Archive for the ‘Black Mountain’ Category

Bank Holiday Backpack in the Black Mountain   25 comments

P1050366

My good friend the Hard Man and his two kids came to pay us a visit over the recent BH weekend. They were spending the week in South Wales doing touristy stuff and seeing relatives and took a chance to come see us and try to convince me to go walking in the rain. The Hard Man seems to have taken over the mantle of blind weather optimism from my friend EWO and always sees good weather prospects in the worst of forecasts. On this occasion we were faced with a forecast of heavy thundery showers, not exactly ideal weather to be sitting in a small tent. He even tried to convince that the tent poles would act as some sort of Faraday Cage if we got struck. Deluded!

Anyway as the weekend progressed the forecast improved and seemed to indicate we might get a dry evening on the Sunday and a dry albeit cloudy Monday. Against my better judgement we decided go for it. Packing up on Sunday morning it seemed like a very bad idea. We had the lot. Torrential rain, thunder, lightning, hail. We set off in an almighty downpour that had us dodging several pretty serious floods. Most of us looked out of the window with severe trepidation. The Hard Man simply looked happy that he’d at least got us in the car. We shopped like aristocrats in Waitrose and it had stopped raining by the time we were done. Shortly afterwards the sun came out. It didn’t rain again for the rest of the weekend.

Before the backpacking festivities we took a short stroll to Henrhyd Falls. I’ve never been to these (this corner of South Wales has loads of waterfalls) and very fine they were too.

P1050310

Like all the very best waterfalls you can walk behind them

P1050311

P1050312

It’s a popular spot and there were plenty of people about so we didn’t linger

P1050315

There were mountains to be climbed and wild campsites to be occupied

P1050316

Our route was a local classic. A camp by the wonderful Llyn y Fan Fawr and a walk along the edges the next day. The summits looked dark and gloomy as we set off (after a monumental faff by the family Hard Man).

P1050318

It’s a relatively easy walk up to the tarn now I’ve finally discovered a way through the boggiest bits

P1050324

As we climbed up the clouds parted and there was sunshine aplenty. It’s a really fine spot for a night in the hills

P1050325

After a little deliberation we found a great spot by a small beach on the Lake. We set up camp and basked in sunshine. The pointing is showing TJS that the sun was shining as he’d mocked us when we left about how wet we were going to get. I even managed a very quick and very cold swim to wash away the grime of the walk in

P1050328

The Hard Man returns from a water gathering exercise

P1050330

The wind had dropped and the water was stunningly calm and mirror-like

P1050331

The downside of warm weather, no wind and clouds is obvious. Midges! That’s the reason TBF has her hood up by way of protection. They were not even close to the scale and numbers of a Scottish midge attack but there was enough to be irritating while trying to cook

P1050333

As evening drew in and the temperature dropped they went back to their evil lair for the night and we enjoyed a pleasant late evening stroll to collect some fresh running water to save having to filter the lake water

P1050342

P1050345

The moon was dazzlingly bright. Not a bad picture with a handheld zoom

P1050348

The next morning we were shrouded in cloud when we woke. It was a still a nice peaceful spot so I still got up and cooked my breakfast early and alone before the midges came out. As everyone else stirred and came to life the cloud began to break and we saw the first tentative rays of sunshine (and the first of the midges)

P1050351

P1050355

It soon turned into a quite amazing morning with expansive and clear blue skies interspersed with mist. Stunning. Way better than anything forecast had us believing.

P1050356

Nice that the Hard Man purchased a tent that blends so well into the landscape you can barely see it!

P1050362

We set off for a walk and the views were amazing. It’s rare to walk in the UK without so much as a breath of wind and see such a mirror like calm on a lake surface

P1050365

P1050370

It was quite mesmerizing. Our pitch is at the far end of the lake towards the right

P1050372

P1050373

P1050375

As we crested the top there was a welcome puff of breeze – it was exceptionally hot for May. The fickleness of British weather never fails to amaze me. We camped by the lake a few years back in July and it was too cold to eat outside the tent!

