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Black Mountain Madness

Black Mountain Madness


Postby AJNicholls » Mon Jul 08, 2013 2:00 am

Hewitts included on this walk: Chwarel y Fan, Mynydd Llysiau, Pen Allt-mawr, Pen Cerrig-calch, Pen y Gadair Fawr, Twmpa, Waun Fach

Date walked: 06/07/2013

Distance: 40 km

Ascent: 2025m

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Also walked: Rhos Dirion, Pen Twyn Mawr, Pen Twyn Glas (all Nuttalls).

This walk was very much inspired by WH member clivegrif's report here. I didn't get around all of it - was essentially just aiming for the Hewitts and to throw a few Nuttalls in as well, but I did a very big chunk of it.

Originally I was planning to walk this on Saturday daytime, but delays meant I didn't get to Hay-on-Wye until early evening. I got myself some food (pub curry, yay :thumbup:) and drove up the Gospel Pass to Wales' best parking spot at 538m altitude.

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Information board on The Black Mountains at the Gospel Pass, including a note that dogs that mess with sheep may not appreciate the consequences.

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Gospel Pass


I was originally planning to snooze in the car until sunrise then hit the hills, but decided to grab my pack and check out the area. Climbing up to the first peak Twmpa (the one alternatively known as Lord Hereford's Knob) from the Gospel Pass only takes about 15 minutes. It's an easy walk but the heat was something else! Even with me in a single layer and with just a couple of hours of proper sunlight left, it was scorching in the hills. I was glad I had plenty of drinks in my pack.

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Looking down whilst climbing to Twmpa.


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Baaa.

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Summit cairn on Twmpa.


Next up was Rhos Dirion, the highest point of the ridge down to Chwarel y Fan.

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Rhos Dirion


This path and serveral others within the Black Mountains have ponies grazing around them. Thankfully I didn't get chased by any like I did when bagging Cefn yr Ystrad last year.

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Ponies.


I headed towards Rhos Dirion, shortly reaching its summit. It's slightly higher than Twmpa, despite that being a Hewitt and this one just a Nuttall.

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Closer to Rhos Dirion.


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Rhos Dirion summit.


It was still very hot at this stage and in theory I was only wanting to scout the area out for walking it on the Sunday. But with the Sun blazing away, I sat down and began checking through the map and felt it might be worthwhile to do some of the walk at night, thereby walking some of it whilst the temperature was lower. I really didn't fancy getting dehydrated doing a long walk through the blazing sun the next day.

I should say that I have had experience walking at night and it's not something I'd do on a whim. In this case, I'd done a lot of study on this route (you have to given the length of it) and had a good idea of the topography of these hills and that it should be relatively safe to be climbed at night. The weather reports and MWIS were also positive of good conditions throughout the weekend. I also knew my pack had everything I would need on the hills for the whole walk, including head torch and spare batteries, warmer clothes, bivvy bag, etc.

So, still considering walking at night as an option, I decided to head onto Waun Fach ("small moor") - the highest peak in the Black Mountains at 811m, from where I could still return to the car within twilight (or not long afterwards) if I needed to. I made it up to the summit, but unless I missed something, the summit marker wasn't exactly anything to write home about.

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Walking from Rhos Dirion to Waun Fach (1)

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Walking from Rhos Dirion to Waun Fach (2)

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The incredibly attractive summit area of Waun Fach.


Sitting on the summit of Waun Fach and jamming down some calories, I decided to go for it and get as far as I could tonight. Even so, it's a change of plans from what I was intending so I let a friend with decent mountain knowledge know, in case there were any issues. (Thank you Vodafone for phone reception; EE failed me again.)

The next summit, Mynydd Llysiau ("mountain of the fruit") lay there in the distance and was beckoning me. In the meantime though, I thought I'd take in the sunset.

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Mynydd Llysiau lies in wait.

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Sunset (1)

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Sunset (2)

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Sunset (3)


Heading up the path to Mynydd Llysiau, I was soon at its summit.

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The path up to Mynydd Llysiau.

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On Mynydd Llysiau summit.


There's less photos for the next part of the walk as I concentrated more on the practicality of walking in the dark than taking pictures of things I wouldn't be able to make out. I have some dark and uninspiring photos of the summit areas, but WalkHighlands limits walk reports to 25 images (which is rather generous in itself) and there's better stuff that can go here instead.

So I went from there up and over Pen Twyn Glas, Pen Allt-mawr ("top of the big slope") and Pen Cerrig-calch ("top of the limestones.")

