Archive for the ‘Fan Fawr’ Tag
A reference to my surprise on seeing a clear blue sky day with a helping of patchy snow after waking up at 6am the previous day to go to work and finding a temperature of 12C and a day filled with mild patchy rain.
Solo again while the family did other stuff and a revisit to a surprisingly quiet corner of the Brecon Beacons. Surprising as it overlooks the busy A470 and the parking chaos of the summit of the road at the Storey Arms. On a good day there must be 200 plus cars parked up there ready for the pilgrimage to the summit of Pen y Fan. I parked up for my walk a couple of miles down the road with one other car. Local knowledge is a handy thing
Craig Cerrig Gleisiad and Fan Fawr was my route. It was a wonderful crisp clear morning, icy puddles and frosty mud was underfoot. The path that traverses across the bottom of the corrie was delightful
The bare trees shorn of their leaves always attract my eye and lens
The views down the valley to Brecon and the Black Mountains was magnificent
The path emerges suddenly onto the shoulder below Fan Frynych. Expansive views open out over the mid-Wales countryside
Up on to the grassy moorland and the first few patches of snow underfoot
The sky was dramatically blue and clear and the light through the trees was still catching my attention
Up on the summit it was just magnificent. Such an exceptional clarity in the air contrasting with the pristine and untouched white snow
Traversing over the summit of Fan Frynych was majestic. You just eat up the miles on a day like this
Sticking close to the edge of the dark vegetated cliffs gives extensive panoramas
But then you have to cross the vast expanse of open moorland to reach Fan Fawr. Its wet here. Very wet. Especially after a couple of days of heavy rain. There was lots of icy coverings but not enough to walk over without plopping in from time to time
I consoled myself with the wonderful peace, quiet and isolation of this patch of wild land so close to a major road. I had it completely to myself
I climbed to the summit without pause hoping for a sunny spot out of the wind. The views were still grand but the wind was keen. I was hungry and so headed down towards the main road madness
I spotted a sunny patch that looked like it might be sheltered. It was perfect. Calm and sunny enough to deliver some warmth for a well earned lunch break and hot cuppa
You can get a sense of just how many cars there are down by road in the photo below. As I’d I only seen a few people on Fan Fawr I assume all the occupants were on Pen y Fan. I had reminder of what kind of people frequent “the highest mountain in South Wales” on a sunny day. As I crossed the road there was a large group of brash noisy and spectacularly under-equipped people heading off to climb Pen y Fan (jeans, trainers and the like) – it was already after 2pm and its at least a 3 hour round trip to the top. One particularly irritating individual – lets call him Dick – seemed to love the sound of his own voice and humour and repeated the same line – loudly – over and over again to emphasis how side splittingly funny it was (something about how unforgiving the mountain was). I could still hear him from several hundred yards away. His companions all seemed deeply unenthusiastic about being “dragged out” but they started up the hill anyway. A complete contrast to the few pleasant and chatty people I’d met on the “other side” who were all entranced by a such a stunning morning. I think this little rant makes me a mountain snob but I don’t care
I headed down the Taff trail to head back to car. Once Dick, and his friends were out of earshot all was peaceful again. Its a rather nice walk with good views down the valley and across to the crags where I’d been in the morning. A nice change of scene from wild moors and mountains to something more pastoral
The little sting in the tail, a very steep few hundred feet back up to the road, made me work for my supper
A short day – I was done by 3pm – but it was more than enough to enjoy a spectacular morning and some wild untamed land no more than 20 minutes walk from the road
TJF was off at a sleepover with a friend so the Mountain triumvirate of me TJS and TBF planned a proper day out. Alas the forecast wasn’t great and we were in the midst of some seriously stormy weather. So stormy in fact that it ripped up most of my back garden fence and picked up our trampoline and threw it over a 8 foot fence and several hundred yards into the field next door.
So, ideal conditions for a walk in the Black Mountain.
It was a bitterly cold, windy and grey day. There was a semblance of brightness but the forecast was for a rapid deterioration so there was no time to hang about
A blistering pace was needed to avoid the next battering and to keep warm. The plod up to Llyn y Fan Fawr is an extremely wet one, TBF regretting not having bought new boots to replace the one’s with holes in. The lake is a wonderful spot and the last time I was up here it was in warm March sunshine.
No stopping today. Onwards and upwards. When we hit the edge of Fan Brycheiniog we hit the wind. It was ferocious. A real battle to stay upright. It’s hard work and a little disconcerting – the edge is quite sharp and the drop quite significant – but I love walking in a gale. Blows the working weeks dust out from the brain and makes you feel properly alive. A battle with the elements is good for the soul.
Again despite hunger we just pressed on, staying away from the edge for fear of being blown off. At Fan Foel we made the decision to abort the rest of the route to Bannau Sir Gaer and head down. The clouds were darkening and we’d have been walking into the teeth of the gale for an hour. It meant an earlier finish but we had enough fun in the wind for now.
The small pools of water on the top had been blown and then frozen – a capture of small waves in action.
We dropped down to the exceedingly fine unmarked path that traverses under the cliffs we’d just walked along. Almost immediately that we turned under the cliffs we were in calm conditions. Lunchtime under the brooding cliffs and stormy skies was well-earned
As soon as we reached the lake we were blasted by the wind again.
The trouble with still images is they don’t really capture how windy it is. Except this shot. As the gusts of wind roared across the lake they whipped some mightily impressive tornadoes of spray with a deafening growl.
Back down through the bogs to the car. Almost a relief to sit in the car in silence without the constant drone of the wind.
Not a blue sky Wales day, this one was for the connoisseur (re: mad)
Still in February in blog-time. Short post of a walk I did with TJS over the Fforest Fawr hills to the west of Brecon Beacons
The forecast looked promising for the morning with rain spreading in for the afternoon. An early start was called for and things, whilst cold, looked promising when we set off. Lots of blue sky and sunshine but with dark clouds which I assumed would clear as per the forecast
Wrong! What the forecast had failed to predict were short and very heavy rain and hail-storms and the first one hit us within 15 minutes as we traversed under Craig Cerrig Gleisiad. TJS has never been out in hail before and I don’t think he was all that enamoured! What they lack in duration they more than make up for in pain and wetness!
We moved at a brisk pace in the cold wind, following the edge of the cliffs up on to the top (bypassing the trig point at Fan Frynych – Trig points in the middle of bogs are an acquired taste). There was someone camping and it looks a good spot with plenty of soft grass and moss and a fine view over the Beacons.
The next section is a trudge across an expanse of grass and bog of to the base of Fan Fawr. Not a place to be caught in a hail-storm. Needless to say we got caught in a hailstorm and a pretty lengthy and nasty one at that. We were soaked in readiness for the steep climb up to the summit.
No path so a tough climb up steep grass. TJS needs experience of off-piste terrain to build his fitness so this was good challenge he coped well with although I think he prefers a good path!
The summit was cold, windy and dark with the threat of more sky-fall. We headed down the obscenely steep slopes of grass to find a spot for lunch.
TJS seemed a little slower than usual and heading down the Taff Trail section he seemed distinctly unhappy. When I pressed him, he told me his boots were too small and had been giving him grief for several weeks! Quite why he hadn’t told me before is anyone’s guess but they were almost 2.5 sizes too small. Doesn’t always occur to me that he’s still growing and his feet are now as big as mine
The walk back was enlivened by the sight of a car that appeared to have slid down the long bank below the road with rescue operations underway. You can just see the red car in the bottom left hand corner of the photo below
So the long trudge back down the trail was a slightly dispiriting one for him and all in all a bit of a disappointing day considering the weather had been less than expected and we’d made an early start to enjoy it.
Still as always its good to get out in the fresh air is it does disprove the theory that we only ever go out in the sunshine 🙂
You can see a slightly sunnier version of this walk from a couple of years back here
Normal service resumed here at Surfnslide after the family holiday to France – normal service meaning me trying to catch up on trips from a couple of months back – will I ever catch up? Why am I asking you?
Where was I? Ah, trip reports from July. TJF was with the Grandparents in Wales and TBF was performing one of her plays so me and TJS took off for some backpacking. After much pondering of maps and a somewhat uncertain forecast, the Black Mountain and the Limestone area on its southern edge caught my eye. I’ve walked the main ridge a number of times including a great day out with TJS last year but I’d never ventured to the South so this was a great opportunity to see what it was like. The map makes it look interesting
By 10am we were parked up at Dan yr Ogof caves and ready to set off. The cloudy start had been replaced with some fine sunshine and things looked good. Our route would take in the length of the Black Mountain escarpment before heading off over the limestone hills to west to wild camp. We’d then return over the limestone crags above Dan yr Ogof
Day 1: 9.8 Miles
Cribarth from Dan yr Ogof
We headed off to follow the Haffes valley into the hills. I was using a Cicerone guide “Backpackers Britain – Wales” by Graham Uney that i’d seen on Amazon and looked promising for some route and wild camp site ideas. I’m normally a fan of Cicerone guides but let me just say that this one is a massive disappointment. For a start the majority of routes involve overnights at campsites, pubs and guest houses, not exactly backpacking in the proper sense. Only a few have wild camp sites as their overnight. There are a few that use bothies but they are not well researched. A few routes use the Grwyne Fawr bothy in the Black Mountains which is fine but it’s tiny, near the road end and very well-known. on weekends it is very likely to be full and there is very little alternative if you happen not to have a tent. None of this is mentioned in the book which I think is a little remiss.
Reason for mentioning the guide at this point is that is the route is a 2 day route over a total of 37km described as a “short backpacking route” – now I’m reasonably fit but I wouldn’t describe 37km over 2 days with a backpack as “short”. As it turned out even at a relatively brisk pace we had no way to reach the suggested wild camp spot at a reasonable hour and had to cut several miles off the suggested route. The first time we needed to get the guide out was to find our way onto the open hillside. The description “follow the stream for a short way up into Cwm Haffes” neglects to mention that there is no path or even a trace of one. In fact the whole valley floor is completely overgrown and we spent an unhappy half hour scrambling through the undergrowth, clinging to trees and wandering about looking for a way through before we eventually broke through to a point where we could escape upwards. None of this is mentioned either. The book went back in the pack and hasn’t been seen since. Lesson learned stick to my own instincts and the vast array of knowledge and reports on the web. Rant over 🙂
D above the Haffes Valley
The Haffes valley is actually rather pleasant once you emerge from its jungle-like confines and after a short and very steep climb up its banks we took a pause to take in the view
TJS takes a break
We filled up with fresh water at a small side stream (last chance until later in the day) and then headed off across the vast expanse of soggy tussocks to the slopes of Fan Hir
TJS has done most of his walking on well-known hills with broad paths. This was the first time I’d taken him “off-piste” and he didn’t seem to appreciate the subtle charms of tussocks and bog without a path (neither do I but that’s not the point). He was mightily relieved when we finally reached the path.
TJS admires the view after tussock bashing
Fan Gyhirych from Fan Hir
It had turned into a very fine day with clear skies and expansive views. Withe renewed enthusiasm we romped along the extremely grand Fan Hir escarpment. I’ve walked the Black Mountain many times but never along this section and its top-notch. It stretches for a good couple of miles with sheer drops to east and wild moors to the west
D on Fan Hir
We managed to find a sheltered spot on the summit for lunch. Time to experiment with a new backpacking lunch. Sandwiches that have been squashed into a pack never look very appealing (especially after a few days) so I was going for some Heinz “Squeeze and Stir” soup and some bread. The Herb and Mushroom flavour when squeezed looked suspiciously like – well I’ll leave that to your imagination. And the taste? Well here was lesson 2 for the day – read the instructions. Don’t assume that one sachet will be fine for a very large mug. It looked like dirty dish water and didn’t taste much better. Still, it was hot and filling (and the tomato flavour with the proper amount of water to soup ratio is actually pretty nice) so it was voted a success 🙂
Lunch on Fan Hir
We pressed on to take in the next set of tops along the escarpment, Fan Brycheiniog and Fan Fawr. This is one of my favourite walks with the deep blue Lyn y Fan Fawr below.
East to the Brecon Beacons
Fan Brycheiniog & Lyn y Fan Fawr
I was struggling a bit on the steep sections as I was carrying the majority of the weight but TJS was romping along and enjoying every minute. After the early struggles the terrain is very easy-going and perfect for backpacking.
TJS on Fan fawr
As we reached the high point of Bannau Sir Gaer, eating up the miles, the weather suddenly turned gloomy and the sunshine disappeared spectacularly quickly. We didn’t linger on the summit and pressed on to leave behind the dark sandstone of the Black Mountain following a succession of very handy sheep tracks across the grassland and bog to the limestone summit of Carreg yr Ogof
Carreg yr Ogof
It’s a fine summit, littered with small limestone pavements and outcrops. We took time out for a second lunch but didn’t linger too long as it was pretty gloomy and quite chilly. We pressed on to the summit of Garreg Las with its two massive stone cairns. I assume that these are some sort of ancient burial cairn or shelter such is their size
A very tired TJS on Garreg Las
TJS suddenly hit “the wall” and his pace dropped markedly. He’s not to used to carrying a heavy sack and he was struggling. This unfortunately coincided with the cloud starting to close in and the summit is not a place to practice navigation amongst its chaotic collection of pavements and rocks. The “guide-book” route urged us to take in Foel Fraith, Garreg Lwyd and Cefn Carn Fadog but it was already 5pm and we were both tired and the mist was upon us. I took a line straight down towards the Afon Twrch through a tangle of boulders and small crags. It would have been an entertaining route had the mist not been following us down. I was keen to try to least see the river to pick out a camp spot so had to encourage TJS to keep going. As we emerged from the mist we could see the river with several green patches on it’s banks that looked promising. We just had to cross the last patch of tussocks to reach the bank. In time honoured Welsh mountain tradition this proved to be a cruel deception. It was in fact a small lake with tussocks floating in it. My trail-shoed feet, dry up to this point were wet within a few strides as were TJS in his boots.
The site was a fine one albeit not the flattest. It was my first test of my new Voyager Superlite tent and I have to say I’m well impressed. It’s rather compact (rucksacks outside) and lacking the cavernous space of my Quasar or Lightwave GT3 but then it weighs less than half of them and it’s quick and easy to put up. I may put a review up at some point if I can be bothered
Wild Camp by the Afon Twrch
It drizzled while I pitched it, and that combined with a minor midge invasion forced me to cook tea in the tent. By the time we’d eaten the skies cleared a little and we got some shafts of late evening sunshine.
It’s a lovely wild and lonely spot and I only wish we could have seen more of it while we were camped there. Finding your own little private corner of the mountains is the joy of backpacking and I’d looked forward to a late evening exploratory stroll to really get to know the local suburbs
Post meal enjoyment
As quickly as the sun had appeared, it vanished again and the gloom descended. Tired yet satisfied after a long day we turned in.
When we woke the next day, I was hopeful that the skies would have cleared and we’d be treated to breakfast in the sunshine. What we got was breakfast in a steam room. It was mild muggy and we were in the cloud. Every single surface, plant and blade of grass had a pint of water clinging to it. Still breakfast in steam room in the wilds is better than breakfast in…… lets not follow that line of thought. We did enjoy our bacon sandwiches though and by the time we’d eaten and packed up the cloud had lifted a little. Our route back to the car was to take us along the Afon Twrch and then over the limestone hills to Dan yr Ogof and Glyn Tawe
Day 2: 5.7 Miles
The going was rough with no path and the grass absolutely soaking. My trail shoes were squelching again within a few hundred yards. Still we had the valley to ourselves and it retained an air of austere wilderness which is surprising when you consider it’s not actually very remote
On our way into the gloom
It’s hard to judge an area when your first visit is under a blanket of leaden grey cloud but I saw enough to make we certain I need to come back and see it again.
Wild and untamed
We met the path at the ford which looked like a good place to camp with a few rocks to sit on and slightly flatter. The path east was actually well-defined and easy to follow and takes you across the wild moors to Pwll y Cig. It’s a fascinating area of sink holes, some filled with water and blind valleys. It looked like a great place to camp and explore and I made a note to come back here next year. Despite the gloomy weather I was really enjoying this section of the walk with the terrain providing a lot more interest than anything the map would have you believe
We had planned to traverse Disgwylfa and Carreg Goch but as they were dipping in and out of the cloud there seemed little point. We were enjoying the ease of following the well made path past the succession of intriguing features. The hills could wait for a better day
Swallow Hole, Pwll y Cig
It was a very easy, uneventful and enjoyable stroll back to the car with some decent views across the Tawe valley and over to the interesting little hill of Cribarth as we emerged from the confines of the wild limestone land
We were back at the car in mid afternoon after an excellent couple of days. More progress in TJS backpacking career with a much longer and tougher outing than his first trip to the Moelwyns last year. He’s still spent all of his wild camping time looking at grey clouds and rain and he asked me if it was always like that. I regaled him with stories of days spent lazing by the tent in warm sunshine and how life doesn’t get much better. Perhaps his next trip would provide some of that 🙂
This is a walk I’ve had my eye on for a while so with a forecast of warm sunshine and the rest of the family otherwise engaged I headed out early to make the most of the day. The route is over some lesser known hills in the Brecon Beacons. It’s part of the Fforest Fawr (Great Forest) named after its old status as a Royal Hunting ground rather than any trees. The walk starts a couple of miles down from the Storey Arms (where the masses park for the trek up to Pen-y-Fan) and sets out for the national nature reserve of Craig Cerrig-gleisiad (Blue Stone Rock).
It’s a stunning setting with dark heathery earthy cliffs dropping to a grassy bowl with a number of bubbling streams.
Taking a path that skirts the edge of the lower pastures to reach the ridge and then the path heads up towards the grassy plateau that crowns the cliffs.
The views were a little hazier than I had hoped and there was a surprisingly strong, cool breeze but it was still a lovely morning.
The main summits of the Beacons as well visited and on sunny summer days I’ve seen as many as 150 people on the summit of Pen-y-Fan. On this lesser known route I saw only about 10 people for the duration of the walk. The “summit” Trig Pillar (Fan Frynych) is set back from the edge and I’d hoped for a brief rest on the top but it was far too windy and cold so I pressed on. There are numerous smalll bodies of water all of which were full of frogspawn but no frogs or even tadpoles yet. I guess spring is still in its very earliest stages at this height.
You can take the path that runs right along the edge of the cliffs for some sensational views and the main summits of Pen-y-Fan and Corn Du were becoming clearer as the sun rose higher.
At the highest point of the cliffs I managed to find a sheltered spot out of the wind for a leisurely lunch and to sit and soak up the spring weather and views.
After a brief detour along the edge to peer down the vegetated cliffs I hopped over the Fence and headed towards Fan Fawr, the highest point. It’s quite a long trek and I guess pretty boggy after a wet spell. It would be a long and tiresome trudge on a grey damp day but on this sunny morning the springy grass and moss was just perfect for strolling. The views West out to the Black Mountain were excellent and some of the hills between also looked worthy of a day out in future. I suspect they are rarely climbed so I’d like to think I’d have them to myself.
It’s a pretty steep climb to the top but the views in all directions were top notch albeit still hazy. When I reached the top the wind was strong enough to blow me off my walking stride which really caught me by surprise for what looked like a day that should be warm and calm. I headed down towards the Storey Arms and managed to find another sheltered stop for second lunch and watch the traffic streaming along the A470 and the people streaming up and down Pen-y-Fan.
On the way down I passed a group of students dressed in DJs and carrying chairs and food for a picnic. If they planning on partying on the summit they were in for a nasty shock when the wind hit them!
I passed a group of wild welsh ponies on my down and then quickly passed by the mess, noise and cars at Storey Arms and headed down the Taff Trail – the old road between Merthyr and Brecon. Despite the noise of the traffic on the A470 it’s a really pleasant stroll with great views across to the high ground I’d been across earlier in the day.
A drop down to the stream (a lovely picnic spot with swimming hole for future reference) and a steep climb back up to the road and I was back at the car.
My GPS software said 8.3 miles and 514m of ascent. Apart from feeling a little cautious on the steep sections my knee seemed to cope pretty well and sitting at home now it feels fine so I’m really hopeful that the Op has been a success and that I can continue building up the strength over the next few weeks. Probably about time I started with my daily exercise routine again!
As always I’ve posted all the photos from the day on Flickr here