Brecon Beacons, Wales

7th - 9th September 2007

[2 - The Walk] 


Setting out from Smithy's Bunkhouse, Pantygelli.





Views on the approach to Upper Neuadd Reservoir, Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales.


I had to share the bunkhouse room I'd had all to myself Thursday night. No bedding had been provided except for sheets, so a sleeping bag was required on this occasion. We had all missed Vanda, who was not able to make it on this trip at the last minute, due to an illness in the family. It was left up to Martin to assume responsibility for taking photos for the XHC website. A superb blue sky, and al fresco breakfast, suggested we were in for a good day for Pen-y-Fan, on the Saturday morning. We drove in convoy to Pont Cwmyfedwen, a bridge over the Taf Fechan river in the Taf Fechan Forest, located in the Brecon Beacons National Park, Martin getting lost en route. We found the public parking spot located next to the bridge, a British listed building and set off along the Taf Fechan Trail through the forest towards Upper Neuadd Reservoir, crossing over the dam wall and continuing up a dirt track (an old Roman Road) with the reservoir to our left. At the pass where the road cuts through between Fan y Big and Cribyn, we commenced the ascent of the latter but not before we applauded a group of tri-athletes as they passed by, to our cheers of encouragement. By this time, there was a chill in the air and low cloud shrouded the hills. In fact the Brecon Beacons is the location of an annual Pen y Fan race and this might have been it!



Stopping for lunch on Cribyn (795m) and elsewhere.


  We ascended Cribyn (795m), where we stopped for lunch. We were cold, with visibility down to about 50m. As we set off from there, glimpses of the valley came into view. By the time we reached the top of Pen y Fan (885m), the highest peak in South Wales, the clouds had rolled away to afford us spectacular views in all directions. We continued on to Corn Du and then on down to the lower foothills, effectively having circumnavigated the reservoir below. We looked back across the Cwm towards Corn Du, Pen-y-Fan and Cribyn, with not a cloud in the sky. The maverick Tim Porter then chose an extraordinary way off the hills in an attempt to locate the Taf Fechan Trail through the forest, having to negotiate a steep descent through some dense slippery vegetation towards a forest road, this being relatively treacherous underfoot, apart from the obvious damage to the environment. We continued on down to the tarred road near Ystradgynwyn (Torpantau), just up from Pentwyn Reservoir, taking in the awe-inspiring beauty of the Brecon Beacons National Park, in contrast to the rather sparse vegetation in the vicinity of the peaks. Taking a sharp left, we then returned the car park at Pont Cwmyfedwen.

The complete route from Brecon Beacons car park and the ascent of Pen-y-Fan and Cribyn.


View across the valley on the descent of Cribyn, before the ascent of Pen-y-Fan.



XHC organiser Martin Lighten takes a breather on the descent of Cribyn towards the col connecting it to Pen-y-Fan; Phil, Anne & Lucy joke despite the chilly conditions.


Phil Newton on the ascent to Pen-y-Fan, with the col connecting it to Cribyn in the background.


The steep ascent of Pen-y-Fan (885m) necessitated another stop and a group snapshot opportunity arose.


Pen-y-Fan has claimed large numbers of casualties ranging from ill-prepared or inexperienced hill walkers and climbers to highly trained special forces troops who utilise the area as part of a special forces selection training area, due to rapidly changing weather conditions. Pen-y-Fan is sometimes called the "most dangerous peak in Wales". A cirque is an amphitheatre-like valley or valley head, formed at the head of a glacier by erosion. A cirque is also known as a coombe or coomb in England, a combe or comb in America, a corrie in Scotland and Ireland, and a cwm in Wales, although these terms apply to a specific feature of which several may be found in a cirque. The term "comb" is often found at the end of place-names such as Newcomb and Maycomb. On the subject of language, Welsh (Cymraeg) is a member of the Brythonic (British) branch of Celtic spoken natively in Wales, in England by some along the Welsh border and in the Welsh immigrant colony in the Chubut Valley in Argentine Patagonia. The English name "Wales" originates from the Germanic word Walha, meaning "foreigner,"  Originally (and traditionally) one of the Celtic nations, a distinct Welsh national identity emerged in the early 5th century, after the Roman withdrawal from Britain.  The Welsh call their country Cymru in the Welsh lanuage, which most likely meant "compatriots" in Old Welsh.


View across the Cwm from Corn Du, towards Upper Neuadd Reservoir, our initial path visible on the slope to the left of the reservoir.


Telephoto shot illustrates the steep descent from Cribyn down to the col.



Phil Newton admires the view, Upper Neuadd Reservoir in the background; Phil, Lucy, Anne & Martin (our great leader - he's the one with the baseball cap).


View from Corn Du.



View back towards Corn Du; View on our descent, after having circumnavigated the Cwm.


Great shot of Phil, Lucy and Anne.


Group shot, all having fun and enjoying the walk.



Welsh ponies; taking a rest on the way back - it's been a long walk.


The awe-inspiring beauty of the Black Mountains, Brecon Beacon.


We drove back, Peter Hartman using his Tom Tom on this occasion, just in case Martin got us lost again, heh-heh. We were humourised by the sound of John Cleese giving us directions. Advance booking at The Crown Saturday resulted in us having a large table to ourselves. The pub and restaurant seemed to be well run, popular and somewhat up-market, despite being remote. It is fully booked most evenings. Being only a short walk from the Smithy's, it was our only choice. We had a great evening and didn't leave till around midnight, missing out on Karaoke, of which I am not a fan. Sunday's breakfast was once again held under a clear blue sky. A few then ventured off for stroll up Sugar Loaf. I stayed behind and read, snoozing a bit too. Whilst lying on the bunk, I was alerted by a scratching sound, only to discover that some of the local farm chickens had entered the room and were pecking at the tiled floor in search of food. Tim had left early morning, taking my Cannondale off-road bicycle with him. I secured a lift back with John Adams, who dropped me off at Xerox in Welwyn Garden City, where I had left my car.


To conclude, after the weekend, Anne Young sent in a "thank you" e-mail :

Subject: RE: XHC - Final Details - Brecon Beacons Wales 7th - 9th September 2007

Dear Martin & John .. thanks for all the organising plus breakfasts ... it
must be one of the few times I've actually got up in time to partake! ..  it
was lovely to catch up with everyone ... great company ... & no hangover ...
must come on Phil's Harley again .. no room for all the alcohol!!

Must go to the gym before the next one tho' .... this going up hills is a
killer!  See you at Lulworth ..

xx Anne



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