On a cold clear winters day the best time to be out is early morning. Having convinced TJS into an early start we settled on a route around Cwn Banw in the Black Mountains, one of my favorites. We were walking at just after 8am and it was a glorious albeit chilly morning at -5C
The silhouettes of the trees are always something that fascinates me and this morning at the early hour was a great time to capture them
The low morning sun also lights up the bracken and heather to very dramatic effect. It seems to glow with a warm deep brown contrasting to the frosty cold air
The plan was to breakfast on Table Mountain (this allows the early start and is also a rather fine thing to do). Even though the air was cold even in winter the sun has a little warmth. What we hadn’t banked on was the surprisingly strong wind that turned the chilly air into an a more arctic feel
Luckily Table Mountain has a terrace below its sloping flat top and we found a great spot in the sun but sheltered by the wind and overlooking the Usk Valley and the Brecon Beacons
Is there a finer way to spend a winters morning than a freshly cooked bacon sandwich and cup of tea overlooking the mountains under a deep blue sky? Answers on a postcard please
The pimple of the Sugar Loaf prominent in these parts as always
We ambled back over the grassland of Table Mountain and then onwards towards the higher summits
It really was most extraordinarily cold in the very strong wind. I would love one of those portable Kestrel weather stations but I estimated that with an air temperature a few degrees below freezing and the strong wind, the windchill must have been around -15C. We certainly didn’t stop!
We summited Pen Cerrig Calch from where the views were equally magnificent
Our goal of Pen Allt Mawr visible in the distance
A long and bracing walk along the edges above Cwm Banw brought us to the summit where we found a little shelter to admire the views once more
The views over Mynydd Troed and Mynydd Llangorse were especially fine from here
A pretty decent sunburst shot with some vapor trails to add interest
From here its always tempting to make a long round and include the main summits of the Black Mountains themselves. My knees aren’t really up for that at the moment and forecast was for increasing cloud through the day. No sense spoiling a great day so we plodded down the very fine and very frozen ridge of Tal Trwynau, pausing at the end for a final stop and snack in the sunshine
These two photos show what its like to go hiking with a 21st Century teenager. Head always looking down at their phone, lest they miss a vital social media message.
Over the fields and back to the car to finish a superb day out
Well here’s a first, writing up a blog post the same day I did the walk. Never see the like of these days again once my summer hols kick in next week.
Another supermarket breakfast and another day in the hills to follow. This one a very similar trip to one we did with GM a couple of winters back. This time a more detailed exploration of Mynydd Llangorse and its far western ridge.
We parked up in Cwmdu and headed across the fields taking in the sights, sounds, smells, scratches and stings of the bracken
Small in height but large in area, Mynydd Llangorse is a wild upland heathland. Off the beaten track we had the whole mountain to ourselves save a few ponies and couple of cyclists
It’s a place to clock up long walks and we ticked off the miles as we strode on to its broad summit. The views across Llangorse Lake to the Beacons were very fine indeed.
After a brief rest on Cockit Hill we were off up Mynydd Troed, slightly higher but packing a mighty wallop of a steep slope to the top. The Bracken that clothes the lower slopes in these parts gives everything a stunning verdant hue. Much more pleasing on the eye from a distance than when you are bashing through it at close quarters
We headed off down the fine summit ridge before a session of the aforementioned bracken bashing on the lower slopes mixed in with a healthy smattering of nettles and head high thistles. Why I insist on wearing shorts round these parts in summer I’ll never know
We concluding the day with a long plod down the knee-jarringly hard minor lane that skirts the eastern slopes of Mynydd Llangorse but the sun was warm and the views stunning
An uneventful day of easy walking on two of the quietest mountains in this wonderful range I call home
The Xmas and New Year holiday had one overriding theme – RAIN – loads of it. This was I think the only day while I was off work when it didn’t rain at some point. Me and TJS made the most of it with a walk in the SW corner of the Black Mountains. By way of contrast me and TBF did pretty much the same walk in late September a couple of years ago in a mini-heatwave withe temperatures in the high 20’s. Route map and descriptions are in that post for the factual amongst you.
