Archive for the ‘nant bwch’ Tag

Another Solo Wild Camp   11 comments

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Back a couple of weeks before the weather turned too hot to venture into the outdoors with a heavy pack, I took another Friday night out in the mountains. I wished for a bit of breeze to keep temperatures and insects at bay and certainly got my wish.

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A glorious evening of clear skies and warm sunshine. I chatted to a lady van-camping in the car park with her very friendly Jack Russell pup chewing my laces. No sign of the promised breeze as I set off.

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It was a hot climb through the fly infested bracken as I headed for a summit pitch on Pen y Gadair Fawr. Still no breeze and I felt that the midges were eying me up for a buffet supper

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As I crested the top, the breeze finally kicked in. Less a breeze than a very significant and very chilly wind that I was struggling to stand up in

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It would have made a superb summit camp, lots of flat thick grass but it was just too cold to enjoy the surroundings. I’d also hoped to pick up some water, figuring that at least one of the numerous springs that rise on the summit would be running. No such luck. I decided press on in the hope of finding a sheltered spot

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Trouble its a pretty exposed spot up here and the wind was roaring and grass is in short supply. The compensation was that it was cool and walking along a high level ridge in the late evening is a simple joy

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The bog cotton was giving everything an almost frost-like feeling. The photos can’t do justice to how beguiling it was

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They have massively improved the paths up here so I made swift progress over Waun Fach without ever finding a respite from the wind. I tried a few grassy groughs, but none were suitable

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Eventually I had to plunge a hundred metres or so down the Y Grib Ridge and found a sort of level pitch on a terrace of deep lush grass. What it lacked in comfort it more than made up for with a  superb sunset vista

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There was just enough wind to keep the insects at bay without it being too cold and I sat outside, read and drank many brews of tea before turning in well past 11pm

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Tough to tear yourself away from views like this

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I expected a blazing sun to cook the tent and have me outside early. I awoke at 8am with no sign of the sun. I was in the cloud again. Looking up was clear blue though and the sky was surely to clear and on queue as the water boiled for my last cuppa before I ran out of water, it did

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It was an amazing morning. The east wind had cleared any haze from the air and the sky between the wispy clouds was a deep azure blue. Pen y Fan and Beacons poked above the cloud and I thought of TBF on her 25 mile sponsored walk around the range. She was on Pen y Fan summit round about the time I too this photo

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I decided to walk all around the escarpment to Lord Hereford’s Knob and on a day like this it was amazing. It really puts a spring in the step to have views like this to accompany you and I covered the ground swiftly

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There were several D of E groups out most of whom seemed cheerfully incompetent, walking in various directions none which seemed to be the right one!

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I topped out on the Knob and where the panorama across the Wye valley is breathtaking

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Despite the glorious day I had this very popular and easily accessible summit to myself but it was still very windy and bit chilly. Added to the fact I’d not had breakfast and had no water pushed me onwards to resupply and take on calories

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I had to walk much further down the Nant Bwch stream before the water was flowing sufficiently well to be drinkable. I found a fine spot and set about making my bacon sandwiches and several cups of tea to re-hydrate

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I had thought about dropping down to Capel y Ffin and walking back over the ridge to the car. The fact that out of the wind it was still really hot had me thinking of a better plan. I retraced my steps back toward the edge and the curved off towards the summit of Twyn Talycefn.

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The strong breeze was keeping the skies clear and the temperatures perfect for walking. Much better to be up high in weather like this

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Looking back to the ridge I’d walked the previous evening

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I dropped down to the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir with an idea of a sneaky swim.

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I don’t normally like swimming in reservoirs as they do have their dangers but I found a stunning little spot on the banks and took a short dip without straying too far into the water.

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Another cup of tea seemed in order as I felt like I had the whole place to myself.

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Then it was a simple matter of the long walk back down past the dam to the car

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A nice easy angled path to finish the day with grand views back to the dam and the deep greens of the valley under the still totally clear sky

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Another superb one-nighter although I would have enjoyed a bit of company as I’ve done most of this years trips solo. 15-16 miles over the two days with the aimless wandering I did looking for a pitch and just enjoying being out.

Black Mountain Backpack

May be the last such trip for a while. The last couple of weeks have been just too hot and sultry for walking so I’ve been getting my exercise in the water with some wild swimming, more of which in future posts. Then its holiday time for me and the family as we head to Wales and France for some sociable fun with friends

 

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Spring Interlude   12 comments

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The Beasts from the East seem to have had domain over the British weather this year with another one apparently on the horizon for Easter. How pleasant it was then for a walk that didn’t involve putting on goggles and burying my head in a waterproof. The rest of the family were otherwise engaged so a solo walk in one of my favourite parts of the Black Mountains.

