Walking in a Winter Wonderland – Brecon Beacons Neuadd Reservoirs Horseshoe   16 comments

Couple of weekends back me and D decided on an early start to make the most of what promised to be a cold clear frosty day with a day in the high peaks of the Brecon Beacons.

Neuadd Reservoirs, Pen-y-Fan, Cribyn

Pen-y-Fan & Cribyn across the Neuadd Reservoirs,

Over the past couple of years I’ve approached along the splendid northern ridges that radiate out from Pen-y-Fan and Cribyn. For a change and to keep as much in the sunshine as possible we headed round to the southern side for the horseshoe around the Neuadd reservoirs. I’ve not been up this route since the 90’s so a good time revisit the route.

8.5 Miles, 2,500 feet of ascent

8.5 Miles, 2,500 feet of ascent

We were parked up and underway by 9am and the weather was stunning. Crisp, clear and cold and not a cloud in the sky, one of those days that you can reach out and “ping” like cut glass crystal. The road was covered in black ice and unfeasibly slippery so care was taken on the approach to the dam at the small lower reservoir.

Pen-y-Fan, Cribyn

Slippery roads

Brecon Beacons

Looking south

The highest tops were white with snow so D was looking forward to a proper winter day. From the dam it’s a very steep 800 foot climb onto the edge of Graig Fan Ddu. This section is normally as wet as fishs’ wet bits but today it was mostly frozen solid making for an easier albeit very slippery climb. We were sheltered from the wind so it felt reasonably warm on the climb. As we hit the edge we also hit the wind and it was suddenly bitterly cold. D reached for his gloves to find TBF had kindly given him two left gloves instead of a matching pair.

Graig Fan Ddu., Cribyn

Graig Fan Ddu

The path was covered in snow that had melted and frozen solid making for very awkward walking – oh for a pair of micro-spikes – might be a bit late to write to Santa. It could have been tiresome but the sky was so clear, the views so good and the cold air so invigorating that it was a pleasure.

Graig Fan Ddu

Graig Fan Ddu

Graig Fan Ddu

D enjoys the winter conditions

Like much of the southern Beacons the edge was sharp and the valley deep giving an amazing sense of space and open-ness. Expansive is my word of the moment for this and the Brecon Beacons does it better than anywhere I know.

Pen-y-Fan, Cribyn, Corn Du

Pen-y-Fan, Corn Du & Cribyn

Pen-y-Fan, Corn Du, Rhiw Yr Ysgyfannog, Craig Gwaun Taf

Rhiw Yr Ysgyfannog, Craig Gwaun Taf, Pen-y-Fan & Corn Du,

After a while the edge suddenly narrows to a ridge of Rhiw Yr Ysgyfannog and Craig Gwaun Taf. Corn Du and Pen-y-Fan suddenly loomed much closer and after a quiet morning we started to get a sense of the massed hordes who climb these two peaks from the Storey Arms.

Rhiw Yr Ysgyfannog and Craig Gwaun Taf

D on Rhiw Yr Ysgyfannog and Craig Gwaun Taf

Rhiw Yr Ysgyfannog, Craig Gwaun Taf

D on the edge

Quite why they choose this route is beyond me, it’s drab, dull and tedious and bettered by at least half a dozen superior ways to the top. I have a fear that it’s just convenience hiking where reaching the summit as quickly and directly as possible takes precedence over the judicious choice of a route with varied and sustained interest.

Pen-y-Fan, Corn Du

Corn Du & Pen-y-Fan

As we approached Corn Du a cap of cloud started to form on the highest summits, taking away some of the sun but creating some dramatic light for ample compensation.

Craig Gwaun Taf

Craig Gwaun Taf from Corn Du

As is my way I managed to find a very precarious perch under the cliffs of Corn Du to watch the clouds swirl under the still deep blue sky and have some lunch. I’ve probably given D the idea that all rest stops need to be somewhere where a casual approach could result in lost sandwiches and water bottles. It was I have to say though, a fine and sheltered spot to watch the show.

Corn Du

D lunches on Corn Du

We did try to climb up Corn Du after lunch but it was cold, windy, in the cloud and unpleasantly icy so decided it wasn’t worth it. There is a perfectly good path traversing the southern face that was sheltered and sunny. As Pen-y-Fan was still deep in cloud and likely to be crowded we just carried across its southern flank saving ourselves a couple of hundred feet of slippery descent. We plunged on down towards the col between Pen-y-Fan and Cribyn using deep drifted runs of snow rather than the icy path. In the winter light Cribyn looked magnificent, much higher than it’s 2,500 feet and we avoided the crowds ascending by following the extreme edge of the cliffs.

Cwm Nant Sere

Cwm Nant Sere

Cribyn

Cribyn

Cribyn summit is a wonderful airy place but we timed it badly and there were at least 30 people on the top, a couple of University walking groups it looked like. They all stopped for lunch on the top so we left them to it and carried on along the edge of Craig Cwm Cynwyn, a magnificent high level stroll above the valley of Cwm Cynwyn, one of my favourite valleys with its broad perfectly formed glacial “U”.

Cribyn

D on Cribyn Summit

Cwm Cynwyn

Cwm Cynwyn

Craig Cwm Cynwyn

D on Craig Cwm Cynwyn

Craig Cwm Cynwyn

Craig Cwm Cynwyn

We dropped down to the next col. I tried to convince D to climb the next peak, Fan-y-Big and then go off piste across the grass back to the car. This was partly as it’s a fine peak with a higher level finish and partly because it’s the second funniest mountain name I know (the winners are the Lochnagar peaks of Big and Little Sh1t Cairn).