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Emergency shelter, Pen Cerrig-calch. (There's a trig point a bit further South.)


By the time I was at Pen Cerrig-calch, shortly before midnight, I was at the Southernmost end of the Black Mountains' Western ridge. I intended to drop down its East flank and regain altitude from the nearby farm. However when I went to look at the descent route, I wasn't comfortable with the visibility (even with a headtorch) so felt it shouldn't be done at that point. I could have descended directly to the nearby town of Crickhowell (once home to someone you may have heard of... Sir George Everest) and worked my way around from there, but decided that I'd made good progress so far by crossing the entire Western ridge and could crack on again in morning light without putting myself in a tricky situation.

So, I holed up in the shelter on Pen Cerrig-calch, wedged between a few awkward rocks and putting my £4 bivvy bag to good use. It wasn't too cold, although I did put on several extra layers to make sure I would wake up in a condition fit to still move. My backpack made a suitable pillow to gaze up at the stars above and consider how miniscule we are in the grand scheme of things. And yes, I did get a few hours' sleep too.

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Bed for the night.


Waking up as light began to appear a bit before 5am, I fed my belly and descended the East flank. I'm glad I didn't try it at night. It's not technically difficult or anything, but it's not a well-trodden path and is very overgrown in places. From there I worked my way towards the farm and could head on up to the heathery top of Pen Twyn Mawr.

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Looking over to Pen Twyn Mawr.

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Pen Twyn Mawr summit.


The path followed from there to Pen y Gadair Fawr ("top of the large chair") - which at an even 800m is the 2nd highest peak in the Black Mountains.

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Pen y Gadair Fawr summit


From here another Eastward drop is required, knee-crunching down by the side of some woods to get to a private track near a waterfall (quality flowing water appears to be somewhat limited in the Black Mountains.)

On the other side of the gate from the private road that leads towards the reservoir, there is the official path up to Chwarel y Fan ("quarry of the beacon,") which is amongst the worst paths I've ever come across. It's steep, narrow and the fence to the side of it is showing damage from people using it as a grip to haul themselves up. It was manageable but with the Sun getting more powerful, it wasn't particularly pleasant.

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Bad path up to Chwarel y Fan.


A couple of walkers beat me to the top of Chwarel y Fan by strolling along the North-South ridge whilst I clambered up the side. We chatted briefly and whilst I paused for some food, I came to the conclusion that the Sun was just roasting too much to head over to the titular Black Mountain and its South Top (another Nuttall) to complete the walk. So I headed North until I reached Rhos Dirion again and passed back over Twmpa to my car at the Gospel Pass, saving about 12km from the walk and taking in one last photograph along the way.

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Final photo, looking down from the Twmpa area.


Good long walk in a variety of conditions - light, dark, sun, sleep - I will return and nip up Black Mountain itself another time, maybe doing it as part of an Offa's Dyke Path walk.
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AJNicholls
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Re: Black Mountain Madness

Postby Ibex » Mon Jul 08, 2013 1:08 pm

That is one hell of a walk AJ. Don't think i'd of fancied that in the current heat. Would have sweated to death.

Good to see you had a bivvy too. I've yet to do this myself, but I fancy it some day. Especially in this heat!
I don't fancy that 'bed' of your though. Bit rocky for my liking.
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Re: Black Mountain Madness

Postby Phil the Hill » Mon Jul 08, 2013 1:17 pm

Enjoyed that. I like the idea of nipping up the hill for an evening recce and ending up on an overnight trip!

I'm sure there was a trig point on Waun Fach when I bagged it many years ago. It probably sank into the bog.

I'll be heading up Black Mountain again this August bank holiday weekend, but will be staying in a comfy hotel rather than bivvying in a summit shelter.
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Re: Black Mountain Madness

Postby SusieThePensioner » Mon Jul 08, 2013 2:11 pm

That sounded a great walk and good idea to stay out seeing as how you were prepared for it :thumbup:
Enjoyed your report and some fantastic views :D
AJNicholls wrote:I headed towards Rhos Dirion, shortly reaching its summit. It's slightly higher than Twmpa, despite that being a Hewitt and this one just a Nuttall.
Why??? :?
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Re: Black Mountain Madness

Postby AJNicholls » Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:09 pm

Ibex wrote:Good to see you had a bivvy too. I've yet to do this myself, but I fancy it some day. Especially in this heat!
I don't fancy that 'bed' of your though. Bit rocky for my liking.


