Archive for the ‘Black Mountain’ Tag

Night Out in the Black Mountains   16 comments

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I’ve been trying to get out more to wild camp this year and TJS was keen for a last trip before heading off to university. Forecast wasn’t too bad so we gave it a go on a Friday after work.

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It was past 7 when we set off from the car, windy and cold. We had less than an hour of light left. We returned to the same point by Llyn y Fan Fawr where we camped earlier in the summer. The wind made it difficult to put both tents up at the same time so it took a while to get set up. Pitch dark by the time we’d done so a lazy evening drinking tea and chatting.

Next morning was much better. Brighter with wisps of blue sky

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Breakfast in the tent (too windy and cold for an al fresco affair)

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Its a cracking spot though

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TBF readies herself for a day in the mountains

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We left the tents pitched and went for the classic circuit of the Black Mountain range. Same circuit as in the summer but in reverse. I figured as the wind was so strong we’d want it behind us on the higher section

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A view down over Llyn y Fan Fawr

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TJS on the high level traverse under the cliffs

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The old water leat that supplies Llyn y Fan Fach

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One of my favourite south Wales views over Llyn y Fan Fach and Bannau Sir Gaer

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As we walked along the edge we were engulfed in a heavy shower of rain. Luckily it didn’t last long and we had some nice wispy cloud effects

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View from the highest point over Llyn Fan Fawr. Our campsite is in the top left hand corner of the lake

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A view down the prominent gully that splits the crags above the lake

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Time for lunch at the tent. We had to hide behind the tent for shelter such was the force of the wind

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Forecast for the afternoon and next day was very poor so time to get the hell out of there. We packed up and headed down

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The views across to Fforest Fawr were excellent

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Fan Gyhirych looking dark and moody

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There was a lot more water flowing than earlier in the summer

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The sunshine on the small waterfalls was very fetching but the water looked cold. Those hot summer days of wild swimming seem a long time ago

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Chances to sneak away for a wild camp will be limited as winter closes in although it is my intention to get out and do some winter summit overnights if we get some cold frosty weather.

Having been reading and enjoying Ken Browns new music inspired blog I thought I might add some tunes to my post to broaden the scope a little. I used to create a music tracked slideshow but I’ve lost interest in that of late so I’ll just add a tune that I like to each post. I just happened to be listening to this while I finished this post and as its a sublime and chilled track, one of my favourites I’ve discovered in the past 12 months I thought I’d share it. I like the lyric “Didn’t I take you to, higher places you can’t reach without me”

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Bank Holiday Backpack in the Black Mountain   25 comments

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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.

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Like all the very best waterfalls you can walk behind them

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

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

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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).

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

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

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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

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The Hard Man returns from a water gathering exercise

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

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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

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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

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

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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)

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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.

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

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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

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

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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!

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

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The highest point of the Black Mountain, Fan Brycheiniog

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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)

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Heading off for Bannau Sir Gaer

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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

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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

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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.

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

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TBF joined in as well

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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

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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

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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

My classic local walk   12 comments

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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

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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.

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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

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

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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

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It’s a beautiful lake and one of my favourites

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

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

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

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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

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

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

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The sun was perfect for catching the edges

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Looking east

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And West

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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

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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

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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

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

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The skies then took over as the centre of attention.

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

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

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Black Mountain

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

Black Mountain Revisited   12 comments

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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

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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

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

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The high point at Bannau Sir Gaer

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And the second lake of Llyn y Fan Fach

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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

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I liked the clouds in this photo

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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