Lakes and Vanishing Rivers in the Black Mountain   6 comments

The annual summer backpacking trip for me, TBF and TJS is now a firm fixture in the calendar. We’ve done a couple of trips to the Moelwyns and one to fight with the tussocks in the Elan Valley. I had grand plans this year for a high level tour of the Carneddau but a poor weather forecast for Saturday night put pay to that idea. As Friday evening and Saturday sounded ok it seemed prudent to make good use of that rather than spend hours driving. To that end and with TJF safely in the care of my Mum and Dad we were to be found packing up just before 8pm on the lonely mountain road to the east of the Black Mountain. Our plan was to camp up at Llyn y Fan Fawr a short walk from the car and then take things from there

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

There were dark stormy clouds scudding across the summits fringed and illuminated by low shafts of sunlight, as we hurried up the boggy slopes to the tarn.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

It’s a stunning lake nestled beneath the cliffs of Fan Brycheiniog.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

There are plenty of reasonable pitches around the lake but I had my on a particular spot. In an idle few minutes before we left home, I’d done a You Tube search for wild camping spots in the Black Mountain and found a rather charming video of a young family camping on a small elevated grassy terrace just above the lakes NW corner. It was a perfect spot, flat and dry with a stunning view across the Lake. We had time to pitch up and take in the scene with a cuppa before turning in.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

Next morning was pretty much unchanged weather-wise, dark clouds with occasional shafts of blue sky and sunshine. I tried to pretend that it was summer and that it was warm enough to breakfast outside the tent. I was alone. I took the sociable and sensible decision to fry up indoors and admire the view from the tent window.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

The only downside of the lake is that it lacks a reliable source of running water. Time to try out a new investment, my Sawyer Mini-Works Water Filter. What an outstanding piece of kit. A filter about the size of a box of smarties and a small water pouch. Fill the pouch with water, screw in the filter, squeeze and you have clean clear water. It weighs next to nothing and the screw top fits most plastic drinks bottles and it also has a straw for sucking water out of manky pools. To be honest I had no issue with drinking the water straight from the lake – it’s large, deep and clear but no sense in having toys and not playing with them. I’ve seen several glowing reviews including a couple of wins in a “gear of the year” type of thing when up against more glamorous and expensive bits of kit. Its well deserved at only £20. It lives in my rucksack now so I can always get a drink as long as there is standing water somewhere which in the UK is not hard. Apart from the fact it takes a while to filter water for 3 people I can’t fault it. Well worth a purchase and carrying one around in the mountains if you’re out of water or have worries about your water source

Back to the main order of the day. TBF was keen to stay and certainly it was a fine spot. However both TJS and me wanted a proper backpack so we packed up and pressed on. With a forecast of improving weather later in the day we took the path that skirts under the cliffs of Fan Brycheiniog, Fan Foel and Bannau Sir Gaer around to Lyn y Fan Fach.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

It’s one of my favourite walks, easy-going grassy paths with expansive views to the east and north, looming grassy crags above and glimpses of these two jewelled tarns at either end. Blue sky became more prevalent and despite having a mammoth breakfast TJS insisted we needed a lunch stop at the lake despite having not climbed anything and only been walking for a little over an hour.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

Still plentiful stops on a walk is a good thing and despite the occasional spots of rain the weather seemed set fair. The short steep climb up to the edges seemed a breeze as both me and TJS savoured the light packs – light when compared to the outsize packs we hauled into Lochaber over Easter anyway

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

The walk along the edges and back to the summit of Bannau Sir Gaer is a delight, Lyn y Fan Fach glistening below. It was windy – as it seems to have been all year – but the sun was warm but the effort to reach the summit seemed minimal.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

From there we decided that rather than take in the rest of the edges we’d head south to find a spot to camp. Relaxation in fine surroundings is as important as clocking up miles and summits after all. When I explored this area a couple of years back with TJS we’d passed through the limestone area around Pwll y Cig. Not only did it look fascinating there also seemed to be littered with great wild camping spots albeit with limited water as the stream disappears into the limestone holes beneath. We carved a route across Carnau Gwys and down to the Afon Gledd.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

