Archive for the ‘pen y fan’ 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
I’m done now with being smug about our holiday in the sun over Xmas. What was needed was some proper winter weather, snow, clear blue skies and all that. Not done too bad since the wet and windy first half of the winter.
This is a walk me and TJS have done many times. Whenever there is snow we always to head to the high Brecon Beacons to take full advantage. The amount of snow caught me out on the drive with the roads completely covered to the outskirts of Merthyr and a very slippery drive up to the car park
The round of the main high summits of Pen y Fan, Corn du and Cribyn from the south is a fantastic outing if you can look past the crowds on Pen y Fan. It was a glorious morning, cold, clear and crisp.
As soon as we started the climb the snow became quite surprisingly deep. Very hard work on the steep slopes up to the ridge
Even harder work along the ridge trying to find the spots where the snow was hard or less deep. Some of the drifts in the peat hags were a few feet deep.
The forecast had been good for the day but a heavy bank of cloud was moving in fast and we had a few nice sunlight effects before it disappeared for the day
As we approached the summit of Corn Du the crowds became almost unreal. Most of South Wales seemed to be walking up Pan y Fan from the Storey Arms. Never understood the popularity of this route even allowing for the fact that its on a main road. There are several fine ridges onto the summit and yet this is a dreary boggy trudge.
There was the usual mix of seasoned walkers and seriously ill-equipped people in wellies, trainers and fashion boots. It takes a real effort of will to tell myself that everyone should be encouraged to explore the mountains and crowds like this are a price probably worth paying if people are out in the mountains rather than festering inside watching TV (something I never do obviously). Just not all at the same time! 🙂
Once we were on Pen y Fan it became clear there was some kind of challenge walk in progress. Again there were a mix of serious looking walkers and fell runners and lots of people who looked like they wished they had stayed home and festered in front of the TV
The north face of Pen y Fan also seemed to be in condition for winter climbs and there were several parties in the steep gullies and on alpine style ridges between
Many people seemed to be out on the slopes to go sledging. Lots of people were dragging sledges around and some people had snowboards, skis and even a converted skateboard (he spent a lot of time on his ar5e in the snow). I later learned that all these people had caused chaos on the main road by parking on the verges. The police ticketed hundreds of people and it was a big local talking point for a few weeks (until more interesting stories about a cat stuck in a tree and the price of silage pride of place)
Even though the weather had turned very grey we took in Fan y Big as well. This avoids a long trudge back down the track and extended the snowy walking experience
Quite a contrast with the warm sun and clear skies of Tenerife but to be honest, you can’t beat a decent walk in the snow with a couple of thousand people 🙂
The first signs of spring are in the air but it’s still winter on the blog
Back in February we reached a pivotal moment in the family. As you know TJS is very much the mountain man like his Mom and Dad. TJF is however less keen. On this weekend we had a breakthrough. Not the one I’d hoped for but better than nothing. Rather than trailing along behind us on a family walk all day, TJF insisted she could be left alone for the day so the rest of us could go for a proper walk. Far from being a sacrifice she was more than happy to be given her independence and spend the day playing on her iPad and heading into town with one of her friends to spend my – sorry – her money. The chances of her joining us on days out in future seem slim but as long she’s happy that’s the main thing
The forecast for the weekend was bland. Grey and overcast with a chance of sunshine. Saturday was accurate so we plumped for Sunday and the morning looked promising so we headed for the Brecons to find some winter snow to walk on. As we reached the mountains the clouds evaporated and we were treated to a spectacularly good day. The forecast often sells you short with promises of sunshine that never materialises so today was pay-back
We parked up on the northern side of the range with a plan to climb Cribyn and Pen y Fan. It’s a longish traverse to get to the base of Cribyn but the almost warm sun made it real pleasure. The views across to the Black Mountains were particularly fine.
We could see the main summits capped by snow making a fine contrast with the spring-green fields.
After the long climb up the road we emerged into warm sunshine under a deep blue sky with snow-capped mountains behind. Days just don’t get better than this especially when it comes as a surprising contrast to what was expected.
The views were just spectacular and the snow gave Cribyn and Pen y Fan an altogether more dramatic feel.
We lunched in the sunshine just below the steep climb up Cribyn. I managed to knock over my stove while brewing up forcing me to melt snow to get another. Bear Grylls – nowhere! 🙂
Cribyn looked majestic, standing much taller than its modest height with its winter gear on.
The climb up the north ridge is brutally steep, but today, interesting hard packed snow on the path. On days like this the sun and sky simply pull you up and the summit seems only a couple of steps away.
