Archive for the ‘cribyn’ Tag

“They’re Friends from Work”   12 comments

The fact that I like to hike in the hills seems a source of constant humour for my work colleagues with me the butt of the jokes. I was surprised to find that secretly some of them actually hankered for a hike in the hills so I said I’d lead them out on one my favourite south Wales hikes in the Brecon Beacons.

A little gang of four assembled at the cafe in Talybont on Usk for a fry up before heading for the mountains. (The title of the blog is in reference to one of my favourite lines from the Marvel movies – very topical at this time)

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A round of the Neuadd Reservoirs taking in the highest summits of the Beacons range. We were all rather caught out by just how cold it was.

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Here is the first of our little band posing for a photo. She decided to tone down the colours for this hike!

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Its a short and very steep climb up on to the edges that had is puffing hard. Luckily the sweat was soon removed by the ferocious and icy wind that was blasting at us across the valley.

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The photos don’t really do justice to just how cold and windy it was, enough to blow one our team clean off her feet a few times.

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Whilst the sun disappeared for the rest of the day, the cloud base was high and it stayed dry, which is a much as you can ask for on day planned a long way in advance.

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I had inform my new comrades that a key objective of any hike is make regular and lengthy stops to brew up and eat lots of food. They seemed quite keen on the idea despite the chilly wind, especially when I produced home-made cake that TBF had lovingly prepared.

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We reached the top of Pen y Fan – together with a few dozen other people and posed for a team photo for me on south Wales highest peak.

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Despite blisters and foot problems (this is quite a tough walk by south Wales standards) they agreed to continue the summit bagging and we took in Cribyn as well.

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And another couple of happy looking group shots.

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Including one with yours truly in it, demonstrating an odd pose and leg angle that says very clearly why I try and avoid being photographed in the first place.

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After another brew and scoff stop I convinced them that we could bag one more summit. The fact that my work colleagues share a distinctly smutty sense of humour and that the summit was called Fan y Big had nothing to do with it.

One last summit photo on the rock outcrop on the summit. They look happy that I’ve dragged them out on a bitterly cold day to wander about in the hills when they could have been home watching TV and doing domestic chores.

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And then it was time to head down across grassy slopes and bog and return to the real world.

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I normally walk either on my own or with the family down here so walks can be a little repetitive. I really enjoyed this day immensely for a variety of reasons. It was great to share my passion for both hiking (or should I say mountaineering) and for the Brecon Beacons with new companions. It was equally good to see them really enjoying the day as much as I was (well they said they did anyway) and I have to admit I enjoyed showing off a bit. They have all been out in the mountains before but never as regular thing and seemed to relish the challenge and chance to enjoy the outdoors. This is what keeps me sane through the drudgery of modern life and I really hope they went home with the same feeling of spirits lifted. We certainly laughed a lot on this hike as we always do at work. We are close knit bunch and my working life would likely be intolerable if they weren’t around to make me smile and keep me grounded.

I really hope we can do this more often and hopefully persuade some of my other work friends to join us. Who can’t love a hike!

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Winter is Coming   17 comments

Just before the autumn deluge began, washing away all memories of the glorious first half of the summer me and TBF headed out for a walk in the Brecon Beacons. A walk tinged with sadness as the first one where we’d normally expect TJS to be with us.

We set off from Llanfrynach and I was glad I’d put the shorts away and felt the need for the gloves for the first stretch (hence the title of the post). In the end as the weather was so pleasant it turned into quite a long walk of around 13 miles.

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The first section is along by the babbling stream and small leat that I assume provides the village with its water supply. It’s a very nice section that I always enjoy.