P1050377

Whilst we weren’t above the cloud there was a bank of it seemingly all around that gave a similar vibe

P1050378

The highest point of the Black Mountain, Fan Brycheiniog

P1050379

P1050381

It’s a classic walk and the first time for the Hard Man for many a year (he spent a good part of his youth in these parts)

P1050384

Heading off for Bannau Sir Gaer

P1050386

P1050387

We hoped to have a first lunch somewhere on the summit but as always seems to be the case it was overrun with flies despite the wind which seemed to be blowing them in. The walk along the edges, normally so wonderful was an unpleasant affair as we picked flies from every facial orifice. We did manage to find a windy spot to keep them at bay for a while until it dropped, the midges came out in force and we ran for cover

P1050390

The walk back to the tents along the base of the cliffs is one of my favourites and in baking sunshine it was a joy

P1050392

P1050393

P1050394

P1050395

We returned to base camp for more food and to think about packing up. It had been a hot walk and all that I’d been thinking about was a swim.

P1050396

It was fabulous if very cold but so refreshing after a hot and sweaty hike. Yours truly enjoying the cold clear water

P1050399

TBF joined in as well

P1050400

As we packed up the clouds started to bubble and we heard a few rumbles of thunder. Time to get the hell out of there

P1050402

As we followed the stream back to the car we turned and saw that the clouds had completely enveloped the summits again and all looked very threatening. It appeared we caught the weather window perfectly. The sun shines on the righteous and all that

P1050403

Luckily the mindless and delusional optimism of the Hard Man had worked wonders and we had a cracking little trip out. Another weekend out planned in a couple of weeks time so more of the same will be in order

Advertisements

A Review of 2017   18 comments

I’ve read quite a few blog post in the past few days reviewing other peoples 2017 exploits. I enjoyed them so much I thought I’d do the same. Good excuse to look back through my photos and remember what we got up to. At my age I need help remembering stuff!.

Acutely conscious of the modern trend for these awful “round robin” letters you get at Xmas (we get one of these smugograms every year) I tried to select photos that bring back a particular memory for me so its more a personal, family introspection on outdoorsy stuff, than a blow by blow account of the year. As its based on my photo collection if I didn’t photograph it, it ain’t here!

January

We started the year off in Tenerife and New Years Day was spent on this rather splendid beach (the earlier part of the day was in the mountains but I cocked up the photos from that part of the day!)

IMG_2319

Returning to the British winter, a walk along the Cats Back in the Black Mountains with TBF, memorable for a cloud inversion after a very wet morning. A reminder that despite our travels we are lucky to have some stunning scenery on our doorstep

IMG_2314

A solo day out in the Brecon Beacons, the first snowy walk near to home and pretty much the only one with significant snow during the early part of the year (made up for it at the end)

IMG_0009

A glorious day out in the Black Mountains with TJS and a cooked breakfast on a cold Table Mountain. I like this photo though as it has Mynydd Troed in centre shot, my very first mountain climbed when I was about 10

IMG_2376

And my usual skiing trip (only a weekend this year) to finish off the month. Snow was a bit rubbish but we had a laugh nonetheless

P1291187

February

Another solo day on Fan Fawr in the Brecon Beacons. I remember this day for a very mild Friday afternoon (16C) and snow in the mountains 18 hours later

IMG_2408

A short walk with TBF on Hatterall Hill

IMG_2449

March

The first weekend of the month is always spent in Scotland with friends of long standing. A new location at Bridge of Orchy and a two out of three days were magnificent winter days. The walk along this ridge high above Rannoch Moor on the first day was superb

IMG_2523

Me and TJS also managed a cheeky backpack into the Black Mountains. Straight from work on the Friday for a one nighter in my new tent. Need to do more of these this year

P3251293

2017 is the year I rediscovered cycling – mainly to help my knee and also to be less of a lazy layabout during the week. The Hardman – a VERY keen and VERY fit cyclist caught wind and insisted we meet up in the Peak for a trip along a couple of the old railway trails. A cracking sunny day and I survived cycling with the Hardman!

P3261343

And we finally managed a meet up in the Berwyns with Uncle Fester after a few aborted attempts

IMG_2558

April

More cycling and solo trip through the Brecon Beacons on the “Gap” route. Cycling to over 600m was a first for me and I started to feel that I almost, might, actually enjoy cycling.

