Brecon Beacons round - in fair weather this time!

Hewitts: Cribyn, Pen y Fan, Waun Rydd

Date walked: 27/04/2022

Time taken: 11 hours

Distance: 27.9km

Ascent: 1386m

Following our walk on the Derbyshire moors in the Stanage Edge area, we'd been talking about arranging another, but hadn't got as far as fixing an area, or a route, or even a date. Then John got in touch to say that he'd be holidaying in Ross-on-Wye during the last week of April, and what about sneaking off for a day for a leg stretch in, say, the Brecon Beacons? After some to-ing and fro-ing around dates and other commitments, and some skillful diplomacy with our respective CEOs, we eventually managed to fix on 27th April.

John's first suggestion was the traditional Beacons Horseshoe, and coincidentally, in terms of its likely duration, this fitted in with the fact that he had another commitment that meant he had to be away by 16.30 - but then he was able to make alternative arrangements, and there was therefore no deadline for being back at the cars. I'm pretty unenthusiastic about walking on tarmac, but I do like rounds (as opposed to out-and-backs). Moreover, the traditional horseshoe misses out Fan-y-Big and Waun Rydd, and it seemed to me that now there would be time to fit these two in in a slightly longer round. And the last time I'd visited all these hills had been in heavy rain and dense clag - reason enough to visit them in fine weather. So I set about trying to minimise the amount of walking on metalled roads while still walking a round. And this is what I eventually came up with: still a fair bit of tarmac, but also a few stretches on paths and tracks.

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And it looked, too, as if the weather would play ball - it seemed like this day would see the best weather of the week.


Note, however:
1. The moderate windspeed forecast; and
2. The forecast temperatures above 600m.

More on this later!

As it turned out, this definitely wasn't my finest hour in the article of route-finding. I'd opted for a start place deep in the narrow lanes that snake about below the Beacons, which the sat nav rather struggled to find. John had a similar issue: I was unknowingly a kilometre or so past the place I wanted to be when, just after crossing a tiny bridge, who should I end up bumper to bumper with but John, who told me that road he was now returning down was a dead end. On the positive side, there was space to park the cars just the other side of the bridge, so that's where we decided to start from. Note: not the place I'd originally planned, which, it transpires, is almost hard-wired into my head. And I omit to check on my OS software precisely where we are. Not clever!

After a quick breakfast, and check on the map, we set off. Only for me, a kilometre or so later, to realise that I don't have my map with me - GROAN :thumbdown:.

Returning to the cars, there is the map spread across the roof... :oops: :roll:
Not the best start... What standing I may have had as an experienced walker is rapidly disappearing into a muddle of mistakes.

Image20220427-084600. Still, viewed from below, the Beacons are looking pretty good at this time in the morning.

Unfortunately I am too busy yakking and miss the left turn off the road on to the path just before Pentwyn that leads to the footbridge across the Nant Manasgin; so once in the courtyard at Pentwyn, rather than backtracking, I head straight down the fields to cross the Nant Menasgin, which in turn leads us into a thick holly jungle on the steep side of the valley with no obvious path through it. By this time I'm sure John has lost all faith that I have any route-finding abilities whatever. But I think I recover a smidgin of trust when I tell him we'll intercept the track we'd originally been aiming for if we just continue 10 metres or so further through the holly jungle up the valleyside - and we do!
Sigh of Relief 2.jpg

The track leads quite straighforwardly up to the end of a metalled road, from where a path passes through a farm courtyard and out into fields. From here we just cut diagonally up the hillside in the rough direction of the first highpoint on the ridge - Bryn - at 562m.

Image20220427-101946. Looking towards the Beacons from where we get out of the fields and on to the hillside.

As we - slowly, slowly - get to the ridge, the views are superb.

Image20220427-105818. This is looking roughly north towards, ultimately, the Wye Valley.

Image20220427-110152. Ahead a clear path up towards Waun Rydd.

Waun Rydd summit itself is so unremarkable that I forget to take a pic of it, and it's over an hour before the spirit moves me to get out my camera again.

