Archive for the ‘capel y ffin’ Tag
I’ve been making promises to myself to get out and do more back packing and wild camping. I read lots of blogs and trip reports about cracking trips, mostly short to take advantage of quality weekend time but I never seem to get around to it. That’s all going to change. Armed with a new tent and after a rushed packing/eating session we’d eaten tea and were out walking in the Black Mountains by 6pm
It was great to be out after work. Less than two hours after shutting the lid on my work laptop at home I was on my way up the Cats Back ridge
As we raced up the sun went down
The light was spectacular and of course at this time on a Friday we had this most wonderful ridge to ourselves
We hurried on past the trig pillar on Black Hill towards our intended overnight stop
I’d had my eye on a spot a mile so beyond for several years. A small sheltered area of grass just off the path. Its always been dry but after the recent snowfall and heavy rain it was very soggy. We managed to get the tent up and settled inside just as it got dark.
Also had a new tent to play with. Since the demise of my Quasar I don’t have a two-person tent (other than my Lightwave which is really for 3 people and is pretty heavy). Bring on the Nigor Parula 2. I’m pretty impressed as it’s amazingly light for a two-person tent (around 1.8kg) and fits my needs for two porches and an ability to sit up in comfort. I’m still getting used to its pitching subtleties (especially the porches to stop them sagging) but so far so good. It did pass my first major test in that the very light and thin groundsheet was pitched on some seriously wet ground without any water ingress. I should however point out that seriously impressive tents are seriously expensive!
Not the driest or flattest pitch but we slept well through a cold night.
We woke the next morning to a frosty and damp tent and glorious sunshine
I left TJS to snooze while I wandered about to soak up the scene. I can almost see our village from the top but it felt a world away up here.
I smiled as abundantly as the sun shone, and settled down for a hearty and not very healthy breakfast of bacon butties and jaffa cakes. TJS joined me eventually and we savoured the morning and a long leisurely feast
Packed and ready for the off we considered our route. It was only a one night outing as I’d planned some cycling in the Peak District the following day. Originally we were just going out to Hay Bluff before returning to the car via a round of the Olchon Valley. As the weather was so grand we decided to extend the walk by taking in Lord Herefords Knob and heading back to the car via Capel y FFin
The high level path along to Hay Bluff was superb
The views from the summit over the Wye Valley to the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountain even better
We both seemed untroubled by the heavier packs than we’d use for a day walk and made swift and easy progress to the summit of LHK.
The views were still superb but there was a very keen and very cold wind so we didn’t linger. Rather than walk along the Darren Lwyd ridge, right into the wind we opted for the Nant Bwch valley for some shelter
Its a lovely valley with a series of small waterfalls and grassy patches for a lunch stop. Make a decent camp as well although its only a few minutes from the end of the road
The Vale of Ewyas is one of the finest valleys in the UK in my opinion. A walk along it or above it as always a pleasure especially on a warm sunny day. Spring really did feel in the air down here
The downside of the walk extension was having to climb up, over and down one of the Black Mountains main ridges. Sheltered from the wind it was a steep and sweaty climb. I was beginning to think I should have brought shorts
That changed swiftly as we reached the ridge. We were exposed to the wind and thoughts of shorts turned to thoughts of hats and gloves. It was bitterly cold and we had to move quickly to descend the other side to try and reach shelter from the next ridge
Ample compensation was provided in the views across the pastoral Herefordshire countryside and the ridge we’d walked the night before
One last steep descent and one last final climb back up to the car completed a very fine short overnight adventure.
TJS hasn’t been out much recently and he really seemed to enjoy the trip and the long walk in the sunshine. He’s badly out of shape though and was stiff for the next day or so and struggling to keep up with the old man on the ascents. He does take over on the downhill bits but I have my bad knees excuse for that
First part of adventurous weekend for me. More two-wheeled outdoor action planned for the Sunday
Another weekend day off and another very plain an ordinary forecast that delivered much, much more.
“Mainly cloudy with occasional sunshine” said the forecast, so I lay in and got up late for a short stroll with TJS. It was 11 by the time we were walking having chosen a brief stroll along Chwarel y Fan above Capel y Ffin and the Vale of Ewyas. When we arrived the day was completely cloudless with a very keen breeze. With such good conditions we decided to lengthen the walk and include the valley of the Nant Bwch – it’s very fine as you’ll see.
A path that climbs the first few hundred feet of Darren Lwyd and then traverses under its south west flanks delivers you to the road head and into the valley. It’s a steep sided, waterfall filled, hidden treasure. On this late winter day, the browns and ochres were superb, highlighted by the blue sky.
