Archive for the ‘Brecon Beacons’ Category
A reference to my surprise on seeing a clear blue sky day with a helping of patchy snow after waking up at 6am the previous day to go to work and finding a temperature of 12C and a day filled with mild patchy rain.
Solo again while the family did other stuff and a revisit to a surprisingly quiet corner of the Brecon Beacons. Surprising as it overlooks the busy A470 and the parking chaos of the summit of the road at the Storey Arms. On a good day there must be 200 plus cars parked up there ready for the pilgrimage to the summit of Pen y Fan. I parked up for my walk a couple of miles down the road with one other car. Local knowledge is a handy thing
Craig Cerrig Gleisiad and Fan Fawr was my route. It was a wonderful crisp clear morning, icy puddles and frosty mud was underfoot. The path that traverses across the bottom of the corrie was delightful
The bare trees shorn of their leaves always attract my eye and lens
The views down the valley to Brecon and the Black Mountains was magnificent
The path emerges suddenly onto the shoulder below Fan Frynych. Expansive views open out over the mid-Wales countryside
Up on to the grassy moorland and the first few patches of snow underfoot
The sky was dramatically blue and clear and the light through the trees was still catching my attention
Up on the summit it was just magnificent. Such an exceptional clarity in the air contrasting with the pristine and untouched white snow
Traversing over the summit of Fan Frynych was majestic. You just eat up the miles on a day like this
Sticking close to the edge of the dark vegetated cliffs gives extensive panoramas
But then you have to cross the vast expanse of open moorland to reach Fan Fawr. Its wet here. Very wet. Especially after a couple of days of heavy rain. There was lots of icy coverings but not enough to walk over without plopping in from time to time
I consoled myself with the wonderful peace, quiet and isolation of this patch of wild land so close to a major road. I had it completely to myself
I climbed to the summit without pause hoping for a sunny spot out of the wind. The views were still grand but the wind was keen. I was hungry and so headed down towards the main road madness
I spotted a sunny patch that looked like it might be sheltered. It was perfect. Calm and sunny enough to deliver some warmth for a well earned lunch break and hot cuppa
You can get a sense of just how many cars there are down by road in the photo below. As I’d I only seen a few people on Fan Fawr I assume all the occupants were on Pen y Fan. I had reminder of what kind of people frequent “the highest mountain in South Wales” on a sunny day. As I crossed the road there was a large group of brash noisy and spectacularly under-equipped people heading off to climb Pen y Fan (jeans, trainers and the like) – it was already after 2pm and its at least a 3 hour round trip to the top. One particularly irritating individual – lets call him Dick – seemed to love the sound of his own voice and humour and repeated the same line – loudly – over and over again to emphasis how side splittingly funny it was (something about how unforgiving the mountain was). I could still hear him from several hundred yards away. His companions all seemed deeply unenthusiastic about being “dragged out” but they started up the hill anyway. A complete contrast to the few pleasant and chatty people I’d met on the “other side” who were all entranced by a such a stunning morning. I think this little rant makes me a mountain snob but I don’t care
I headed down the Taff trail to head back to car. Once Dick, and his friends were out of earshot all was peaceful again. Its a rather nice walk with good views down the valley and across to the crags where I’d been in the morning. A nice change of scene from wild moors and mountains to something more pastoral
The little sting in the tail, a very steep few hundred feet back up to the road, made me work for my supper
A short day – I was done by 3pm – but it was more than enough to enjoy a spectacular morning and some wild untamed land no more than 20 minutes walk from the road
A repeat walk with TJS of a short hike I did last summer on a very similar day. The edges of of the Craig y Cilau escarpment are very fetching in summer when they catch the sun (the are in permanent shadow in winter). The autumn colours were again superb and the views across the Usk valley to the Sugar Loaf are always especially good from up here
Scrambling to the top of the eroded and now grassed over mine remnants is great fun, gives a certain miniature mountain arete sort of vibe
The old tramway beneath the limestone cliffs gives a wonderful level stroll. Despite its majestic appearance it seems to be completely off the radar and we rarely see more than a handful of people up here
I’m especially fond of this grassy (and boggy) meadow with its views back to the escarpment. Its certainly better than trying to tackle the wooded slopes higher up from my last visit
Time for the contrasting second half of the walk. Up above the edges and on to the expansive grassland behind the escarpment
There is a summit of sorts where we paused for a snack before heading into the wilderness
Being Limestone scenery there are a couple of seriously big sink holes up here
We headed over to the lake of Pwll Gwy Rhoc. Last year the area was a little boggy but bearable. This year it was a lake everywhere. Trail shoes were a bad idea. By the time we reached the lake shore my footwear was at maximum saturation point
I had my swimming stuff with me but TJS had a look that said he didn’t want to hang around in a cold breeze in the middle of an expansive bog waiting for his dad to take a dip. We just pressed on through more bog and sat on the edges for a late lunch so I could wring the brown water out of my socks before heading back to the car
I’m done now with being smug about our holiday in the sun over Xmas. What was needed was some proper winter weather, snow, clear blue skies and all that. Not done too bad since the wet and windy first half of the winter.
