This was a very odd walk for me, for a number of reasons.
Firstly it was very ad-hoc. I spotted a good slot in the weather forecast and decided to go for it! I guess I had been getting itchy feet from my relative lack of activity this year.
The walk was so ad-hoc that it was the first one where I had driven to and from the destination. This is in complete contrast to my normal use of public transport. I was wondering whether driving after a long walk would be a good thing or not, but as it turned out, it didn’t affect my driving at all.
Another oddity was the food situation. There were no snacks on this walk. Just one pasty and that was it! In the event, this worked out quite well, though there were a few occasions where I was hankering after something to snack on. I guess old habits die hard!
The oddities also extended to the planning too… As in there wasn’t any! I simply used an off-the-shelf classic route as used by many other people. I guess the last minute nature of this walk meant that I didn’t have time to plan a decent unique route.
As it was a day walk – another unusual aspect – there wasn’t a lot to carry – just 7 kg of kit, around half of my normal load.
Unlike my other recent walks, this one is a day trip only. Kit weight with food and water was around 7 Kg – pretty light by my normal standards. I didn’t think I would need all the layers, but in the event, the high winds ensured that everything got used with the exception of the waterproof hardshell.
Even with such a light load, this walk did highlight my lack of fitness. After the Dartmoor walk earlier this year, my fitness regime had gone into decline. This was acutely felt during the walk. If anything, this walk was a wake up call to get myself back up to a peak level of fitness.
The map below shows the classic Brecon Beacons loop that I followed:
The full clockwise 18.3 km route with 1339 mtrs of ascent and 1201 mtrs of descent. The red spot on the left marks the start and end point.
As walks go, this one was pretty hilly!
Anyways, enough of the waffle, I’ll let the pictures tell the story:
In a first, I actually drive to my destination. I normally use a train for travel, but the last minute nature of this hike necessitated using the car!
The first stage is to follow the A470 road North Westward to pick up a trail heading up into the hills. This trail should be located by the Storey Arms – which rather unexpectedly was not a pub!
I soon get to sign pointing the way up to Pen y Fan. It’s going to be interesting to see how my relative lack of fitness is going to be impacted by hill climbing…
As I ascend I start to get great views onto the Beacons Reservoir to the South.
The first climb is up Y Gyrn up to around 590 mtrs elevation. Despite being on a well made track with a light load of around 7 kg, I’m finding it quite hard work. I guess my lack of recent fitness training is really making itself felt…
A glance behind me – it looks like I have already gained a fair bit of elevation.
I get to the high point of my journey up Y Gyrn. Up ahead in the distance is the distinctive shape of Corn Du at 873 mtrs elevation. That’s where I’m headed 🙂
I lose around 40 metres of hard-won elevation to get to the Blaen Taf Fawr stream. The crossing turns out to be pretty straight forward – just a case of hopping from stone to stone!
The main climb up to Corn Du is now on! The winds today are very strong – as a result I’m seeing the clouds rush by the peak up ahead. It’s a shame the still photos do not capture this!
I soon get to the point where the path I’m on joins the main one following the ridge of Craig Cwn Llwch.
As I climb up to the peak of Corn Du, I turn around to get this picture of Llyn Cwm Llwch. I find it very difficult to keep the camera steady due to the high winds.
The final climb up to the peak is on. One always gets an additional spurt of energy when one is this close!
Nearly there. I’m now wondering what I will see when I get up there!
I soon spot the cairn marking the top of this rather flat mountain. Despite my anti-social nature I end up sitting nearby to the other walker so as to get some respite from the very high winds.
After having some water and hot coffee, I start to make my way to Pen y Fan which is up ahead. This is another mountain with a distinctive flat top. At this point the main climbing has been done. This section of the walk should be a simple jaunt!
I’m entranced by the moving ‘God Rays’ to the South over the Blaen Taf Fechan stream.
It doesn’t take long to reach the top of Pen y Fan. Up ahead is the cairn marking its top. Alas, I have arrived too early in the morning. As a result the cloud hasn’t had a chance to burn off. However, unlike my previous walk up here, the high winds ensure that I do get occasional glimpses at the surrounding scenery!
Pen Y Fan!!! This is the highest point for today’s walk.
To the South West a lone walker and his dog start their descent down from Pen y Fan. The ‘God Rays’ are very much in evidence here too. I wish I had the presence of mind to actually film it.
I now start the descent down Pen y Fan to climb Cribyn at 795 mtrs which can be seen just up ahead on the left.
Today’s walk resulted in an ear to ear grin. I was so glad I jumped on the opportunity that this sunny weather slot provided! Behind me on the left is where I pitched my Akto tent on the first visit here.
I soon get to the bottom, but have to take a detour to go around the water. On my last trip, this was dried out which presented a problem as I needed water for cooking. Up ahead one can see the climb up to Cribyn. I had missed this mountain on the last walk due to running out of daylight – I was determined to make amends!
The climb up Cribyn is fairly steep and really takes it out of me. One thing this walk has taught me, is that one must stay fit between walks! I guess my exercise program will be restarted when I get back.
A look behind me toward Pen y Fan and Corn Du from right to left respectively. I have already gained a fair bit of elevation, but there is still a fair ways to go!
The top now feels like it is in reach!
The excellent view from the top of Cribyn looking Northward.
I now start my descent of Cribyn to the South East. The route follows the ridge edge of Craig Cwm Cynwyn down to the track that one can see in the saddle up ahead. That’s my next destination.
As I descend, I take a quick look behind me back up to Cribyn.