We exchanged smiles of good fortune and pressed on – it’s a long descent and an even longer climb back up Pen y Fan
The gullies and ridges on Pen y Fan’s crumbling north face are little visited in normal conditions but in winter they are climbers delight. There were several people snow/ice climbing. I was fondly reminiscing of my younger days when I used to climb these sorts of things. Sadly I think those days are behind me as I don’t possess either the fitness or sound knees for such madness. These days I’m content to watch and admire and take an altogether more sedate approach to my outdoor enjoyment
As always on a sunny day Pen y Fan was crowded but when the weather and views are this good the crowds just seem to fade and you don’t see them. You just see your own companions and their pleasure with a grand day. Needless to say the views were sensational.
A few minutes of care was needed on the descent of the summit rocks, hard compacted snow making for some interesting movements. We passed several people still on the way up looking very unhappy and uncomfortable. They may look and feel easy under normal conditions but underestimate these mountains in winter at your peril.
The walk down the long north ridge of Pen y Fan was simply wonderful. Blue sky, crisp air, warm sunshine and the crunch of snow underfoot is a pretty damn fine feeling.
One of those days when you just want to stay high and for the views to last forever. We wandered, stopped, paused and eked out as much time as we could before we reluctantly dropped out of the sun, into the cold shadows and back to the car.
The best day of the winter bar none. If only TJF could learn to enjoy it as the rest of us do. I live in hope
It’s worth doing it again!
A picture dominated post this time. I did this identical walk a year or so back in pretty much identical conditions and wrote it all up. Which also tells you that the main reason it’s photos only is that I can’t be bothered to write the same old stuff down again and bore you senseless with my stream of prose.
Safe to say it was a cracking good day full of blue sky and abundant sunshine.
If you want some words to accompany this then you can read my first post here. The music on the slideshow is much better 🙂
My mate GM has recently moved south to Worcester and I’d been keen to show off some more of the local mountains. He came down for a weekend just after New Year and the Saturday coincided with decent forecast so together with trusty sidekick, TJS we headed for a day on the high peaks of the Brecon Beacons. Me and TJS had done a similar route about a year ago in snow so a repeat was in order. You can read about that trip here.
There were clouds hugging the summits when we set off in a cold wind but plenty of blue sky filled gaps and our hopes were high. The morning views were grand.
We cut the corner off to hit the edge as direct as we could and although we avoided the bog the slope was lung-bustingly steep. Advantage was that we were quickly up high and to see the summits and sky clearing. It was turning into a cracker.
We made swift progress along the ridge towards Corn Du where we saw the gathering masses. both Corn Du and Pen y Fan were smothered with people but it was far too good a day to be worried about crowds and when you have a 360 blue sky panorama on a crystal sharp day, they seem to melt into the background.
We had a lovely sheltered lunch on the slopes of Pen y Fan, playing plane spotting with my phone app to pass the time
We avoided the crowds on the climb to Cribyn by hugging the northern edge. There is a fine grassy shelf about halfway up that just begs a wild camp (NB, bring water!). The views just got better and clearer as we crested Cribyn and strolled along the edge.
Our plan had been to head down from there, but the weather was so stupendous that we just carried on up to Fan y Big.
As we sat for a snack on the summit we discussed the possible chance that the Northern Lights were supposed to be visible that night. Almost on a whim we decided to stay up high for as long as we could.
We wandered around on the summit and watched the sun turn the whole landscape a mixture of glorious golden reds and browns as it set. The Moon was big in the sky and I managed to get some pretty decent shots including some aircraft shots, not too shabby seeing as I didn’t have a tripod and these were hand-taken.
It was absolutely magnificent. An hour rushed by and I reeled of loads of photos of hills and sunset alike. No sign of the Northern Lights but to be honest they would have had to have been pretty special to beat the light show we were looking at now.
Eventually the cold and ensuing darkness forced us to head down – that and the fact there was a roast dinner waiting for us. The bright moonlight made walking in the dark an easy process although TJS wasn’t all that keen. I kept telling him it was good practice but he didn’t seem to get it 🙂
We were back at the car in total darkness, tired but massively fulfilled after a terrific day. We watched for the Northern Lights all the way home and from the garden through the evening but never saw them. To be honest they weren’t missed!
More demands from TJS for “proper” walks and another sunny window in this gloomiest and wettest of winters. I let him choose the route today and he wanted to climb the comically named Fan y Big in the Brecon Beacons approaching from the east along the northern escarpment.
We’ve walked many times on these western reaches as they are much quieter than the main summits but I can only recall doing this particular route once before on a really crap day a couple of winters back. This day was looking much more promising.
Only downside of this walk is it starts with an immediate and punishing steep climb to the edge of Craig y Fan Ddu. One to really to get the lungs and the leg muscles working. Upside is you get the views immediately with no forest or fields to bash through and the waterfalls along the side of the path provide interest.
Once up on the edge the views are majestic with the huge Caerfanell valley beneath you and a sumptuous level walk right along the edge that allows you take it all in. One of my favourite stretches of mountain walking both in south Wales or in fact anywhere. I can’t recommend the walks around here highly enough.