Its another of those parts of the Black Mountains I’ve not been too much. Despite living in the area for a dozen years now this is only the second time I’ve walked here (the previous time, a dark and gloomy January day). I think more visits for walking and chilling, picnicing by the river are in order
Rather than head all the way to the northern edges we cut off off-piste up the shallow valley of the Nant Uchaf. I figured we might get some shelter from the wind for lunch, and it was so.
It was a rather boggy and somewhat tedious trudge up onto the main ridge from there but fun in its own way. Good for soul and for TJS a confirmation that there isn’t always a path where you want to go – and nor should there be of course
When we hit the ridge we hit the wind. Normally on a windy day you get gusts of wind with calmer spells. This was just a constant wall of wind at a strong and steady pace . It really was quite amazing. Not quite strong enough to blow you over but strong enough to make you lean most of the time to avoid that eventuality
You can see that from some of the photos
It was still such a fine day that we decided, after reaching the summit of Chwarel y Fan, that we’d push on down the ridge rather than return right to the car. The views were sensational and the skies still abundantly clear and blue
Days like this really are too good to miss.It really is a most excellent ridge and like almost all of the Black Mountains pretty much deserted. It feels narrow and it is in a way as the crest sits a few feet above the sprawling moors
What I should have done is check the time before I made the call to extend the walk. It’s a very long way back to Capel y Ffin from the end of the ridge at Bal Mawr and we were supposed to be home for an appointment with a shepherd’s pie and a chance to see TBF acting her little socks off in a bit of am-dram. It was nearly 4pm at end of the ridge and we were clearly going to be late.
We hadn’t really stopped for a couple of hours due to the wind so we were footsore. It would have been perfect spot for a rest and watch the magnificent trooping of the colours on the mountains but we had push on at a pretty brisk rate to ensure we were home on time or at least close enough not to incur the wrath of the funsters, the senior one in particular
In truth we weren’t able to enjoy the gently descending and traversing path that returns to the village as much as we’d like. I’d forgotten just how far it is and it always seems further with tired legs and feet and the pressure of a ticking clock. Still the final views as the light faded were some reward for our pain and stress.
It was a long and tiring walk though, undertaken at a very brisk and relentless pace, good for TJS mountain skills, bad for my knees
All ended happily ever after. We weren’t too late, the funsters didn’t get stroppy, the shepherd’s pie was excellent as was TBF’s performance in Gaslight
My temporary lack of work could end at any time such is the uncertainty so I’ve been trying to grab as many bonus days out as I can. A couple of days after my trip to the Berwyns I headed out again into the Black Mountains, this time with TBF for company.
8.2 Miles, 1,300 feet of ascent
The weather was grey and a little dreary looking but looked reasonably settled. Heavy snow had been forecast for the day after so I wanted to get out while I could. We headed for Capel y Ffin to take in a high quality route along the western side of the ridge enclosing the Vale of Ewyas. There was already a good covering of snow and the road in had a few interesting icy patches.
TBF plodding in the snow
As we set off from the car it started to snow, heavy enough for me to worry whether the roads might be a little more white when I got back. Never really amounted much though so there was no real worry. As with all cloudy snowy days there was a monochrome feel to the views so not much in the way of photographs. I needed some foreground to help and TBF was the only option hence her regular appearance in this post.
TBF smiles through adversity
The route climbs steeply up to a very nice grassy shelf about halfway up towards the summit and then climbs very steeply through the broken crags onto the main summit ridge. I descended this way in winter a couple of years back and it was like the Cresta Run, everything was just a long frozen stream. Took me an hour to descend about 300 feet. This year I had the ideal gear to tackle it – Microspikes. They hadn’t been much use in the Berwyns but here on steep icy frozen ground they really came into their own and made the ascent plain sailing. They really are rather handy little pieces of kit, easy to put on and take off, light and effective. I’m a convert.
Steep section on Chwarel y Fan
As we crested the edge up onto the wide broad ridge the wind howled in and it was proper winter up there. Driving spindrift and icy cold blasts had us retreating into our hoods as we pushed on past the Blacksmiths Anvil and on towards the high point of Chwarel y Fan.
TBF on the summit ridge
Into the clouds
In better conditions it’s a cracking high level ridge. Not exactly narrow but airy enough to give fine views and sense of height. It was no day to be hanging around though so we pressed on along the ridge and down towards the end of the ridge at Bal Mawr. I’ve said before that I take a perverse pleasure in wild and wintry days like this. If you treat it with the right approach and are well protected from the elements you can feel a real sense of invigoration – makes you realise you are alive. The Black Mountains are not especially high or remote but weather like this gives them an altogether more serious air. I was loving this little battle with the elements and I was pleased to say TBF was too.