This is a walk me and TJS have done many times. Whenever there is snow we always to head to the high Brecon Beacons to take full advantage. The amount of snow caught me out on the drive with the roads completely covered to the outskirts of Merthyr and a very slippery drive up to the car park
The round of the main high summits of Pen y Fan, Corn du and Cribyn from the south is a fantastic outing if you can look past the crowds on Pen y Fan. It was a glorious morning, cold, clear and crisp.
As soon as we started the climb the snow became quite surprisingly deep. Very hard work on the steep slopes up to the ridge
Even harder work along the ridge trying to find the spots where the snow was hard or less deep. Some of the drifts in the peat hags were a few feet deep.
The forecast had been good for the day but a heavy bank of cloud was moving in fast and we had a few nice sunlight effects before it disappeared for the day
As we approached the summit of Corn Du the crowds became almost unreal. Most of South Wales seemed to be walking up Pan y Fan from the Storey Arms. Never understood the popularity of this route even allowing for the fact that its on a main road. There are several fine ridges onto the summit and yet this is a dreary boggy trudge.
There was the usual mix of seasoned walkers and seriously ill-equipped people in wellies, trainers and fashion boots. It takes a real effort of will to tell myself that everyone should be encouraged to explore the mountains and crowds like this are a price probably worth paying if people are out in the mountains rather than festering inside watching TV (something I never do obviously). Just not all at the same time! 🙂
Once we were on Pen y Fan it became clear there was some kind of challenge walk in progress. Again there were a mix of serious looking walkers and fell runners and lots of people who looked like they wished they had stayed home and festered in front of the TV
The north face of Pen y Fan also seemed to be in condition for winter climbs and there were several parties in the steep gullies and on alpine style ridges between
Many people seemed to be out on the slopes to go sledging. Lots of people were dragging sledges around and some people had snowboards, skis and even a converted skateboard (he spent a lot of time on his ar5e in the snow). I later learned that all these people had caused chaos on the main road by parking on the verges. The police ticketed hundreds of people and it was a big local talking point for a few weeks (until more interesting stories about a cat stuck in a tree and the price of silage pride of place)
Even though the weather had turned very grey we took in Fan y Big as well. This avoids a long trudge back down the track and extended the snowy walking experience
Quite a contrast with the warm sun and clear skies of Tenerife but to be honest, you can’t beat a decent walk in the snow with a couple of thousand people 🙂
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.
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.
The route is described in detail in the other post so I’ll let the photos do the talking – mostly.
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
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.
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
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
Well here’s a first, writing up a blog post the same day I did the walk. Never see the like of these days again once my summer hols kick in next week.
Another supermarket breakfast and another day in the hills to follow. This one a very similar trip to one we did with GM a couple of winters back. This time a more detailed exploration of Mynydd Llangorse and its far western ridge.
We parked up in Cwmdu and headed across the fields taking in the sights, sounds, smells, scratches and stings of the bracken
Small in height but large in area, Mynydd Llangorse is a wild upland heathland. Off the beaten track we had the whole mountain to ourselves save a few ponies and couple of cyclists
It’s a place to clock up long walks and we ticked off the miles as we strode on to its broad summit. The views across Llangorse Lake to the Beacons were very fine indeed.
After a brief rest on Cockit Hill we were off up Mynydd Troed, slightly higher but packing a mighty wallop of a steep slope to the top. The Bracken that clothes the lower slopes in these parts gives everything a stunning verdant hue. Much more pleasing on the eye from a distance than when you are bashing through it at close quarters
We headed off down the fine summit ridge before a session of the aforementioned bracken bashing on the lower slopes mixed in with a healthy smattering of nettles and head high thistles. Why I insist on wearing shorts round these parts in summer I’ll never know
We concluding the day with a long plod down the knee-jarringly hard minor lane that skirts the eastern slopes of Mynydd Llangorse but the sun was warm and the views stunning
An uneventful day of easy walking on two of the quietest mountains in this wonderful range I call home
Me and TJS had the day to ourselves. Being a lazy sort I couldn’t be bothered to make us breakfast so I treated us to the best of the Waitrose cafe in Abergavenny. I need to big up Waitrose here for introducing me to worlds best toast – sourdough bread – awesome.
Always on the look out for a new route we took a Brecon Beacons walk from Llanfrynach in the NE to bag one of a couple of ridges we’d yet to set foot on. Llanfrynach is a pretty place with the largest graveyard in the area and the only community run public toilets in Wales!
We were heading across to Cribyn and the Nant Sere valley to start with, more on that later
The first section takes you through woods by the side of the Nant Menasgin and its lovely, a mix of woodland, stream and grassy flower filled meadows. Interestingly they have diverted a tiny section of stream that runs parallel to the main stream before disappearing under a large farmhouse. The map shows a water feature behind the house so no idea whether it’s a private diversion or a water supply for the village. Interesting village is Llanfrynach
The route took us through grassy fields and quiet lanes before a somewhat tedious green lane, overgrown and oppressive with bracken, brambles and nettles delivered us to the lower slopes of Cribyn. Most people then head up the ridge as I’ve done many times but today I had a different agenda. After my swim the previous weekend I’ve become taken with the idea of wild swims on walks. As such I’ve the UK version of the well-known Wild Swimming series of books. Great read and some great new places to explore and get wet. Today I was off to explore the Nant Sere
Right on cue as we reached the water, the sun went in and the wind blew cold. Not to be deterred I went for a short and sharp swim in the pool below. Cold and refreshing but at least the water was clear rather than brown.