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As you reach the open fields above, views open out to the main summits of the Beacons

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The sheep and trees made a nice foreground

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We decided to include Cribyn on the itinerary which involved some road walking and long trudge along an overgrown green lane to reach its open slopes

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From there is a long steady climb to the base of the very steep north ridge

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A view down from the summit of Cribyn while I waited for TBF to catch up

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Cribyn is a superb mountain with a sharp summit and expansive views all round

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The long edge heading east from the top is equally good and we’d hoped to find a sheltered spot for lunch. The wind had other ideas and seemed to find us out wherever we hunkered down

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We ploughed on to the almost as good summit of Fan y Big, still no shelter until we eventually found a small grassy terrace where we could take a break having walked pretty much non stop for 3 hours

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The edges from here are just a joy to walk, almost level walking with views to the distant hills of mid-Wales and Shropshire

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We descended what seemed to become an endless ridge back towards our start point. Having not been on that many long walks for a while we feeling weary by this point

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Before the steep drop down to the village this dead tree caught my eye

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We were tired an fulfilled after a long stretch, longest walk I’ve done for quite a while

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TJS would have enjoyed this walk I’m sure but he has his own range of mountains in the Lake District to explore now

Posted October 16, 2018 by surfnslide in Brecon Beacons, Wales, Walking

Tagged with , , , , ,

The Beast from the East meets the Brecon Beacons   16 comments

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Nicking a blog title from the cold weather media frenzy is cheap and lazy I know but its 9pm and I can’t be bothered with trying to come up with anything original.

Another classic route. The round of the Brecon Beacons Four Peaks (Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn, Fan y Big) from the south, a circuit of the Neuadd Valley and its reservoirs. It was cold when we set off but we had no idea how cold it was going to get

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The sky was a sensational deep blue and the few clouds hugging the eastern slopes were soon burnt off. The approach road was glacial

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The walk across the dam of the lower reservoir is always a pleasure

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The path up to the western edges is steep and I found it surprisingly hard work after my bout of flu. When we hit the ridge we felt the full blast of the beast

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The wind was ferocious and staggeringly cold. Its rare on a dry day, even in winter, that I don full fleeces and jacket with the hood up but it was essential. Even then my face was burning with cold

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Luckily the views were spectacular and at least the wind was kind of behind us

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We’d made an early start and I was anxious where we would stop for lunch. I figured we could get out of the wind behind Corn Du as I thought the lower cols would be windier, funnelling the wind

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I was wrong. Even directly behind the summit the wind was just blowing, over and around the summit. We hid behind a couple of rock outcrops, stuffed our faces quickly and moved on

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The walk between Corn Du and Pen y Fan was straight into the wind. The cold was almost unbearable, one of the coldest 10 minutes I can remember in the mountains. I was starting to think that carrying on with this for the next few hours wasn’t all that sensible but as we reached the summit of Pen y Fan the wind abated quite significantly. For the rest of the day the wind only blew in gusts and at times it was relatively pleasant, almost warm. There was of course the usual crowd of seriously under-equipped people on the summit. Some people just have no idea how much difference there is between a sunny sheltered car park and a 3,000 foot summit exposed to an easterly winter wind. Trainers, jeans, exposed ankles, people carrying babies, they were all there. I walked away shaking my head

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90% of people climb Pen y Fan from the Storey Arms. Head off the summit in the other direction and calm and quiet is restored. The view back to Pen y Fan and over to Cribyn’s pointed summit and dark shadowed northern face were majestic

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I took the path along the edge of the cliffs to the summit of Cribyn. This flat grassy spot halfway up has been earmarked for a wild camp some day – just on a less windy and cold day

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A brief rest on the summit and the off along the edge towards the col ahead of Fan y Big

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Another of my favourite sections of the Beacons edges

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The col rather than being wild and windy as I thought was calm and benign so we stopped for a cuppa and second lunch. I was feeling pretty tired but I was convinced that Fan y Big needed an ascent and the views from its summit are exceedingly fine so the convincing wasn’t that hard

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In addition, the walk back from its summit above the reservoirs is far more pleasant than the long drag down the bumpy path to the car park

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The view back to the Four Peaks

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Back to the car to warm up (heated seats were very welcome) and back for a very one-sided cup final to finish off a damned fine day. The beast was tamed for now.

Brecons Four Peaks

I’m off to Scotland at the weekend to take it on again – if I can get there!