IMG_0671

Easter and a major backpacking trip with TJS to the Cairngorms. The weather was wild and windy but we had a couple of superb wild camps and TJS bagged his first Scottish 4000 footer

P4131365

I even coaxed TJF out for a bike ride along the Brecon and Usk canal

P4231533

May Day weekend was mostly in April. Mixed weather but we had a fine gaggle of friends on a hike around Greendale, taking in Buckbarrow and Seatallan

P4291564

May

No finer way to celebrate a birthday than a lunchtime hike. This one was on one of my local hills, Bryn Arw with TBF

IMG_2595

Followed by a weekend away in Cornwall. It almost felt tropical on the white sands just north of Padstow on one of our walks

IMG_2704

Whitsun weekend was spent with our good friends in Silverdale. The Sunday was a real winner with a long but easy stroll and a fantastic pub lunch. Weather was mixed the rest of the time but great company, many laughs and a chance to relax

IMG_2725

June

A different walk from the usual mountains. One of the small hills that overlook Gloucester and across to the Cotswolds. Not something I’d do every day but a nice change

IMG_2768

One of the highlights of the year was the long-planned backpacking trip with the kids into the Howgills. Despite poor weather we gave it a go and it was a huge success. The kids really enjoyed the adventure and I’m hoping they have caught the wild camping bug

P6101657

July

After the backpack trip I was out of action for a few weeks recuperating and resting after a minor knee op. Didn’t affect my water based fun though, a nice albeit far too long trip down the river Wye

P7091729

By the end of July I was back in the hills again (the knee op has been a great success I’m pleased to say). A fine evening stroll with TBF and TJS on Ysgyryd Fawr (we even took a cheeky cold beer to drink on the top)

P1000139

Another “local walk for local people” – this time Garway Hill where we reached the top, saw this nasty storm approaching and raced it back to the car. We won.

P1000151

Late July brings the annual camping trip to Towyn Farm on the Llyn Peninsula. We packed in lots of walks and beach fun in a very mixed few days of weather. My abiding memory though was this game of Kubb which was huge fun with both adults and kids alike taking it far too seriously and larking about in equal measure. A happy afternoon

P1000237

August

The big family trip of the year, a rail trip around some of Europe’s finest cities. An real change from our usual outdoor camping trips and it was real success. We all took took to the city life rather well you might say. One of my best ever holidays. A few photos that made me smile

One of the many fountains in Paris (we called this one the fountain of throttled fish)

P1000350

A monster thunderstorm in Turin

P1000550

My favourite seafront walk in Venice

P1000909

The Colloseum in Rome – of course

P1010063

Schloss Belvedere in Vienna (courtesy of an unplanned extra couple of hours from a very late train)

IMG_1238-2

The thermal baths in Budapest – “like taking a bath in a wedding cake”

P1020184t

A stroll along the Spree river in Berlin on a sunny Sunday afternoon

P1020495

And the railway bridge over the Rhine in Cologne

P1020608

September

Back to earth with a bump. A few days after the heat and sun of Europe we were walking in the Black Mountains in driving rain and cold winds!

P9100010

But there was still enough warm weather left for a round of the hills near the Talybont Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons

P1020704

October

A walk with friends in the Roaches on the dreariest day of the year (when everywhere else was sunny – I’m not bitter)

IMG_2382

More evidence of my new found cycling passion (probably too strong a word). A ride around the tracks of the New Forest while TJS took a look around Southampton University

PA140023a

And why settle for one trip to see major cities when you can do it twice. As a special treat for TJS 18th Birthday we spent a week in Barcelona. Probably my favourite city but despite all its famous sights, this little known hill and its view overlooking the city was my favourite spot

P1020859-2

November

After sunshine comes the reality of winter. A couple of cold but beautiful days. One in the Black Mountains on the Sugar Loaf and Crug Mawr

P1030499

And one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountain

IMG_2558

A delayed birthday treat weekend for TBF saw us in Padstow for a couple of nice meals and walks along the Cornish coast and Dartmoor

IMG_2653-2

December

And last into the proper depths of winter. The first snows saw me and TJS head into the highest peaks of the Black Mountains

P1030581

The day after saw the biggest dump of snow I’ve seen in my own backyard for many a year. Walks around my village in deep snow under crisp blue skies were wonderful

IMG_2831

The start of the Xmas holidays is marked with an annual get together of my University friends and their families. Always great fun but this year we could climb the hills in snow (rather than wet rain) and play at snowballs

P1030622

Finally coming full circle with a return to the Canary Islands to spend Xmas in Lanzarote and Xmas Day sunning ourselves on the beach

P1040068

Well I enjoyed looking through my photos, choosing a few and reliving a great year. Hope you enjoyed it too. All the best for 2018 🙂