The edge continues along Graig Fan Las until it suddenly emerges on the northern escarpment. The views east and south towards the south of Wales and across the Bristol Channel to Somerset and Devon and replaced with views north and west across the Usk and Wye valleys to mid-Wales, Shropshire and the southern mountains of Snowdonia.
The high summits of Pen y Fan, Corn Ddu and Cribyn also catch the eye and they were the magnets that pulled us along the next set of edges.
The walk to Fan y Big along the edges of Craig Cwareli and Craig Cwmoergwm is equally fine and equally quiet, following the swoops and curves of the edge before arriving quite suddenly on the summit of Fan y Big.
Not a summit in the true sense as it’s more just the end point of the long edge before the ridge heads north and the drop to the col before the climb to Cribyn. It’s a fine viewpoint and would have mad a great lunch stop had we not been so cold in the wind.
We dropped down the path a found a small grassy hollow for our refuelling, TJS taking sustenance from his now regular cup of hot chocolate.
We stopped for a good hour such was the warmth out of the wind, playing with my camera and just enjoying the scene.
We’d made good time and decided an ascent of Cribyn was also in order on such a grand day. After dropping to the col at Bwlch ar y Fan, the steep climb the long edge of Craig Cwm Cynwyn that curves to the summit is a fine one and the summit perched and prominent is cracker.
Shame that it’s very well-known and that you normally have to share it with the crowds so after a brief sit down we headed down.
I’d planned to traverse it and return along the path that skirts its southern flanks but it was such a fine day and the views so superb that we just retraced our steps along the edge and back down to the col.
It’s a very long plod down the old roman road along the Neuadd Valley and then the Taff trail and road back to the car. With the sun setting I barely noticed it.
The lightness of being after a great day on the hills is hard to comprehend sometimes. On the previous mention of this route I walked the same way in wet boots with sore feet and heavy heart and I hated every step. This time every step revealed a new vista, a different ray of light on a hillside, silhouettes of trees as the light faded.
I was disappointed to reach the car but a day to remember and let’s face it they have been few and far between this winter!
Some brief words on a little stroll we had in June. I’ve done this walk a couple of times, clockwise a couple of summer’s ago, anticlockwise last autumn. You can look at maps and lots of my wittering stream of written consciousness if you follow the links to the previous visits. You can see from those posts and the photos below that this is a little cracker of a walk.
Waterfalls on the Nant Bwrefwr
“Oh what a beautiful morning”
This was another clockwise journey with TJS and TBF. We took advantage of TJF staying at a friends for an early start. As a special treat I cooked me and TJS a bacon sandwich halfway up the hill by the stream. It was a lovely spot and great start to the day
Still time for a lesson learned though. Even with the little pot stand the heat given off by a Jetboil stove is ferocious. Enough to warp a Trangia frying pan, burn off its non-stick coating and melt the end of my daughter’s pink spork – she was not amused. Worth it for a cooked breakfast under a clear blue sky 🙂
Breakfast by the Nant Bwrefwr
We had to get back for a Scouts event for D so it was a brisk walk from there. It was a perfect day for walking, clear skies, abundant sunshine and a brisk wind to keep us cool
TBF on Craig-y-Fan Ddu
Caerfanell valley & Craig-y-Fan Ddu
The walk along the long edge above the Caerfanell Valley was simply superb
Caerfanell valley & Craig-y-Fan Ddu
Pen y Fan, Corn Du & Cribyn
The views across to the high summits of the Brecons and north to the perfect northern u-shaped valleys was as good as I can remember
North from Waun Rydd
Even the boggy bits were dry 🙂
Pen y Fan, Corn Du and Cribyn from Waun Rydd
Allt Llwyd, Sugar Loaf and Talybont Reservoir
As the route switches from the edges on both sides of the ridge so the views and aspect changes to great effect. The sense of height and space from these edges is something to behold. I love it up here
Edge from Gwalciau’r Cwm to Craig-y-Fan
As ever despite the perfect weather and the fact it was Saturday we saw hardly anyone. Pen y Fan would we mobbed on a day like this
Gwalciau’r Cwm from Waun yr Gorlan
The Caerfanell river and it’s waterfalls were as special as ever. Had we not been in a bit of a hurry I could have sat by the banks for hours.
At the bottom of the falls there were several families playing in the river with some light gorge scrambling. Something to remember when I need some water based fun in the summer. The usual sting in the tail of this walk is the steep climb through the trees back up to the car. It was pretty hot by then and we were all suffering a little from the brisk pace. This waterfall with its carpet of bluebells gave us a fitting finale to the walk
Bluebells by the waterfalls
Short and sweet but I’m now only 2 weekends behind in my posts. A couple of great backpacking trips to write-up. Shame I’m off to Wales for a week and then France for 3 weeks. Looks like I’ll be writing in the past for a couple of months yet 🙂