This time we had to amend the walk as the small parking space was full so some road walking was needed. We headed up direct onto Table Mountain past a couple of rather nice holiday cottages where much Xmas celebration had been going on judging the piles of bottles by the cars waiting to be taken out. The sky was a deep blue and the autumnal views (we haven’t really had a winter this year) were sublime
Up on Table Mountain there were groups of people watching the beagles following a trail on the hills
The summit of Pen Cerrig Calch there were flecks of snow to remind us that despite the warm start it was winter
The walking up here is easy and we covered good ground looking for a spot out of the wind for lunch. We managed to find a ledge near the top of Pen Allt Mawr tucked into the heather
We had an excellent view over Mynydd Llangorse and Mynydd Troed that we climbed last New Year
The Sugar Loaf with its prominent summit held my gaze and my lens all day especially as it caught the late afternoon sun
It wasn’t a day for stopping. Daylight is in short supply in December and this walk pushes ten miles. We managed to get back down to the road before it got dark. The long tramp back down the road to the car was pleasant in the encroaching darkness as we chatted over a fine expedition. Total darkness had enveloped us as we reached the car. An excellent and dry day, a rarity in the months that followed
Our New Year weather luck seemed to be holding and we had a reasonable forecast for the 30th so we planned another day out with me, GM and D while TBF and L stayed at home. We pored over the maps of the local hills and GM picked out Mynydd Llangorse and Mynydd Troed as being off the beaten track and therefore worth a visit. We picked a route to combine both with a round of Cwm Sorgwm. The plan was set, the sandwiches made (more turkey) and we were off.
The effects of the wet weather were immediately apparent. The stile from the road onto the fields was a running stream that gave an interesting little start to the day.
“Now I like paths, but I also like streams. But which one is best? There’s only one way to find out…”
Mynydd Llangorse lower slopes
We were heading up to the path that skirts the eastern slopes of Mynydd Llangorse to pick up the south ridge. It started promisingly as it weaved amongst the bracken and then promptly vanished. It was an easy decision from there, a mile or so of traversing through deep bracken and brambles or straight up to the top? Straight up it was, D was completely thrown by the steepness and the battle through the undergrowth.
Welcome to the jungle
A breather and a drink
I just told him this was all part of the mountain experience. It was only a few hundred feet in reality and soon over.
A face that says “are you sure that’s it!”
Once up on the plateau-like summit area of Pen Tir we picked up a succession of sheep tracks that led past a couple of nice tarns onto one of the more substantial paths that criss-cross the fairly vast upland mountain.
Mynydd Troed from Pen Tir
Tarn on Pen Tir
I walked up the northern part of the mountain several years ago but don’t have fond memory of it. I think I picked a poor route down through deep heather and I was carrying L on my back. Today the broad green paths made for great walking in the strong winds. We stopped for a snack by a natural spring and took a drink from the fresh clear waters which excited D immensely.
The top can be one of several spots depending on your inclination and we pressed on for a sheltered spot for lunch. We found a perfect one at the top of the north ridge and took a long look at our second target for the day, Mynydd Troed. From our lunch spot the north ridge (named on the map as Cockit Hill) down to the col was excellent, relatively narrow and airy.
Cockit Hill and Mynydd Troed
Mynydd Llangorse and Cockit Hill
Mynydd Llangorse and Cockit Hill
The climb to the top of Mynydd Troed was exceptionally steep and D was feeling the pace a little as GM left us behind. The wind was ferocious as we arrived on the top for an interesting father and son moment. Mynydd Troed was my very first mountain back in 1977 when I was a mere 10 years old and this was my first time back. 35 years on it was nice for D to be able to share this little private reverie of mine.
Father and Son on Mynydd Troed
Not the kind of weather to be hanging around so we pressed on down the summit ridge, a really pleasant high level stroll and completely deserted. The skies were darkening, no doubt the poor weather forecast for New Years Eve on it’s way.
D and GM on Mynydd Troed
GM descends Mynydd Troed
We found a succession of thin paths down through the bracken on the south slopes to reach the access path. D was relieved as he had no wish to descend a similar slope to the one we’d climbed in the morning – to be honest neither was I! A simple stroll back down the lane and main road completed a fine day. Like a few routes I’ve discovered it doesn’t seem to appear in any guidebooks but other than a little road walking (and some bracken bashing) it’s an excellent route
At the end of the day
A trip back to where it all began for me. Back in 1977, it was a truly atrocious day from what I recall, heavy rain and no views. The summit moments were enlivened by my teachers assertion that it was a volcano and the slight depression in which sits the summit cairn was it’s crater – needless to say we all believed him. Teachers eh! We spent the rest of the day in a tent in Talgarth, soaked through. I absolutely loved it. Funny to think that mountain climbing would be at the core of my life since then and that 35 years on I’d be standing on the same summit reliving the memory with my son. I hope he keeps his enthusiasm and that perhaps he too will return to the summit here with his own kids and pass the story on.