Actually I slept better than some nights I've had in YHA's this year. Being tired helps of course. :)

Phil the Hill wrote:Enjoyed that. I like the idea of nipping up the hill for an evening recce and ending up on an overnight trip!

I'm sure there was a trig point on Waun Fach when I bagged it many years ago. It probably sank into the bog.


Yeah, it was good to have a long wander in quite a scenic area, Will keep an eye out for a trig point next time I'm over that way.

SusieThePensioner wrote:
AJNicholls wrote:I headed towards Rhos Dirion, shortly reaching its summit. It's slightly higher than Twmpa, despite that being a Hewitt and this one just a Nuttall.
Why??? :?


It's because of relative prominence...

Hewitts are > 2000ft/609.6m with relative height >= 98ft/30m.
Nuttalls are > 2000ft/609.6m with relative height >= 49ft/15m.

So all Hewitts are also Nuttalls; but not all Nuttalls are Hewitts.

There are some quite interesting Nuttalls out there that aren't Hewitts, Cofa Pike particularly. The Nuttalls list also includes Pillar Rock. Also, the Nuttalls list is England and Wales only, whereas the Hewitts are England, Wales and Ireland (except for here on WalkHighlands.)
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Re: Black Mountain Madness

Postby poppiesrara » Mon Jul 08, 2013 8:31 pm

Bravo, AJ - that's quite a feat. Great walking on the ridges around there, but I'm not sure I could have faced two of the up-downs between in a single day... And, having looked down it a few weeks ago and wondered whether it was even possible in its current state of erosion, I can vouch that the 'bad path' is actually worse than your photo makes it look!
too much to head over to the titular Black Mountain and its South Top (another Nuttall) to complete the walk

Having climbed this from both sides, I'd definitely recommend the eastern ('English') approach over Black Hill - a great little ridge to contrast with the very flat Black Mountain.
There are some quite interesting Nuttalls out there that aren't Hewitts, Cofa Pike particularly. The Nuttalls list also includes Pillar Rock. Also, the Nuttalls list is England and Wales only, whereas the Hewitts are England, Wales and Ireland (except for here on WalkHighlands.)

I'd nominate either Corn Du (Beacons) or Craig Eigiau (Carneddau) - miles from another summit, a really good peak and profile from below - as the best 'non-Hewitt Nuttall' so far, although Striding Edge would be the most notable, I guess. And I'm sticking with Walkhighlands, the Hewitts are England/Wales only too - that's quite enough challenge in itself!
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Re: Black Mountain Madness

Postby stevesey » Mon Jul 08, 2013 11:10 pm

AJ - thinking of doing this one at some point (possibly August) - what's the parking like at Gospel Pass? Would either be parking there or at the bottom of Pen Carrig Calch (looks even more limited there). And how boggy was Waun Fach.
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Re: Black Mountain Madness

Postby AJNicholls » Mon Jul 08, 2013 11:44 pm

poppiesrara wrote:And I'm sticking with Walkhighlands, the Hewitts are England/Wales only too - that's quite enough challenge in itself!


Maybe they should call them the Hewtts. :wink:

BTW thanks for all your reports. I'm sure they'll be useful as I hammer my way through some more Welsh peaks in the future.

stevesy wrote:AJ - thinking of doing this one at some point (possibly August) - what's the parking like at Gospel Pass? Would either be parking there or at the bottom of Pen Carrig Calch (looks even more limited there). And how boggy was Waun Fach.


I parked up around 7.30pm Saturday and was the only car (convenient when you need to get changed.) When I got back around midday or thereabouts on the Sunday there were a few spaces, not too many though.

Waun Fach wasn't particularly boggy. I think you'd get brown boots if it was wet, but I had good (or too good?) weather throughout the walk.
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Re: Black Mountain Madness

Postby Ibex » Tue Jul 09, 2013 12:14 am

AJNicholls wrote:
Ibex wrote:Good to see you had a bivvy too. I've yet to do this myself, but I fancy it some day. Especially in this heat!
I don't fancy that 'bed' of your though. Bit rocky for my liking.


Actually I slept better than some nights I've had in YHA's this year. Being tired helps of course. :)


That and not being next to a big, smelly, snoring bloke as well eh?
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Re: Black Mountain Madness

Postby ChrisW » Thu Jul 18, 2013 9:48 pm

Great report, can't beat a spontaneous night out on a hill :shock: love the sunsets but I confess I'd have hiked out in the morning and gone to the nearest cafe for a bacon buttie and a cuppa :lol:
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