Aran Fawddwy

July 31, 2009 at 10:31 pm | Posted in Walking | 1 Comment
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This was a 12 mile walk following the  Nuttall route over the Aran Fawddwy ridge via Pen Yr Allt Uchaf and Drysgol and returning down Cwm Cywarch. The weather would have been good for March – cloudy at first followed by a cold wind and then driving rain – but was pretty poor for July.

It started with a steady climb up the side of Hengwm valley on a clear path, but then I split off for a direct climb up to top of Pen Yr Allt Uchaf. The climb is hard work and with hindsight I’d recommend following the main path up and tracking back to the indistinct summit. After Pen Yr Allt Uchaf it’s a fairly straightforward walk across to Drysgol and Aran Fawddwy itself, though I managed to wander of track slightly and had to do some bracken bashing and heather hopping as a consequence. I (deliberately) detoured off to include the less than remarkable summit of Gwaun Lydan, which provides good views particularly of Aran Fawddwy itself. Drysgol provide another fine perspective and has a poignant memorial to a member of a RAF  mountain rescue team killed by lightening while on duty in the area. From then on it’s a good steady walk up to the spectacular Aran Fawddwy and then along the ridge to Aran Benllyn (via the intermediate Erw Y Ddafod-Ddu.) On a fine day the views must be wonderful but even with clouds and mist (and eventually strong rain) it was still impressive: looking south to Pumlumon, west to Cadair Idris, across the Arans and north to Bala. There is also the precipitous view down to Creiglyn Dyfi, the lake beneath the east face of the Aran Fawddwy ridge.

After Aran Benllyn, I wound back behind the ridge to the head of Cwm Cywarch, with detours for Gwaun y Llwyni and Waun Camddwr. Some of this is very boggy and there are boards across the worst bit – but these can be very slippy in the rain  (I slipped off one into the mud while not paying enough attention as I ate the last of my lunch). The rain was coming in very heavy squally now and I was glad to make the path that runs beside the waterfalls down Cwm Cywarch. A good section of the walk on even a foul day but it would be lovely on a fine day with more time.

I didn’t see a single person during the whole seven and half hours I was out   – except for one guy booting up as I left the car park. The weather may have been less than perfect but this was still a Friday in late July. Hopefully these wonderful hills will always be something of a secret.

Pumlumon peaks

July 25, 2009 at 11:15 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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A clear day but with the promise of later rain. Walking with an old mate, Graham, we climbed up from the Nant-y-Moch reservoir to Y Garn, the first summit. It’s a straightforward climb but there are a couple of fences to be negotiated. The views from the top were perfect stretching from the Irish Sea to the borders and up to Cadair Idris and southern Snowdonia.

From Y Garn it’s a straightforward walk across the ridge to the highest of the five peaks, Pumlonon Fawr. Visibility was still excellent and the views even better. I did a quick – if breathless – out and back tramp to Pumlonon Fach, which has good views over the reservoir, and then it was on to Pen Pumlumon Llygad-bychan and Pen Pumlumon Arwystli. The sky was no becoming overcast with spots of rain but nothing too bad as we extend the walk to the source of the Severn. A wooden pillar marks the actual spot, otherwise a nondescript point amidst the damp peat. Hard to believe that this trickle becomes the Severn but also strangely reassuring.

We then headed down to the Arfon Hengwm, with the weather and the ground getting steadily worse. This is the type of walking that really tests your stamina, will power and sense of humour (as well as your wet weather gear). We followed a rough path above the river – wading through boggy, waste-high grass. I managed to keep my feet dry until a slip allowed the water to go over my boots. From then on it was a case of head down and splodge on until the path got better and the end was in sight. Fortunately the rain stopped for the last section across stony track and road and gave us a chance to dry out a bit before reaching the car.  It was  an impressive 12 mile hike that had had a bit of everything. Afterwards we enjoyed a well-earned beer while watching a perfect mid-Wales sunset.

An early evening stroll up Black Mixen and Great Rhos

July 24, 2009 at 11:13 pm | Posted in Walking | 1 Comment
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A fine summer evening walk on the Radnor Forest peaks with Graham S. Found the right path up to Black Mixen this time to avoid heather hopping (stay to the left when reach the open ground and go up by the fence on the well defined track). Similarly on way to Great Rhos you can trust the path that runs out of the woods as it eventually winds round to the trig point. But still haven’t found best route off Great Rhos, need to go further west to find track that we did eventually join beneath the hill. Otherwise best to stay on the valley side for better views. In all about three and half hours for the walk and time to make it to the Harp for a quick pint before dinner.