Further up the waterfalls and swimming pools were even better, none especially large or deep but enough for nice dip on a warm day. Well worth coming back for a picnic some time if summer ever arrives
TJS wasn’t keen on all this wild stream bashing without a path even though I was in my element. Reluctantly we bashed up a few hundred feet of steep grass back to the path.
As we climbed I noticed some pony trekkers enjoying the surroundings. It too me back to a gloriously sunny day back in the 70’s (yes I’m that old) when we took a trip from school to go Pony Trekking in the Brecons and I’m pretty sure we went up this valley. I still remember it now as a great day out. Strange to think that over 30 years on these hills would become my local stomping ground
The weather had really taken a turn though. The summits vanished into the clouds and drizzle filled the air. The NE ridge of Cribyn is brutally steep so we decided we’d give it a miss this time.
We took the faint path that contours under Cribyn and then climbed up to Fan y Big. We’d planned on taking the fine path that skirts the edges that overlook Cwm Oergwm but the weather was cold windy and damp so just headed off down the NE ridge of Fan y Big as the weather was looking most unpromising. Right on cue as we descended the weather stuck two fingers up at us and the sun came out again, bloody typical.
Still, I’ve never descended this ridge before and it was fine and peaceful walk, delivering us back to our route in across fields and down by the river back to the village. Just as well we cut it short, it was already a long enough day at 11 miles for an old bloke with dodgy knees!
TJS and TBF were away in London at Minecraft convention – sad – and TJF was at a cheerleading event so I had a few hours to myself for a solo walk. Always on the look out for somewhere new or a different angle on previous walk I headed to Craig y Cilau to take in the edges and then explore the moorland behind it.
I parked up at the eastern end and wandered through the old workings and spoil heaps now grassed over to form a mini-mountain range of their own and a really fascinating area to stroll through.
After a cloudy and stormy morning it had cleared into a gloriously sunny afternoon and the views across to the Black Mountains were superb.
The level mine track under the quarried and natural limestone edges is a pure pleasure and it’s another of those stunning areas that’s off the beaten track, little known and mostly deserted. I’ve visited here a couple of times but always in winter when the edges are in shadow. Last time was in December last year when we took in the top of the edges which were in sun. Today the sun was high enough to reach over the edges and bathe the path in sunshine.
Rather than drop down on the path to reach the far end I carried on along the mine track to take a look at Agen Allwedd, one of the longest/deepest caves in Britain. Disappointing as it turned out. The entrance is tiny and locked to protect the delicate life and cave features within. There was a faint track leading on so I followed it hoping it would traverse all the way to the far end. I was encouraged by the sight of someone coming the other way so it must lead somewhere.
It was a cracking path, quite distinct and a little precarious above the scree and steep slopes with sensational views. Then it entered some slightly denser woods and promptly vanished. I pushed on hoping it was a minor blip. It wasn’t. There followed half an hour of scrambling through nettles, brambles, boulders, and under/around/over countless fallen trees. I expected to come across Bear Grylls, machete in hand, feasting on a dead and rotting squirrel at any moment. I was relieved, hot, stung, scratched and grumpy by the time I finally emerged.
As I headed up onto the moors the world changed and could not have been different. Dense, sweaty, claustrophobic woods were replaced with expansive grassy moorland pocked with sink-holes.
My target was the lake of Pwll Gwy Rhoc but between me and it was a huge area of waving and perfectly flat grass, likely to be hiding squelchiness just below its verdant looking surface. In fact the going was relatively easy with just a few watery sections to cross before reaching the lake. I dread to think what it must be like in winter after a wet spell.
I’d targeted the lake for a particular reason. Although it’s a lovely spot in its own right I’d seen a blog write up over on Underground and Overground Adventures about a wild swim here in winter and fancied a bit of a refreshing dip on a hot day. Most of the shore is surrounded by bog but on the eastern side I found an easy spot to get in.
The water is extremely dark giving an initial impression that the water is deep. Once in however, the reason for the darkness becomes clear. The lake is just a peaty hollow with shallow water about 6-8 feet deep. The bottom is just oozing mud and the water the colour of strong tea! Still the water was clear and clean and just cold enough to be refreshing. I swam for about 5 minutes and it was great. I doubt many people ever see this lake so having my own private swimming pool was rather nice.
I celebrated with a brew before heading back across the moors to the edges. The short hike across enlivened by another watery dip, this time up to my knees in green stuff when I got too casual with my progress across the moors.
The views across from the edges were just as fine as I made my way back down.
I’d only been out 3 hours but it’s amazing what you can pack in to a short trip if you try hard enough and mix up good decisions with bad ones!