Brecons Gap Route   8 comments

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Since I decided to give cycling another go I’ve had my eye on what looked like a rather fine round called the Brecons Gap Route. So named as it traverses the gap between Fan y Big and Cribyn in the heart of the Brecon Beacons. It’s a good deal tougher in the mountain section than anything I’ve attempted before but the weather was stunning so I figured I could at least give it a go. I set off from Talybont-on-Usk on a gloriously warm sunny day and headed off on the Taff Trail

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The first section was very rough and bouncy. The Taff trail follows the line of an old railway along the valley – at least that’s what I thought. Turns out the first couple of km follow an old bridleway and it was rough going but not too steep and I coped fine

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As it climbed the views began to open out across the Talybont reservoir

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I wandered onto the dam to take a couple of shots. Stunning I thought

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From there its a very long climb up to the pass above the reservoir. Never steep and by now on the old railway line the going was much smoother. They are clearing away the old plantation so the views were superb. Gave me an excuse to stop many times and admire.

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I passed a few people walking but no-one else on a bike. The Beacons Way follows this stretch and it reminds me why I don’t like following pre-ordained long distance routes. There is a superb high level route that would avoid this long endless trudge on foot, a few hundred foot up above on open ground. In fact the Beacons Way actually descends from where that path starts to pick up the Taff Trail and then climbs back up again to meet it a few km later. Why the route chooses to ignore an obvious high level path in favour of a forest trail is beyond me. This trail is ideal for cycling but not for walking. Each to their own I suppose but the D of E groups I saw seemed not to be enjoying the trudge even on this glorious day

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Seeing as this is the age of the selfie, here’s a very rare picture of yours truly enjoying another photo-rest excuse to stop

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From the high point of the road there is a speedy short descent before the trail curves around towards the main part of the Beacons. From here things get a little tougher

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The trail becomes extremely stony and rutted and while not steep was pretty hard work. I’m pleased to say that other than one short section that drops steeply in and out of a stream, I made it all the way to the “gap” (seen in the centre of the photo below) without needing to push or more importantly, falling off

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I have to admit I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. I’d done 15km and close to 500m of ascent and survived to tell the tale. More than that I really enjoyed it – never thought I’d hear myself say that about mountain biking

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I celebrated with a very lengthy stop to have lunch and a brew, chatting to other cyclists as they passed through (this a popular and well-known mountain bike route)

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The descent from the gap gave me my only problem. The first 500m or so is steep and very rough, more like scree than a path. After a couple of nervous attempts I decided discretion was best and pushed for a few minutes. This section really needs a full on, front and rear suspension bike (mine is just a hard-tail). I managed to negotiate my way down carefully. It was wild and bouncy and my bike was making all kinds of rattling noises but again I was very pleased to make it all the way to the road-head without falling off, albeit very much slower than the madcap people taking the descent at full throttle. It must be a hell of an adrenaline rush but if you came off you’d do yourself a really nasty one

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Once on the road its a very fast and steep descent all the way to valley bottom along peaceful wild-flower be-decked country lanes. A real blast. My route back to the car was along the Brecon and Monmouthshire canal. It was superb (and flat!) and gave an excellent last hours wind-down in more peaceful surroundings after the drama of the gap

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The canal has a small aqueduct over the river Usk

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This little bridge just after was picture perfect and I stopped for breather. Nice spot for a picnic I thought. More to follow in a later post

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From there it was an easy cruise along the tow-path. Wild flowers were abundant and the route busy with other cyclists and families enjoying a perfect spring day

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I think TBF would enjoy this part of the ride although definitely not the mountain section! I must fashion a route along the canal and back along the lanes of this quiet corner of the national park

Brecons Gap Route

35km ride in total and a real classic – me, enjoying mountain biking, who’d have thought 🙂

Back to Winter in Brecon Beacons   4 comments

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.

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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

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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.

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As soon as we started the climb the snow became quite surprisingly deep. Very hard work on the steep slopes up to the ridge

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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.

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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

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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.

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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! 🙂

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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

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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

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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)

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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

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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 🙂

A different perspective on The Beacons   4 comments

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!

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We were heading across to Cribyn and the Nant Sere valley to start with, more on that later

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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

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llanfrynach, nant menasgin, nant sere, cribyn, fan y big, brecon beacons, wild swimming

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

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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.