Fan-y-Big

Fan-y-Big

However this is quite a long walk over tough icy terrain and he was looking a little jaded so declined this most tempting of offers. Instead we took the easy and long amble down the old roman road back to the car. The clear winter light and towering fast-moving clouds made for some awesome views as we made our way down.

Pen-y-Fan, Cribyn

Billowing clouds over Pen-y-Fan & Cribyn

Pen-y-Fan, Cribyn

Contrasts

D was quiet most of this stretch but happily told me he was just “thinking”. I was proud that like me he uses a day’s walking to clear his mind and put everyday problems into perspective. I did warn him that it’s a short step from there to talking to yourself out loud which I find myself doing quite often on the hills these days. I’ve sometimes used the phrase “talking with mountains”, a little cheesy but I think it has a truth to it. A long hard day on the hills is more relaxing and detoxing than anything I can imagine. The mountains are my private therapist, listening to my prattling and helping me make sense of life. And all that by just listening.

Pen-y-Fan, Cribyn

Weary but fulfilled

And so we ended the day, invigorated and tired in equal measure. Blue sky and the crunch of snow underfoot is a sensation I never tire of. Enjoy the slide show, 2 tunes for the price of 1 today

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16 responses to “Walking in a Winter Wonderland – Brecon Beacons Neuadd Reservoirs Horseshoe

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  1. I like the lighting and clouds on the Corn Du & Pen-y-Fan shot and also on the Cwm Cynwyn shot! I also like the shot looking back along the ridge at your lunch spot. Thanks for sharing!

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    • Thanks Bob! It was a crisp and cold day with clear blue skies in the morning and stunning cloud effects after lunch. That lunch shot is my favourite as well. Doesn’t really capture how precarious it was – especially trying to boil water for a brew of tea!

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  2. Lovely looking day there Andy! He’ll be backpacking with you every weekend before long, carrying half the tent too……

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    • Thanks Chrissie – seems an awfully long time ago with such a dreary day. “I’m dreaming of a soggy Xmas”

      D is very much the mountain man now. He absolutely loves his days on the hills and seems to tolerate most weather types. He’s not far off accompanying me on a trip to Scotland where the conditions and terrain are a real step up

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  3. I always enjoy a backpack with my sons when they come with me. It is years since I was in this area, the weather looked perfect.

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    • Thanks Mark. It’s great watching my son learning to love the mountains and the outdoors. He’s only been backpacking with me once so far but I’m hoping to do some short local overnights once spring arrives (need a new lightweight 2-man tent though)

      This was a superb day – proper winter conditions on the high tops – could do with some of that now amongst the monsoons!

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  4. Another great ‘Lad and Dad’ hike/post, in the ‘Blue Sky Wales’ series. Looks like another terrific day out.
    It occurs to me that it’s taken me a long time to convert you to the pleasures of Bill Monroe – I don’t know if you remember a tape I made for a party at Spenser Avenue, but it had an instrumental ‘Roanoke’ by Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys on it. Must have planted a seed then….I don’t recall all of the other tunes which were on it….(hmmm, but I might now spend far too long trying to remember.)
    Have a great Christmas – pass on season’s greetings to J, D and L.

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    beatingthebounds
    • D is a proper mountain man these days, reckon he’s ready for Scotland now. This was an awesome day.

      Always been a bluegrass fan, just been in the closet. It fits an outdoor slideshow perfectly. Even my dad said he liked it. I pointed out that was because he was there at the original recordings, he wasn’t pleased 🙂

      Have a top Xmas, best seasons greetings to TBF2, A, B and S

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  5. Aaaahhh… the Brecon Beacons. Great walking! Had a great trip there when we stayed in Swansea for a week. Lovely place.

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    • Thanks David. Been living down this way for 10 years now, been a pleasure discovering all the delights of the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains. Best wishes at Xmas to you and yours 🙂

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  6. Ahhh thats what blue skies look like – forgotten over the past couple of weeks 😦 When I am Prime Minister I am going to make it illegal for people to have lunch on mountain summits and ban groups larger than 6 from walking the hills. In the peaks you often have to fight to get to the cairn / trig as there is usually a large group of bobble hatted ramblers swarming the top.

    Maybe I’m grumpy……………

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    backpackingbongos
    • Grumpy old git! 🙂

      In my youth lunch on the top was what you did but god knows why. It was nearly always the coldest, windiest spot. Nowadays I like a lunch spot where I can rest for long periods, so I seek out these precarious perches with views and shelter. I only visit the more popular tops now for D’s sake, so I rarely see such crowds now.

      Still the Bongo party gets my vote

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  7. Amazing sceneries. Great post again.

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  8. Great clear pictures as usual, a crystal day well seized among the dross of December.
    We’ve never done the Storey Arms route but it looked from a distance as dull as on the map. That general scenario is very common where the most popular route is the least interesting (Skiddaw via Jenkins, Bow Fell from Langdale, Moel Siabod from Capel Curig and many more).

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    • Thanks Geoff, thoroughly enjoyable day before the rains came, and came and came!. Never seen the point in just climbing a hill by the quickest route. Although admittedly a bit of a peak bagger, I do always try and find a route that has interest and variation rather than just a slog

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