My classic local walk   12 comments

IMG_2556

I have a handful of walks that I would say are classics of South Wales and this is one of them. The Black Mountain has all the grandeur of the Beacons yet sees almost none of its busy summits. On this day we saw probably no more than 10 people for the whole walk on a wild, windy and spectacular day. I’m claiming this walk as my own as I’ve never seen this walk in a guide-book or anyone even mention the path under the edges. I found it, therefore its my walk! 🙂

I devised this walk by accident (albeit in the other direction) not long after I moved down here. I was on a supposedly short walk to one of the lakes looking for a wild camp and I just carried on across the tops, discovering the paths below the cliffs on my way back

IMG_2519

As with the previous walk it was a laze in bed late start and as before a gloomy start developed into a cracker of day.

IMG_2520

I think my iPhone camera had moved itself into some kind of vivid mode for these first couple of shots as we headed up to Llyn y Fan Fawr

IMG_2521

As we climbed the dark clouds started to dissipate and the views to the east opened out to the sky

IMG_2523

The clouds were still shrouding the summits but I was confident it would clear. Thinking it might take an hour or so I decided to follow the lower route under the edges first to give it some time. Not a day for dallying. It was bitterly cold and there had been some light snow cover the past couple of days

IMG_2528

IMG_2529

It’s a beautiful lake and one of my favourites

IMG_2530

IMG_2532

There were dark clouds and storms all around but we seemed to miss them all

IMG_2536

The walk under the cliffs is always a delight but on a winter’s day under brooding clouds its pretty dark for decent photos

IMG_2537

We found a sheltered spot behind a wall by Llyn y Fan Fach for some lunch before pushing on.

IMG_2538

It’s quite a long walk for a short winter day with a late start but the going is so easy and the views so superb that you cover the ground swiftly

IMG_2540

Once up on the edges the wind was ferocious but the sky and the air stunningly clear. Pin sharp clarity

IMG_2542

I was in my element, an even better day than the last outing. Much colder and windier but that’s no bad thing

IMG_2543

The sun was perfect for catching the edges

IMG_2545

Looking east

IMG_2547

And West

IMG_2548

The sun was already low and we still had a way to go but at least the wind was behind us, another good reason to walk this way around

IMG_2549

On top of Bannau sir Gaer we decided not to risk coming down the last boggy slopes to the car in the dark and cut the corner off direct to Fan Brycheiniog. It misses a couple of airy summits but saves a couple of miles

IMG_2551

IMG_2552

Time to head down and another of those afternoons where its hard to drag yourself away. The views were immense and once you drop down you know that’s the end of the sunshine for the day

IMG_2554

IMG_2557

We lingered as long as we dared and could stand the cold before leaving this lonely wonderland behind

IMG_2558

The skies then took over as the centre of attention.

IMG_2560

Pale blues and sheets and streaks of pink as the sun receded and night drew in

IMG_2562

IMG_2564

After the last outing and its dark end this one was perfectly planned and we finished in the last of the afternoon light

IMG_2567

Black Mountain

8 miles and 2,400 feet of ascent and pure wind-blown, sun-soaked joy

Black Mountain Revisited   12 comments

IMG_1424

August Bank Holiday and sunshine forecast, who’d have thought! Me and TJS took off for the hills and my classic Black Mountain circuit. I’ve posted this walk many times so I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking

IMG_1403

Rather than waste time at home we had breakfast a short walk from the car. Bacon sandwiches in the open air is taste much better than in the kitchen

IMG_1405

IMG_1407

IMG_1408

IMG_1409

IMG_1410

IMG_1411

The larger of the two jewelled lakes of this walk, Llyn y Fan Fawr

IMG_1415

The high point at Bannau Sir Gaer

IMG_1416

And the second lake of Llyn y Fan Fach

IMG_1421

IMG_1422

IMG_1428

We stopped for a second lunch by the tarn. Despite this being a sunny Bank Holiday these hills are always relatively quiet. Dread to think how many people would have been on Pen y Fan

IMG_1433

IMG_1434

IMG_1436

I liked the clouds in this photo

IMG_1443

IMG_1444

A decent welcome back to the UK

Sunshine after the rain (and before plenty more)   4 comments

As I was saying in my last post, the weather since November has been universally appalling. Well apart from one weekend anyway. At some indeterminate point in those dark days the weather chilled, deposited a little snow on to the mountains and the sky cleared just long enough to enjoy it.