“Not cold – no really its not”
There is a very short sharp steep section just after the summit of Bal Mawr, easy with spikes but TBF found it a little harder. We were soon at the far-point of the walk and picked up the cracking path that doubles back and traverses the slopes below the ridge we’d just walked and slowly but surely descends back to the valley. It had stopped snowing by this time and the weather brightened a little. The sun nearly came out as well and for a while it was quite pleasant.
Crossing the wild moorland above the Vale of Ewyas
Vale of Ewyas
We took advantage and stopped above the valley for a cuppa and some lunch, enjoying the peace and quiet of midweek day in the mountains (we didn’t see anyone all day). The path returns to Capel y Ffin along a path that stays on the open moorland side of the farms and fields. It’s a really nice path but today it was a mix of wet snow and slimy mud. That combined with the fact that we needed to get back to pick the kids up from school pressured us into a quicker pace and we didn’t enjoy it as much as we should. I was quite relieved when we re-appeared at the grassy shelf we’d crossed earlier and could drop back down to the car and head for home. The roads had completely cleared of snow so my worries of earlier were unfounded.
The ascent route
One of those days where the pleasures are less obvious but you don’t always need blue skies and sunshine for a fine day. Sometimes just a wild challenging walk in winter conditions with the other half will do very nicely.
The final part of the Black Mountains New Year trilogy with me D and GM. Another promising day’s forecast meant that New Year’s Day was a mountain walking day. Another session of poring over the map led us to Capel y Ffin for walk taking in Lord Hereford’s Knob, an honourable 3rd place in the list of comedy mountain names.
7 Miles, 1,420 feet of ascent
It was clearly much colder than the past couple of days as we booted up and headed off.
Vale of Ewyas
Across to Waun Fach
Its a steep start to the walk heading over the fields, past Pen y Maes farm and along the path/stream to the bottom of the steep eminence of Darren Lwyd.
Stream/Path above Pen y Maes
G on Darren Lwyd
The bright patches of blue to the east were being replaced by dark brooding clouds to the west. Evidence of rain in the air was provided with a rainbow as we crested the ridge.
GM and D on Darren Lwyd
It’s a long plod up to LHK but you can massively improve the aspect by ignoring the main path and heading to the right to pick up the path along the cliffs. It gives some great views down the length of the Vale of Ewyas and up towards the Gospel Pass and Hay Bluff.
Vale of Ewyas
The main path is pleasant enough but can be a bit of a drag and the edge route is much more satisfying.
GM on Darren Lwyd looking to the Gospel Pass and Hay Bluff
D was behind for most of the way to the summit clearly suffering from 3 days walking and a late night to watch the New Years Eve fireworks on TV. Easy to forget he’s only 13 and still finding his feet as it were.
D struggling along Darren Lwyd
Sunlight shafts across the Black Mountains
It was blowing a gale on LHK. GM was planning to send the customary “I’m sitting on Lord Hereford’s Knob” text to his mates but it was just too cold so we headed down.
Father & Son on Lord Herefords Knob
Our original plan was to continue around the northern edge to pick up the long path along to Chwarel y Fan before heading back to the car. The dark clouds and D’s reduced enthusiasm pointed us towards a descent down into the Nant valley. This it turned out was an inspired choice. I’ve often wanted to explore but all too often have kept to the summits. We had a brief lunch tucked into the soggy heather and tussocks before exploring our way down.
Lunch in the Nant Valley
The valley is a steep sided with numerous side branches and waterfalls to sustain the interest. The path stays well above the stream but me and GM descended to it’s depths for a closer look. It would be a fine sporting route just to stick to the stream-side in drier conditions. There are even a few secretive small spots to throw a tent up although like all such places in the Black Mountains the sheep have also discovered them with obvious results.
Looking South along the Nant Valley
Looking north along the Nant Valley
The valley opens out lower down to reveal several cracking summer picnic spots by small waterfalls although they are pretty damp at the moment.
Waterfall in the Nant Valley
D makes his weary way down
Someone had even gone to the trouble of building a towering thin cairn right in the middle of the stream that seems to survive the floodwaters that must have roared down the valley in the past few weeks.
Rather than walk all the way down the road we took the side path that traverses the western slopes of Darren Lwyd to Pen y Maes farm, another fine choice and a great finish to the walk.
Traversing across the lower slopes of Darren Lwyd
Not out as long as we thought but still a fine day with a great mix of mountain and stream scenery to keep us entertained. GM headed home the next day. I offered D the chance for another walk – he declined 🙂