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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s a mercifully short climb; only about 500 feet and the views from the top are breathtaking.
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.
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.
We pressed on along Craig-y-Fan to the massive and well-constructed cairn on 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.
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.
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.
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.
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