I’d also thought that we might pitch up by the river before it vanished. This seemed unlikely as most of the ground by the water had been claimed by tussocks. Then as if by magic we came to one spot with level lush grass and wild flowers and we’d found our home.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

Wraps and tea energised us for making the place home, this time with cold running water.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

To work up an appetite for tea we took a stroll downstream to explore Pwll y Cig and the surrounding hills. Right on cue the water slowly runs to a trickle and then disappears into a chaos of stones. The valley beyond twists and turns through a shallow limestone gorge, a perfect dry valley. The grassy patches between the bends are all perfect for wild camping except for the fact that there is just a river of stones instead of a river of water. It’s really quite surreal.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

I’d say that water was flowing through here relatively recently (in geological terms anyway). As you reach the end you realise the valley is blind with nowhere for the water to have gone. Except underground that is. You can clearly see the hole where the water would have gone. You tend to forget until you walk these hills that there is a very significant swathe of limestone upland in South Wales, home to very significant cave systems.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

We then walked through a land pocked with sink holes on the climb towards Disgwylfa. It looks like the whole area is about to collapse and reveal some huge hidden cavern just below the surface. Luckily not today and we arrived at the summit without further incident.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

The views from the top were magnificent revealing an expanse of wild, untamed land that must see few footprints. It’s superb and well worth a wander if you like your walks quiet with a sense of space rather than epic grandeur.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

Back to the tent for a lazy meal and the general pottering about that I love about a camping spot in the mountains. There is a peace and simplicity to this kind of life that’s hard to beat although secretly, a cold bottle of Becks would make it perfect. We stayed up late to watch the last of the evening light conscious that there was bad weather on the way.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

Overnight it arrived, heavy rain and strong winds that battered the tent so we enjoyed a snug and cosy lie in (except for the inevitable comfort breaks in the rain that come with middle age for me and TBF).

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

We stayed in as long as we could but eventually we had to pack up as we had a couple of hours to walk out and to be honest I was a bit worried about finding the col seeing as we were already in the cloud. As I started throwing stuff out the tent door the rain stopped and within 30 minutes the cloud had lifted and patches of blue were appearing. Perfect timing.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

The clearer skies and scudding clouds were a real surprise and after an hour of walking there was abundant sunshine

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

Rather than just walk out over the col I convinced the other two that a bit of off piste to pick up the far end of the Fan Hir edge would make a much more satisfying finish to the day. TBF is not a big fan of off piste with a pack. Being somewhat vertically challenged she often loses her balance so prefers paths to tusssocks (don’t we all).

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

Still the long edge is a superb and easy stroll and it did indeed make for a fitting finale to the weekend.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

It was especially pleasing to finish with views down over our first night’s stay to Llyn y Fan Fawr, now firmly established as my favourite lake in the UK. Under a clear blue sky it has a magic and perfection that’s beyond enchanting.

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

fan hir, black mountain, llyn y fan fach, llyn y fan fawr, wild camping, backpacking, bannau sir gaer, fan brycheiniog, pwll y cig, disgwylfa

I’ve had so many good times in its company and it bade us farewell as we lunched above its shores before heading back to the car. 15 miles of proper backpacking under our hip-belts

Black Mountain

A fine weekend in a range of mountains that rewards the dedicated walker and backpacker with majestic edges and austere charm.

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6 responses to “Lakes and Vanishing Rivers in the Black Mountain

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  1. Two different camping spots, but they both looked superb. 🙂

    Like

  2. Looks absolutely amazing.

    Like

    beatingthebounds
  3. Great pictures – that’s what I should have been able to see instead of the grey clag! My route was going to be similar but the weather meant I stuck to the main ridge path rather than via off down by Afon Giedd.

    Like

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