Image20220427-121327. First close view of the characteristic Beacons scarp slopes, this around Bwlch y Ddwyallt. What we do notice is that it's pretty nippy: not only are the forecast low temperatures being realised, but there's a really brisk breeze - most of the time in excess of 20 knots. We're both now well dressed up for the cold, having earlier stripped off a layer or two after the exertion of climbing to Waun Rydd.

Image20220427-121337. Same view in pano. The path now runs along the edge of the scarp slope ...

Image20220427-124749. ...bearing off right to ...

Image20220427-124812. ...Fan-y-Big (just right of centre)

Reaching Fan-y-Big, the little boys have to play...

Image (Looking back to Fan-y-Big later, it's reassuring to see how many other "adults" can't resist doing the same thing.... :roll: )

Image20220427-131932. The path ahead to Cribyn.

Image20220427-134111. And looking back from the ascent of Cribyn towards Fan-y-Big.

Image20220427-135113. To the south, Pentwyn or Pontsticill Reservoir (not sure which) just visible in the distance.

Image20220427-142012. From the summit of Cribyn, looking back along the ridge to Fan-y-Big.

Image20220427-142035. Ahead the 220m ascent of Pen y Fan.

Which is quite a slog at this juncture. But as we approach the summit, we notice that there's very little wind - the path is in the lee of the hill - so we pause for an extended lunch, over which we admire the singular geology and geomorphology of this remarkable area. As John remarks, we could have done with having our geologist friend Phil with us to provide a bit of explanation (quite apart, of course, from the benefit of his excellent company :wink: ).

The wind is fairly howling on the summit, when some kind folk take this pic of us two old fogies.

The light is all over the place, as this pic taken facing in the opposite direction illustrates.
Image20220427-155243. In the background is the final hill of the day, Corn Du - the climb to which is a mere 30 metres or so.

Image20220427-155806. Pano with Corn Du on the LHS, and Llyn Cwm Llwch nestled down in the cwm.

Image20220427-161257. And looking back towards Pen y Fan from Corn Du.

Image20220427-161404. Ahead the descent down Craig Cwm Llwch, which is pretty straightforward.


Tommy Jones Obelisk.jpg
On the way down we pass the Tommy Jones Obelisk, truly a tragic memorial - one just can't imagine what his parents went through.

Image20220427-164753. Superb views on the descent - this looking across Llyn Cwm Llwch back up to Craig Cwm Llwch, Corn Du and Pen y Fan.

Once down below the Llyn level ...
Image20220427-170258. ... it's easy downhill walking, first on a path, then, after Cwm-llwch, on a lane which after a kilometre or so joins a single track metalled road. The roads zig zag around as we walk generally east in the direction of our cars, and it's a bit of a maze; but I'm confidently checking the map, and am sure where we are.
Unfortunately, I'm also confident I know where the cars are - and, remember, I think I know where we'd parked them... ...at Pen-twyn bridge. So you can imagine my consternation when we arrive at the bridge, and there are neither cars nor even a parking place. We pore over the map for a while, and eventually realise that the only other wee bridge over a fair sized watercourse in the area is Pont y Caniedydd - about a kilometre back the way we've just come, and which we passed within 50 metres of on our way to the wrong bridge ...

Being the seriously guilty party, I jog back to get the car, and we finally complete our round at 18.45 - a bit late to stop by an establishment of cultural, historical and architectural distinction in order to replenish insensible liquid and mineral loss over the course of the day. But there'll be a next time - if John will ever trust me again :roll:

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Comments: 7

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User avatar
Location: Effete South (of WIgan, anyway)
Activity: Scrambler
Pub: The Bell, Trysull
Mountain: Cuillin Ridge
Place: Glen Brittle
Gear: Compass
Member: None
Ideal day out: Heavy ridge walk with plenty of scrambling and height gain - eg Welsh 3000ers, Wastwater Circuit, Cuillin Ridge

Munros: 176
Tops: 1
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