IMG_9439

IMG_9440

IMG_9443

I did this walk with TJS earlier in the year and, keen to introduce TBF to the charms of Fforest Fawr we headed there again.

IMG_9446

IMG_9447

The route is described in detail in the other post so I’ll let the photos do the talking – mostly.

IMG_9450

IMG_9455

The mountains were shrouded in cloud for the first couple of hours and we wandered about in the gloom on Fan Gyhirych with some tantalising glimpses of the Black Mountain

IMG_9457

IMG_9459

As we descended the blue skies and sunshine the the forecast promised arrived and we were treated to some superb views. This was more than ample compensation for the incredibly soggy nature underfoot, 2-3 weeks of ceaseless rain, wet, thawing snow and summer boots (yes, I know, poor decision) makes for very wet feet.

IMG_9460

IMG_9463

IMG_9466

IMG_9467

IMG_9468

IMG_9471

Lunch in a slightly less boggy spot was followed by a climb to top of Fan Nedd where a spell of heavy rain that the forecast hadn’t promised hastened our descent and cut short the day

IMG_9474

IMG_9478

IMG_9482

IMG_9484

Short and sweet but a splendid day nonetheless. The appalling weather that followed made me rather glad I’d made the effort. In this most awful of winters, any day not characterised by ceaseless rain is a good one

Black (and White) Mountain Show   4 comments

Back into August again. With a day to myself I was off to try some new hills. Ive walked the Black Mountain extensively, its my favourite of my local hills but I’ve never been out to their extreme western fringes. It takes a bit of getting to but worth the effort as you can see. Unlike the dark stone of most of the South Wales mountains, the predominant rock is limestone (hence my attempt at humour in the title).

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

As they spread out east to west the summits are not easy to fashion into a circular day walk. Keen to avoid any ascent if I can. I parked up at the top of the mountain road from Brynamman to Llangadog and headed out east, eventually putting together a pretty fine ad hoc route that avoided any road walking

7.2 Miles

7.2 Miles

The limestone has been heavily quarried and the area near the road is a fascinating mix of old mine workings, quarries and levels. There is a historical trail around these features that would be a fine summer stroll. I pressed on past the Industrial Archeology theme park and out into the hills

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

I passed a few waterfalls and then it was into wild country along the Afon Clydach. A mix of tussocks, grass and bog but much easier to walk on than I thought. I spied a few potential wild camp sites but most of the area is a little soggy for such nonsense.

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

I’d brought supplies with me and managed to find a relatively sheltered spot to conjure up some bacon butties and cup of tea. The forecast had been good and up till I stopped reasonably sunny.

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

Of course as soon as I was set up the sun went in and wind picked up. For a few grumbling moments I thought it was going to rain such was the darkness of the clouds.

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

After some introspective moaning about fickle weather I ate heartily anyway and packed up. Within 10 minutes the sun was out again

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

I reached the top of Foel Fraith – well at least I think I did. Hard to tell on what was a very wide and featureless summit – and then followed the Beacons Way to Garreg Lwyd. It was marvellous, easy, high level strolling with these little known hills mostly all mine save for an old guy and his even older and blinder dog who took to following me instead of his owner for a while – bless him.

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

I wandered back to the road, crossed it and headed back up to the broad plateau to the west and the summits of Pen Rhiw Ddu and Pen y Clogau still following the Beacons Way.

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

Again the terrain was easy and untaxing allowing me clock up the distance pretty much without thinking. Views were expansive and a fine contrast between moorland and the green pastures of farming country to the north.

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

I passed through a lovely spread of heather in full purple bloom but I haven’t yet mastered the art of capturing such colours on camera.

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

To the west the magnificent castle of Carreg Cennen stood sentinel on its rocky outcrop. A castle well worth a visit when you are in the area.

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

I had thought that I’d have to walk back along the road to the car but I managed to string together a really rather fine selection of sheep tracks, traversing back to the top of the pass such that I didn’t walk on the road at all. Clearly the road is a playground for local boy racers who were busy trying to kill themselves and everyone else with some suicidal driving manoeuvres.

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

afon clydach, black mountain, foel fraith, garreg lwyd, pen y clogau, carreg cennen, pen rhiw ddu

I was back at the car much earlier than I thought and the distance at just over 7 miles much shorter than I thought. A fine walk indeed at hills that reward a bit effort to reach them and explore

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.

%d bloggers like this: