Archive for the ‘Fan Gyhirych’ Tag

Night Out in the Black Mountains   16 comments

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

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

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

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

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Its a cracking spot though

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TBF readies herself for a day in the mountains

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

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A view down over Llyn y Fan Fawr

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TJS on the high level traverse under the cliffs

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The old water leat that supplies Llyn y Fan Fach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The views across to Fforest Fawr were excellent

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Fan Gyhirych looking dark and moody

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

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

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

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

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Sunshine after the rain (and before plenty more)   4 comments

As I was saying in my last post, the weather since November has been universally appalling. Well apart from one weekend anyway. At some indeterminate point in those dark days the weather chilled, deposited a little snow on to the mountains and the sky cleared just long enough to enjoy it.

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I did this walk with TJS earlier in the year and, keen to introduce TBF to the charms of Fforest Fawr we headed there again.

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

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The mountains were shrouded in cloud for the first couple of hours and we wandered about in the gloom on Fan Gyhirych with some tantalising glimpses of the Black Mountain

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As we descended the blue skies and sunshine the the forecast promised arrived and we were treated to some superb views. This was more than ample compensation for the incredibly soggy nature underfoot, 2-3 weeks of ceaseless rain, wet, thawing snow and summer boots (yes, I know, poor decision) makes for very wet feet.

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Lunch in a slightly less boggy spot was followed by a climb to top of Fan Nedd where a spell of heavy rain that the forecast hadn’t promised hastened our descent and cut short the day

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Short and sweet but a splendid day nonetheless. The appalling weather that followed made me rather glad I’d made the effort. In this most awful of winters, any day not characterised by ceaseless rain is a good one

More new terrain for the Sherpas   6 comments

A couple of weekends back we had a glimpse of spring before the winter storms returned. The area between the main Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountain, Fforest Fawr is not somewhere I’ve really explored so it was time to put that right

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

Grey and gloomy as we set off from home the skies cleared as we headed west and were under sunny blue skies as we parked up. We squeezed onto the verge next to the monolithic stone of Maen Lia. I assume its a glacial erratic. There was an information board but I couldn’t be bothered to climb over the stile to take a look. Stiles cause me more grief than rocky mountains these days.

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

Grass is the name of the game in this part of the National Park. Big, broad rolling grassy hills with an occasional rocky cwm to divert the eye.

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

This little tour also had a nice high start at over 400m ideal for a lazy-ish day. To try and make some kind of circuit we found a route in a book that promised a fine traverse under the northern escarpment of Fan Nedd out to Fan Gyhirych and then back over Fan Nedd.

Fforest Fawr 1

Fforest Fawr 2

This was a sound recommendation and after a bit of grass bashing we picked up the path that follows the wall and contours perfectly from one side of the mountain to the other

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

The view back down the valley of the Afon Senni was especially fine

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

Over some squelchy bog and up to the northern escarpment at Bwlch y Duwynt. Panoramic views to the north and a particularly fine view of the shapely summit of Fan Gyhirych (some very tricky summit names in these parts). “Never ask for directions in Wales, Baldrick. You’ll be washing spit out of your hair for a fortnight”

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

There is a wide and gravelly landrover track that heads up toward the summit. I figured there would be a thin path that traces much nearer to edge and I was right. It was a fabulous walk, highlighted with a couple of lingering snow patches for added interest.

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

We spiralled around the broad and boogy summit to appreciate the full vista of views out towards the Black Mountain. With its very distinctive shape, easily identifiable  and its lonely expansive views it immediately dropped into my favourite summits list.

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

We retraced our steps along the edge back down to the bog and this time hit the summit of Fan Nedd.

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

By now the sun was warm and we were out of the wind on the summit. We had a vague plan to descend the south ridge and return to the car via Fan Llia on the other side of the road. The soft grass and warm sunshine seemed a much better idea. Boots were removed and a long lazy lunch stop seemed in order. No sense wasting good mountain summit lazing time.

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

The arrival of another group signalled our time to leave them to enjoy the summit for themselves. We wandered down to the cairn at the far end of the ridge and then in a rather enjoyably lazy and aimless sort of way, headed back to the car via a succession of sheep tracks and menacing tussock fields.

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

The car was hot and needed a blast of aircon before we could sit inside. Spring really was here. False dawn as always. Storms last night blew down more of my garden fence, tore a few more soffitt boards off and seriously damaged one of our upstairs windows. 2014 was the years of the floods, 2015 is the year of the gales

maen llia, brecon beacons, fforest fawr, black mountain, fan nedd, fan llia, Bwlch y Duwynt, afon senni, Fan Gyhirych

And with that I have an announcement. After nearly 2 years of blog slavery I’m finally up to date!! I have no more write ups to do (this walk was only 2 weekends ago). I never thought I’d ever do it but I have. Feels weird. Luckily I’m off to Scotland tomorrow for some winter backpacking in Lochaber followed hopefully by a weekend in Snowdonia. I’ll soon be several posts behind again. Perhaps I should stop going out, life would be so much easier.

A fine group of hills these and very quiet with only a handful of people seen all day. We waved at the masses on Pen y Fan but they didn’t wave back 🙂

Father & Son Backpacking – Black Mountain July 2013   21 comments

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

Black Mountain Part 1

Day 1: 9.8 Miles

Cribarth, Dan yr Ogof

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 🙂

Haffes Valley

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

Haffes Valley

Haffes Valley

Haffes Valley

Haffes Valley

Haffes Valley

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

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Lone tree

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.

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TJS admires the view after tussock bashing

Fan Gyhirych, Fan Hir

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

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D on Fan Hir

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Fan Hir

Fan Hir

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 🙂

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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.

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East to the Brecon Beacons

Fan Brycheiniog

Fan Brycheiniog

Fan Brycheiniog, Lyn y Fan Fawr

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.

Fan Fawr

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

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

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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

Afon Twrch

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.

Afon Twrch

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

Afon Twrch

Post meal enjoyment

Afon Twrch

Afon Twrch

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

Black Mountain Part 2

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

Afon Twrch

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.

Afon Twrch

Afon Twrch

Afon Twrch

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

Disgwylfa

Disgwylfa

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

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

Cribarth

Cribarth

Tawe Valley

Tawe Valley

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 🙂

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