Archive for the ‘fan-y-big’ Tag

Winter At Last!   6 comments

Finally, clear blue skies, sunshine and frost! Well back in late January anyway.

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A chance to head to the mountains for a proper day of winter walking in the Brecon Beacons. I thought I’d set off early enough for a spot in the car park in the Neuadd Valley but apparently not. I had to park on the lower car park and rather than walk along the road I followed what I hoped was a nice forest track through the woods. The views were great but the track was, like every track and path this winter, a slick mess of mud, bog and water. Again I was glad of waterproof socks – they really have been essential this winter.

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Back on the steep climb to the edge of Graig Fan Ddu, water was replaced by ice and the rocky steps were a little slippery but fast progress was made despite avoiding a guy who thought it would be a good idea to cycle down an icy, rocky staircase with lots of people on it.

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The views opened out and all was glorious. With the steep section done its a wonderful high level stroll on the edges towards the high summits.

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I love the section where it “narrows” (these things are relative in South Wales) on the ridge of Craig Gwaun Taf.

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Approaching Corn Du and Pen y Fan the crowds from the Storey Arms started to mass. Something you have to get used to up here on a sunny day.

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There was a light dusting of snow on Corn Du lending the mountains more of a wintery feel and setting off the views to even better effect.

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Looking back the way I’d come.

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On Pen y Fan I began to realise why the car park was full. There was yet another challenge walk of some kind in progress. I have to say I really don’t get the recent obsession with these things. To me, the mountains are there to be savoured and enjoyed, an escape from the pressures of life and work.

It seems that these walks simply replace one kind of stress with another. Looking at all these people climbing to the summit, almost every one looked unhappy and simply trudging on, not stopping on the summit to enjoy the panorama on a wonderful day. You hear increasing stories of problems both on the walk and around the start/end points. People not understanding the rigours and discipline required to undertake these walks and how to thrive and survive. And they fill up my car park spot! 🙂

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I also noted the route they were taking wasn’t going over Cribyn. Another failing of such walks is they often miss the best bits. Cribyn is one of the highlights of the Brecon Beacons and a far better summit than Pen y Fan. Its just not the highest point you see. Their loss and my gain as there was only a handful of people on the summit which I chose for a long stop and a brew.

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It was such a fine day that it was an easy decision to climb Fan y Big as well. Another high quality summit that sees a a fraction of the people that Pen y Fan does.

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The wander along its southern ridge in winter is a delight as the low angle picks out the features and small patches of water.

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The classic view along the northern escarpment of the Beacons.

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The continuation of that escarpment is one of the best sections but I was running short on time so I cut the corner off back towards the edge of Craig y Fan Ddu.

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Its a soggy section but there is small rocky outcrop in the middle with super views to the South. Time for another sit down and take in the late afternoon ambience.

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Edges with deep valleys beneath is the order of the day in the Beacons and swapping north for south gives another perspective. This edge and valley of Caerfanell is one of my favourites as well.

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This section of path perched above a steep drop is sensational and on this late evening a simple joy.

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Its a steep drop down to the road and I thought I’d save myself a bit of that by cutting the corner off across to the road.

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Its a horrid, lumpy and soggy path so I have no idea why I did it again. It was worse than before, even wetter and with the sun so low that my head was staring straight into it while my feet were in dark shadow. I lurched and cursed my way back to the road. Thank goodness it saved me 3-4 minutes of walking!

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A magnificent day and so good to finally see and feel something of a winter vibe.

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Brecon Beacons Farewell   6 comments

The last weekend at home before TJS went back to University and chance for a last walk together for a while. He’d been keen to try the Snowdon Horseshoe but when I told him the time we’d have to get up, his keen-ness diminished. Given the choice he opted for a Brecon Beacons classic.

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The route up from the car park above the Talybont Reservoir, along the edges above the Caerfanell valley, round to Fan y Big and Cribyn and back down the Roman Road.

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A route we’ve done many times and the long walk perched along the edges above deep valleys is perfect for a blustery late summer day

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We got caught up amongst a large group other walkers who set off while we were halfway through their party who then proceeded to walk along without stepping aside and letting us past. Is it just me that thinks that’s a breach of hiker etiquette.

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Still, can’t let it spoil a great day.

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Turning westwards the views change to vistas across most of mid-Wales as far as Pumlumon and Cadair Idris.

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And of course the summit of South Wales, Pen y Fan.

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We stopped for lunch in sheltered spot on the slopes of Fan y Big before the steep climb and perfect edge along to the summit of Cribyn, one of the Beacons finest peaks.

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Returning to the col, its the long walk along the old road past the Neuadd Reservoirs although the larger one has been dry for many years now, such that it’s pretty much back to how it must have looked before its creation.

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As we passed the lower lake, the path was closed and lots of building and engineering work in evidence. Perhaps there is something wrong with the dams and they are repairing them. Remains to be seen whether that’s true and whether it’s better to see the valley in its natural state or with the dams and reservoirs restored. Having spent many of younger years exploring the Elan valley, I have a fondness for these dams and the landscape they create. There is something elegant about these Victorian constructions.

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Back along the Taff trail and along the road to finish the day. Next weekend the prodigal son returned to University and his own life as we faced the dwindling summer and a long winter that seems exceptionally long after two back to back weekends of dreary grey skies and rain.

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“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.

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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

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

A Cold Day in Hell   10 comments

Well not exactly but I liked the title for the post. The rest of the family were otherwise engaged or just too lazy to make the effort so I went out alone to find some snow to walk on. The Brecon Beacons were calling and a ridge and approach I’d never done before. I set off from Llanfrynach (twice, having left my walking poles propped against a wall in the village) and headed up towards Gist Wen.

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The day started brightly but heaver showers rolled in as I climbed. Once clear of the trees I reached the first few patches of snow and the wind picked up

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There was a mix of stormy views and brighter skies but far too cold and windy to stop.

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By the time I reached the edge the snow was deep and crisp and even. Although there was a brutally cold wind I love walking in wild conditions so I was a happy chap

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There were a few fleeting views to keep my very brisk pace going. A proper wild wintry day to contrast the warm sunshine of our Xmas walks

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I stopped just below the summit of Fan y Big for a snack but it was way too cold to brew up. It was also a longer walk than I thought and time was pressing. I had to make a swift exit if I wasn’t to finish in the dark

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Whilst the day had been mostly cloudy, I struck lucky as that day drew to a close. The skies cleared enough to create some wonderful light effects and skies

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The illuminated clouds over the Black Mountains were especially fetching

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After dropping off the end of the Cefn Cyff ridge, I followed the paths across the fields and along the valley of  Nant Menasgin. Its a lovely quiet stretch along the river and meadows and back into Llanfrynach. I was weary and fulfilled as I reached the car in the fading light

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