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Parking was full in Capel y Ffin so I headed up the very narrow lane in the Nant Bwch valley. Where you reach open fell there is plenty of off-road parking. As I’d be walking back that way anyway it made no difference to the route. It was a glorious day and warm enough to ditch warm hats for a baseball cap to keep the sun off

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I dropped into the village having decided to do the route the other way around from how I’ve tackled it before.

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The best part of the route is a splendid path that traverses between the fields and the open fell. I’ve always walked this stretch at the end of the day when it’s in shadow. This time it was in warm sunshine and its an absolute pleasure

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Despite the number of cars in the village and on the valley road, I saw no-one. Not sure why I’ve never seen anyone on this path as it’s an obvious route and a joy to walk

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Lost in my own thoughts and in the views of fell and field I ate up the miles as the path slowly climbs onto the shoulder of Bal Mawr

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It was half past lunchtime when I reached the ridge so I hunkered down in a heather and horse manure filled hollow for lunch. The views across Ysgyryd Mawr and the Sugar Loaf, all the way to the Severn Estuary and the Mendips were extensive

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So began the long back along the ridge paralleling my route in the valley below

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Its a fine ridge and the miles continued to roll by

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It was clear and sunny but the clouds were starting to fill in and it was chilly in the breeze

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Always hard not look self-conscious and concerned whenever I take a selfie

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The stretch that leads along towards the north edge of the Black Mountains escarpment is a bit of trudge and a boggy one at that.

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Time for a brief rest while sun was out

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Once above the higher reaches of the Nant Bwch valley I cut off from the path across country and back down to the path home. It looked a little rough but I managed to thread together a mix of sheep and pony tracks that made a rather easy route

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Quite surprised to see this walk ended up over 13 miles. My knees, feet and hips were feeling it by the end. A fine warm day before another spell of winter

Madcap Backpack in the Black Mountains   8 comments

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I’ve been making promises to myself to get out and do more back packing and wild camping. I read lots of blogs and trip reports about cracking trips, mostly short to take advantage of quality weekend time but I never seem to get around to it. That’s all going to change. Armed with a new tent and after a rushed packing/eating session we’d eaten tea and were out walking in the Black Mountains by 6pm

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It was great to be out after work. Less than two hours after shutting the lid on my work laptop at home I was on my way up the Cats Back ridge

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As we raced up the sun went down

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The light was spectacular and of course at this time on a Friday we had this most wonderful ridge to ourselves

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We hurried on past the trig pillar on Black Hill towards our intended overnight stop

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I’d had my eye on a spot a mile so beyond for several years. A small sheltered area of grass just off the path. Its always been dry but after the recent snowfall and heavy rain it was very soggy. We managed to get the tent up and settled inside just as it got dark.

Also had a new tent to play with. Since the demise of my Quasar I don’t have a two-person tent (other than my Lightwave which is really for 3 people and is pretty heavy). Bring on the Nigor Parula 2. I’m pretty impressed as it’s amazingly light for a two-person tent (around 1.8kg) and fits my needs for two porches and an ability to sit up in comfort. I’m still getting used to its pitching subtleties (especially the porches to stop them sagging) but so far so good. It did pass my first major test in that the very light and thin groundsheet was pitched on some seriously wet ground without any water ingress. I should however point out that seriously impressive tents are seriously expensive!

Not the driest or flattest pitch but we slept well through a cold night.

We woke the next morning to a frosty and damp tent and glorious sunshine

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I left TJS to snooze while I wandered about to soak up the scene. I can almost see our village from the top but it felt a world away up here.

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I smiled as abundantly as the sun shone, and settled down for a hearty and not very healthy breakfast of bacon butties and jaffa cakes. TJS joined me eventually and we savoured the morning and a long leisurely feast

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Packed and ready for the off we considered our route. It was only a one night outing as I’d planned some cycling in the Peak District the following day. Originally we were just going out to Hay Bluff before returning to the car via a round of the Olchon Valley. As the weather was so grand we decided to extend the walk by taking in Lord Herefords Knob and heading back to the car via Capel y FFin

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The high level path along to Hay Bluff was superb

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The views from the summit over the Wye Valley to the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountain even better

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We both seemed untroubled by the heavier packs than we’d use for a day walk and made swift and easy progress to the summit of LHK.

