy again with the route map so just use your imagination to create the extra little bit to the car park just south of the marked route!

6.5 miles, 1,600 feet of ascent

The walk up through the trees dappled with autumn sunshine was a pleasure with the sound of the waterfalls on the Caerfanell River below us.

Caerfanell

Apporoaching Caerfanell Waterfalls

There was a path lower down on the opposite bank that keeps to the riverbank so I’d follow that in future. We reached the bottom of the steep climb to where we should have parked, with more waterfalls visible on the much smaller Nant Bwrefwr through the trees. We decided to take a look at the big waterfall on the Caerfanell before we headed up.

Caerfanell

Caerfanell Waterfalls

Caerfanell

Caerfanell Waterfalls

It’s an impressive one and considering the number of cars about, deserted. We managed to get right up close on very slippery rocks to admire the heavy flow over the edge. I do like a good waterfall, probably due my propensity to climbing them in a wetsuit! As we returned it became obvious that doing the original route in reverse was a much better plan.

Caerfanell

Below Caerfanell waterfalls

It would give a much different flavour than when I’d walked it the other direction with the added bonus of being in the sun as we walked up the Caerfanell valley. With the low sun we would have been completely in the shade later in the day. Had we found a space in the car park at the top this would not have occurred to me. Serendipity is a wonderful thing.

The walk up the valley was splendid with autumnal colours and waterfalls every step of the way.

Caerfanell

Caerfanell Valley

Caerfanell

Caerfanell Valley

As is the way of things this year, every step was wet and muddy but I’d gone with lightweight boots rather than trail shoes for a change. As the valley opens out there is a short climb up on to the open grassland of Waun y Gorlan with all the edges to be traversed later in the day towering above us, beautifully lit by the low sun.

Craig-y-Fan Ddu

Craig-y-Fan Ddu

Gwalciau’r Cwm, Waun yr Gorlan

Gwalciau’r Cwm from Waun yr Gorlan

Facing us was the savagely steep climb up the nose of Gwalciau’r Cwm (I’d remembered it’s steepness in descent the last time). D found this grassy climb hard-going and seemed a little off the pace most of the day – a tough week a school he told me. Young people today – no staying power.

Gwalciau’r Cwm

D on the steep climb up Gwalciau’r Cwm

Gwalciau’r Cwm

Taking a breather

It’s a mercifully short climb; only about 500 feet and the views from the top are breathtaking.

Gwalciau’r Cwm

D on Gwalciau’r Cwm summit

From there the route is just a joy. A thin a little used path takes you around a succession of edges with huge open spaces below you as you progress towards Carn Pica.

Gwalciau’r Cwm, Craig-y-Fan

Edge from Gwalciau’r Cwm to Craig-y-Fan

Gwalciau’r Cwm

D looking back to Gwalciau’r Cwm

Halfway along we found a little sheltered spot where the ridge from Allt Llwyd joins and took lunch in the sunshine. The views out south and east were sublime. The sugar loaf held the attention and the Black Mountains looked dark and forbidding, smothered in dark clouds. To the west we could make out Swansea Bay and the distant outline of the Gower with the Mendips, Quantock and Exmoor hills faintly visible on the horizon. North looked less than promising however with dark clouds massing and Pen-y-Fan still brooding in misty clouds.

Allt Llwyd, Sugar Loaf, Talybont Reservoir

Allt Llwyd, Sugar Loaf and Talybont Reservoir

We pressed on along Craig-y-Fan to the massive and well-constructed cairn on Carn Pica.

Craig-y-Fan

Craig-y-Fan

Carn Pica

Carn Pica

We’d now hit the wind and it was too cold to linger so we continued snaking around the boggier bits on thin paths and a detour to the un-named summit above Waun Rydd.

Waun Rydd, Black Mountains

Waun Rydd looking to the Black Mountains

Waun Rydd

D on Waun Rydd

The weather had changed and it was now grey and overcast as we turned and headed along the edge of Graig Fan Las. It’s one of the highlights but with the dark clouds it took on a more threatening air and the sunny skies of earlier had gone.

Caerfanell, Craig-y-Fan Ddu

Caerfanell valley & Craig-y-Fan Ddu

It’s still a terrific section with airy drops into the Caerfanell valley below. We met numerous people on our way up all asking directions to the cairn that marks the spot of an air crash from years earlier on the opposite side of the valley. Perhaps some of the crowds were to pay respects as this was Remembrance Sunday.

Caerfanell

Upper reaches of the Caerfanell valley

Craig-y-Fan Ddu

Craig-y-Fan Ddu

We carried on, progressing easily and quickly along Craig-Fan Ddu and the steep descent to the waterfalls on the Nant Bwrefwr. As we approached the car park the sun came out again and the skies began to clear giving us a warming glow before we plunged into the forest.

Nant Bwrefwr

Setting sun over Nant Bwrefwr

Craig-y-Fan Ddu, Nant Bwrefwr

Craig-y-Fan Ddu & Nant Bwrefwr

All that remained was a steep descent, slipping and sliding over numerous fallen trees with glimpses of yet more waterfalls before arriving back at the car, satisfied with a fie walk. Waterfalls and Edges is a pretty good combination

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14 responses to “Caerfanell circuit – Edges and Waterfalls

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  1. Wow amazing shots. All are good by D on Wuan Rydd is outstanding!

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  2. Looks like a super walk with lovely, expansive views. I like a good expansive view…

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    • The views from up there are great. There is a real sense of depth below the edges even though they are quite moderate in height. That combined with the fact that the edges are pretty much level makes for great easy strolling.

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  3. Great pictures again! I love the lunch spot looking down the valley at Talybont Reservoir. Also like the shot at Carn Pica – love the color, lighting, and clouds! Such different landscape than here in Colorado with all of the open grassy meadows.

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    • Thanks Bob. We’ve been lucky this year with some stunning clear autumn days with their glowing colours and low angled sun lighting them and the clouds to great effect, easy even for a novice like me to capture a decent image 🙂

      It’s great to share images across the world through our blogs. I’m enjoying learning about the landscapes of Colorado through yours!

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  4. Stunning photos. Great views. Fabulous video. Cracking route. Super company. Your cup runneth over!
    Top tune too. I’m might get Angela to make our apologies to Danny for last weekend (unavoidably detained by great views, super company, cracking routes etc…) and find out if and when Diesel Therapy will be in Arnside again. When I know, I’ll give you the nod, tip you the wink, etc….they are superb live.

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    beatingthebounds
  5. Talking of which…saw the Beat on Thursday. Fantastic. TBH is keen to see them again. If a mutually acceptable date/venue comes up, you should join us.

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    beatingthebounds
  6. Some pretty expansive views in the clear air there Andy.

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    backpackingbongos
    • It was a lovely day James and those southern fringes of the Brecons give a real sense of air and space and are suprisingly quiet considering the hordes that swarm over Pen-y-Fan. Been some stunning days this autumn amongst the end of the world stuff (still raining down in here in Herefordshire)

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  7. What a great joy it was to go with You in this beautiful landscape thru Your lovely photos.

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