Archive for the ‘chwarel y fan’ Tag

The Long Way Around   12 comments

Last time we had a weekend day seemingly without rain. I was on my own for the day so set out early (by my standards) for a long walk in the Black Mountains. I parked up at Pont Cadwgan and headed up the forest tracks deciding to add in Crug Mawr as an extra option due to the bright morning and the fact its a fine hill.

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Not quite as clear and sunny as the forecast had indicated but dry and that’s what matters especially with the appalling 2-3 weeks of rain that followed.

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Crug Mawr doesn’t seem to attract many walkers and I rarely see more than a couple of people up here or on the long ridge that comes down from the high points of the Black Mountains.

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I has my first sit down for the day, actually quite pleased for the breeze as it had been a bit hot and airless on the walk up.

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Onwards towards those high points I mentioned. This ridge is normally a pretty wet and muddy affair but it was bone dry. Likely it’s returned to business as usual in the meantime.

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A spell of brighter sunnier weather drew me onwards until I reached Pen y Gadair Fawr.

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Time for another stop as its a few miles along from Crug Mawr.

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Next stop Waun Fach, highest of the Black Mountains. They have worked wonders in restoring the grassland up here. The path is now much less boggy and there are huge swathes of grass where once was just black bog. The Trig Pillar on the top used to be lost in sea of peat but now stands proud next to a path through the greenery. Sadly the plague of trail bikes are still leaving their trail of damage elsewhere. The National Park really need to more to do educate and restrict them although I’m not sure how.

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Onwards to the northern escarpment for a bite to eat before turning and taking the long route back down the other side of the Gwryne valley

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This is looking along the ridge to Chwarel y Fan

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It turned quite cloudy and cool for a while so my last stop on the top was a brief one.

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I really like the ridge from here to Bal Mawr. Not narrow but airy enough to expose some grand views.

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A close up shot of Llanthony and its priory.

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Not sure what these trees are – flora and fauna are not my strong point – but they were all in flower all over the lower slopes and looked wonderful both from a distance and close up.

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Just a matter of picking my way down to and through the forest and back to the car feeling weary and foot sore. Hardly surprising as my mapping software said 20 miles! As far as I’ve walked in a day for a very long time. I was quite pleased with myself.

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Black Mountains Wander   4 comments

I like to think I’m a local expert on the Black Mountains. I’ve walked them many times over the past 14 years I’ve lived in their back yard and discovered most of their ridges valleys and paths. Occasionally I find a small section I’ve never walked before and have a hankering to tread on some new ground. So it was on this day in mid-March.

Having left TJF to fend for herself, me and the remaining Funster and Sherpa headed out for the day. Didn’t get off to a great start. TJS who is a teenager and therefore by definition, lazy and vague forgot his boots. He assumed I’d put them in for him despite the fact he’d seen me carry the boot bag out to the car and hadn’t thought to check till we were at the car park. He had to do what turned out to be a very long walk over some rather rough and at times very soggy terrain in his school shoes.

Anyway we headed up swiftly on to Bal Bach and Bal Mawr, the initial stretches of which fitted the “new ground” criteria for the day. It was a splendid day albeit a little hazy

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We walked at brisk pace (to gain some distance between us and a large but friendly family group) along the most splendid ridge of Chwarel y Fan. Its one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountains

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My idea had been a ambitious round of the whole Grwyne Fawr valley up to Lord Hereford’s Knob (still funny) and back. However it was clearly a very long way and we didn’t want to leave TJF on her own too long into case she slipped into an iPad or Netflix induced coma. I thought we might be able to take a shortcut across the Grwyne Fawr dam and indeed it was so. It involved crossing a seriously soggy stretch of ground to get to it

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Well worth it though. A spot by the reservoir was a fine place for lunch. Sheltered and almost warm in spring-like conditions

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Across the dam and off-piste across more lakes cunningly disguised as open moorland and mountains and back up to the ridge on the far side

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There were still some patches of snow left over and it gave a very fetching contrast to the brown of the bogs/mountains and the blue sky

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Indeed the snow patches near the summit of Pen y Gadair Fawr were nearly waist deep. I discovered this to my cost as I plunged in. I was wearing shorts for some stupid reason and it was mighty cold on my bare pasty legs

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I’ve always avoided the ridge south from here over Pen Twyn Mawr. There was a huge blanket of dense coniferous forest right up to ridge that I thought would spoil the views and make for a rather boggy uninspiring walk. Now that they have cleared the forest the views are rather fine and there is a pretty good path most of the way

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It was a long way though to our route back to the car. A very long way. My ageing knees and sore feet (I have Plantar Fasciitis in my right foot) were in some pain by the time I stumbled back down the path to the car.

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Still it was a very grand day out and new views and ridges ticked, always a bonus

More Black (and Brown and Blue) Mountains   8 comments

Another weekend day off and another very plain an ordinary forecast that delivered much, much more.

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

“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.

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

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.

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

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

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

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.

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

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

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

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

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

You can see that from some of the photos

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

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

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

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

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

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.

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

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

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

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.

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

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

12.5 Miles

12.5 Miles

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

A walk on the White side of the Black Mountains   10 comments

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

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.

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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.

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TBF smiles through adversity

Chwarel y Fan, Nant Valley

Nant Valley

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.

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Steep section on Chwarel y Fan

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Cresta Run

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.

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TBF on the summit ridge

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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.

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“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.

Vale of Ewyas

Crossing the wild moorland above the Vale of Ewyas

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.

Chwarel y Fan

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.

New Years Day on Lord Herefords Knob   26 comments

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.

Twmpa, Lord Herefords Knob

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

Vale of Ewyas

Waun Fach

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.

Pen y Maes

Stream/Path above Pen y Maes

Darren Lwyd, Vale of Ewyas

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.

Darren Lwyd

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

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.

Darren Lwyd, Gospel Pass, Hay Bluff

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.

Darren Lwyd

D struggling along Darren Lwyd

Black Mountains

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.

Lord Herefords Knob, Twmpa

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.

Nant Valley

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.

Nant Valley

Looking South along the Nant Valley

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.

Nant Valleys

Waterfall in the Nant Valley

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.

Nant Valley

Mid-river cairn

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.

Darren Lwyd

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 🙂

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