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The views were still superb but there was a very keen and very cold wind so we didn’t linger. Rather than walk along the Darren Lwyd ridge, right into the wind we opted for the Nant Bwch valley for some shelter

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Its a lovely valley with a series of small waterfalls and grassy patches for a lunch stop. Make a decent camp as well although its only a few minutes from the end of the road

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The Vale of Ewyas is one of the finest valleys in the UK in my opinion. A walk along it or above it as always a pleasure especially on a warm sunny day. Spring really did feel in the air down here

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The downside of the walk extension was having to climb up, over and down one of the Black Mountains main ridges. Sheltered from the wind it was a steep and sweaty climb. I was beginning to think I should have brought shorts

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That changed swiftly as we reached the ridge. We were exposed to the wind and thoughts of shorts turned to thoughts of hats and gloves. It was bitterly cold and we had to move quickly to descend the other side to try and reach shelter from the next ridge

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Ample compensation was provided in the views across the pastoral Herefordshire countryside and the ridge we’d walked the night before

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One last steep descent and one last final climb back up to the car completed a very fine short overnight adventure.

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TJS hasn’t been out much recently and he really seemed to enjoy the trip and the long walk in the sunshine. He’s badly out of shape though and was stiff for the next day or so and struggling to keep up with the old man on the ascents. He does take over on the downhill bits but I have my bad knees excuse for that

First part of adventurous weekend for me. More two-wheeled outdoor action planned for the Sunday

More Black (and Brown and Blue) Mountains   8 comments

Another weekend day off and another very plain an ordinary forecast that delivered much, much more.

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

“Mainly cloudy with occasional sunshine” said the forecast, so I lay in and got up late for a short stroll with TJS. It was 11 by the time we were walking having chosen a brief stroll along Chwarel y Fan above Capel y Ffin and the Vale of Ewyas. When we arrived the day was completely cloudless with a very keen breeze. With such good conditions we decided to lengthen the walk and include the valley of the Nant Bwch – it’s very fine as you’ll see.

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

A path that climbs the first few hundred feet of Darren Lwyd and then traverses under its south west flanks delivers you to the road head and into the valley. It’s a steep sided, waterfall filled, hidden treasure. On this late winter day, the browns and ochres were superb, highlighted by the blue sky.

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Its another of those parts of the Black Mountains I’ve not been too much. Despite living in the area for a dozen years now this is only the second time I’ve walked here (the previous time, a dark and gloomy January day). I think more visits for walking and chilling, picnicing by the river are in order

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Rather than head all the way to the northern edges we cut off off-piste up the shallow valley of the Nant Uchaf. I figured we might get some shelter from the wind for lunch, and it was so.

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

It was a rather boggy and somewhat tedious trudge up onto the main ridge from there but fun in its own way. Good for soul and for TJS a confirmation that there isn’t always a path where you want to go – and nor should there be of course

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

When we hit the ridge we hit the wind. Normally on a windy day you get gusts of wind with calmer spells. This was just a constant wall of wind at a strong and steady pace . It really was quite amazing. Not quite strong enough to blow you over but strong enough to make you lean most of the time to avoid that eventuality

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

You can see that from some of the photos

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

It was still such a fine day that we decided, after reaching the summit of Chwarel y Fan, that we’d push on down the ridge rather than return right to the car. The views were sensational and the skies still abundantly clear and blue

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Days like this really are too good to miss.It really is a most excellent ridge and like almost all of the Black Mountains pretty much deserted. It feels narrow and it is in a way as the crest sits a few feet above the sprawling moors

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

What I should have done is check the time before I made the call to extend the walk. It’s a very long way back to Capel y Ffin from the end of the ridge at Bal Mawr and we were supposed to be home for an appointment with a shepherd’s pie and a chance to see TBF acting her little socks off in a bit of am-dram. It was nearly 4pm at end of the ridge and we were clearly going to be late.

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

We hadn’t really stopped for a couple of hours due to the wind so we were footsore. It would have been perfect spot for a rest and watch the magnificent trooping of the colours on the mountains but we had push on at a pretty brisk rate to ensure we were home on time or at least close enough not to incur the wrath of the funsters, the senior one in particular

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

In truth we weren’t able to enjoy the gently descending and traversing path that returns to the village as much as we’d like. I’d forgotten just how far it is and it always seems further with tired legs and feet and the pressure of a ticking clock. Still the final views as the light faded were some reward for our pain and stress.

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

Chwarel y Fan, nant uchaf, nant bwch, capel y ffin, vale of ewyas, darren lywd, bal mawr, black mountains

It was a long and tiring walk though, undertaken at a very brisk and relentless pace, good for TJS mountain skills, bad for my knees

12.5 Miles

12.5 Miles

All ended happily ever after. We weren’t too late, the funsters didn’t get stroppy, the shepherd’s pie was excellent as was TBF’s performance in Gaslight

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