As I descend the winds start to reduce in intensity. I was rather glad of this as being close to the edge with high gusting winds leads to a feeling of unease.
I can now see the track I will be taking down to the Upper Neuadd Reservoir. This is the track I had walked up on my previous walk. The peak up ahead is Fan y Big and is alas not on the itinerary due to time constraints.
As I get near the bottom I see many soldiers climbing the mountain. I give them plenty of room as their packs look exceedingly heavy.
I chat with their leader on the way down, their packs weigh a staggering 42 kg!!! I’m not even sure I could lift that. The most I have ever carried was 20 kg and that was in Winter for a 5 day walk. I can’t imagine a load of double that weight. These guys are obviously exceedingly fit.
I soon get to the bottom and spot this sign. There is also a notice board, but it looks like it has fallen into disuse.
I’m now on the shallow descent down to the Upper Neuadd Reservoir which can just be seen to the centre right. There are no winds here, so I’m finding I’m starting to overheat, even after shedding my main fleece layer.
I soon get to the bottom and hang a right to take me down to the reservoir itself. Up ahead is what I know will be the toughest climb of the walk.
To my right is possibly the most Gothic Dam I have ever seen! Corn Du and Pen y Fan now look a long way away to the North.
This is a close up of the final main climb of the walk up to Twyn Mwyalchod. It’s the last steep bit near the top which looks like it’s going to score highly in the ‘fun’ ratings!
This is the view to the South from the Southern extremity of the Upper Neuadd Reservoir.
I’m now on the dam of the Upper Neuadd Reservoir heading Westward.
The view Northward across the reservoir up to the Mountains – simply stunning!
I soon reach the gate that will take me to the bottom of the big climb. I take the opportunity to rest up and take on a lot of water. I decide to defer the lunch until after the climb so as to make it more comfortable. The terrain on the other side of the gate is exceedingly muddy.
The route up is fairly straight forward as it is marked by bags of stone. It looks like the National Trust are going to put a stone track in here. This would be a good move as the ground is exceedingly soft and muddy which hinders the ascent somewhat. These stone bags also serve as great dry seats for resting on too!
As I climb higher I start getting great views to the South. However, I’m rather shocked at the amount of deforestation that has been going on. The entire lower slopes look like they have been stripped clean
I have now reached the top of the wood-line. I know that from here on in, things are about to get very steep…
The final climb requires the use of all fours. At this elevation the winds have picked up again. Although they make the climb a little harder, they are very welcome as they have the positive effect of cooling me down.
I get to the top and shelter in this cut away. It is here that I decide to have my lunch consisting of a Cornish Pasty. This went down really well!
Before heading Northwards I take a quick diversion Southward to go to the nearby Trig Point. As an aside the climb up to 642 was the toughest climb of the whole walk. It was muddy and exceedingly steep!
The result of my diversion – the Trig Point!
I’m now on the ridge walk Northwards. It’s a shallow ascent which makes for a nice pleasant stroll. The hard climbing for this walk is now behind me.
As I head Northward I see the second climb point up to the exceedingly steep ridge. Down below are two people looking up and assessing the climb – they are there, you just need to look very carefully! I’m so glad that I have already got this bit out of the way!
The trail runs quite close to the edge. The high winds mean that a certain amount caution has to be exercised. Though luckily the winds are blowing from right to left – so if anything should go wrong, I should be blown into the hill and not off it.
The view behind me to the South is just stunning!
Up ahead is the Rhiw yr Ysgyfarnog ridgeline. From the map I was hoping it would be like the CMD Arete of Ben Nevis, but in reality, it is actually quite wide.
On the ridge-line. There is plenty of room to swing a cat – if you are into that sort of thing! In the distance is the distinctive shape of Corn Du which I had climbed earlier. That’s pretty much where we are headed.
I stop off at this cairn to polish off the last of my water supplies. It seems that I had got my water provisioning for the walk pretty much spot on at 1.7 litres!
Up ahead at the base of Corn Du is the main trail leading down off of the Mountains. This is the one that I will be using for my descent.
I’m now at the base of Corn Du and busy preparing my walking sticks for the descent. For those that don’t know, they make a huge difference to the preservation of your knees on long descents. They also provide additional anchor points, which are always useful when going down hill.
The descent is now on. It’s time to leave the hills behind. Whilst the terrain features broadly make sense, I’m a little concerned that I can’t see the Brecon Reservoir. As a result I start to question whether I’m on the correct descent path!
However, the reservoir soon puts in an appearance! At this stage of the journey I’m quite conscious of the clattering noise made by my walking sticks, I seem to be a noise polluter!
Down below is the Car Park. This one is a good one in that it has full toilet facilities and a food wagon on hand!
I soon get to the bridge for the crossing to the car park.
The sign at the bottom. These are very informative and provide good background information for the area – well worth a read!
There’s the car park and the end of today’s walk.
Finally back at the car. It was weird being able to drive straight back from a walk without having to rely on public transport. Even weirder is the way the pedals felt after a long walk – they certainly give your muscles a bit of a stretch. The trip back to Bristol proves to be a relatively quick and uneventful one. I hadn’t realised that this place was only an hour and a half away! I think I will have to make more day trips here.
I’m so glad that I jumped at the opportunity that the weather presented. It made for a very pleasurable walk – one that I enjoyed immensely. Hopefully it will rekindle my passion for walking which had admittedly been in somewhat of a decline since last year.
This walk also shows that one doesn’t have to do a multi-day day walk to go out and have fun!