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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

llanfrynach, nant menasgin, nant sere, cribyn, fan y big, brecon beacons, wild swimming

llanfrynach, nant menasgin, nant sere, cribyn, fan y big, brecon beacons, wild swimming

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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.

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llanfrynach, nant menasgin, nant sere, cribyn, fan y big, brecon beacons, wild swimming

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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.

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llanfrynach, nant menasgin, nant sere, cribyn, fan y big, brecon beacons, wild swimming

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!

 

Just the Three of Us   6 comments

The first signs of spring are in the air but it’s still winter on the blog

Back in February we reached a pivotal moment in the family. As you know TJS is very much the mountain man like his Mom and Dad. TJF is however less keen. On this weekend we had a breakthrough. Not the one I’d hoped for but better than nothing. Rather than trailing along behind us on a family walk all day, TJF insisted she could be left alone for the day so the rest of us could go for a proper walk. Far from being a sacrifice she was more than happy to be given her independence and spend the day playing on her iPad and heading into town with one of her friends to spend my – sorry – her money. The chances of her joining us on days out in future seem slim but as long she’s happy that’s the main thing

The forecast for the weekend was bland. Grey and overcast with a chance of sunshine. Saturday was accurate so we plumped for Sunday and the morning looked promising so we headed for the Brecons to find some winter snow to walk on. As we reached the mountains the clouds evaporated and we were treated to a spectacularly good day. The forecast often sells you short with promises of sunshine that never materialises so today was pay-back

We parked up on the northern side of the range with a plan to climb Cribyn and Pen y Fan. It’s a longish traverse to get to the base of Cribyn but the almost warm sun made it real pleasure. The views across to the Black Mountains were particularly fine.

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brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

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We could see the main summits capped by snow making a fine contrast with the spring-green fields.

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brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

After the long climb up the road we emerged into warm sunshine under a deep blue sky with snow-capped mountains behind. Days just don’t get better than this especially when it comes as a surprising contrast to what was expected.

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The views were just spectacular and the snow gave Cribyn and Pen y Fan an altogether more dramatic feel.

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brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

We lunched in the sunshine just below the steep climb up Cribyn. I managed to knock over my stove while brewing up forcing me to melt snow to get another. Bear Grylls – nowhere! 🙂

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Cribyn looked majestic, standing much taller than its modest height with its winter gear on.

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brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

The climb up the north ridge is brutally steep, but today, interesting hard packed snow on the path. On days like this the sun and sky simply pull you up and the summit seems only a couple of steps away.

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brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

We exchanged smiles of good fortune and pressed on – it’s a long descent and an even longer climb back up Pen y Fan

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brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

The gullies and ridges on Pen y Fan’s crumbling north face are little visited in normal conditions but in winter they are climbers delight. There were several people snow/ice climbing. I was fondly reminiscing of my younger days when I used to climb these sorts of things. Sadly I think those days are behind me as I don’t possess either the fitness or sound knees for such madness. These days I’m content to watch and admire and take an altogether more sedate approach to my outdoor enjoyment

brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

As always on a sunny day Pen y Fan was crowded but when the weather and views are this good the crowds just seem to fade and you don’t see them. You just see your own companions and their pleasure with a grand day. Needless to say the views were sensational.

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brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

A few minutes of care was needed on the descent of the summit rocks, hard compacted snow making for some interesting movements. We passed several people still on the way up looking very unhappy and uncomfortable. They may look and feel easy under normal conditions but underestimate these mountains in winter at your peril.

brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

The walk down the long north ridge of Pen y Fan was simply wonderful. Blue sky, crisp air, warm sunshine and the crunch of snow underfoot is a pretty damn fine feeling.

brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

One of those days when you just want to stay high and for the views to last forever. We wandered, stopped, paused and eked out as much time as we could before we reluctantly dropped out of the sun, into the cold shadows and back to the car.

brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

brecon beacons, black mountains, cribyn, pen y fan, corn du, bryn teg, craig cwm sere, cefn cwm llwch

The best day of the winter bar none. If only TJF could learn to enjoy it as the rest of us do. I live in hope

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