Gorllwyn and Drygarn Fawr

June 30, 2009 at 9:49 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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Many warnings come with this walk, about the dangers of getting lost in a featureless expanse if the weather turns and about the boggy ground, which can be either knee or waist deep depending who you listen to! But the ascent was done in decent weather, from Gorllwyn I had clear views of the cairns on Drygarn Fawr. I then managed, with a bit of luck, to avoid the worst of the bog approaching Drygarn Fawr.

On the passage between the peaks there were numerous larks in the air, fervently singing in what seemed like a formal competition. There was also a group of golden plovers that kept well away and sent out a high pitched warning as my path approached them.

While having lunch by the second of the incredible cairns on Drygarn Fawr, the weather started to change and ominous thunder claps came from the north. I wasn’t too bothered about getting wet on the way back, but more worrying was the idea of being exposed to lightening on a moor where I was notably the highest object. In the end the storm circled the valley as I descended via Pant Glas and the rain held off. The way down is a tricky route at times, dipping between either side of the stream and often plunging through wet grass and bracken, but by the end the sun had come out and final miles were enhanced by the company of red kites and a circling heron.

Fan Llia to Fan Gyhrirych

May 30, 2009 at 9:17 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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This was a long trek across Fforest Fawr, a place of serene isolation. I followed the Nuttall route across four peaks – Fan Llia, Fan Nedd, Fan Fraith and Fan Gyhrirych – with a long loop back through the path of an old railway, a nature reserve and Sarn Helen, the Roman Road. A total of 16 miles. It was a beautiful warm day that really felt like early summer but the long stretch back took a toll on stiff muscles.

I started from the attractive Afon Llia car park – leaving the car-bound picnickers to enjoy the river – and climbed steadily up over grassy slopes to the summit of Fan Llia, with its views across the valley to Fan Nedd and back east to Fan Fawr and the Brecon Beacons. After dropping down into the valley, to the ancient standing stone of Maen Llia, there is a much tougher climb up to Fan Nedd. The summit is hard won but gives wonderful views over to Fan Gyhrirych, the Carmathen Fan and back across Fan Fawr to Pen y Fan and Corn Du.

The next stage descends from Fan Nedd to Bwlch y Duwynt and then follows a clear track with a detour for Fan Fraith and then up the slope to Fan Gyhrirych. From the summit it’s a steep descent down the grassy slopes to the road.

There is then a gentle walk along the trace of an old railway line on the Cnewr Estate until you come to quarry works. You then cross the Ogof-Fynnon-Ddu Pant Mawr National Nature Reserve. This was a lovely return leg on a fine late spring evening but by now my leg was aching badly and I was regretting not bringing more water. The final stretch was along Sarn Helen, the ancient Roman road, and thoughts of soldiers marching this same path almost two millennia ago provided a welcome distraction as I hobbled back to the car, 8 hours after starting, tired, sore and thirsty but very happy.

Fan Fawr

April 20, 2009 at 10:00 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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A beautiful spring day, so took the chance explore the quieter side of the Brecon Beacons. I walked up from the A470 to Fan Frynych then across to Fan Fawr, before looping back  across Y Gyrn. It was a stunning day – with bright sun all the way.

The first part of the walk is a gradual ascent through a nature reserve. I had meadow pipits, wheatears and ravens for company and two kites circling above the summit of Fan Frynych. From the summit the moor then stretches over Craig Cerrig-glesiad with constant views to Pen Y Fan and Corn Du on one side and to the western peaks of Forest Fawr on the other. As walk across the moor, you can see the slopes of Fan Fawr ahead, like an immense green wall. It’s a straightforward climb but very steep at times and the knees started to ache near the top.

At the summit there are views over the A470 to Corn Du, with the Taff reservoirs stretching out down the valley and Brecon and mid-Wales hills to North, while the empty expanse of Forest Fawr lies to the west. I cut down to Storey Arms – which was relatively quiet – and then across Y Gyrn and back down to the start. I was careless about the path down Y Gyrn so ended up heather hopping down the steep slope – not recommended and unnecessary but no harm done. Then down the drovers’ road and across the stream to reach the start. About 9 miles in total. The quietness of  Fforest Fawr is hypnotic – will be back to do the other peaks soon.

Moel Hebog

March 27, 2009 at 10:00 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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The walk begins in the woods a couple of miles from Beddgelert and Moel Hebog looms clearly above you as you approach the start. After a short walk through woods there was a gradual if strenuous hill climb up to the base of the summit. The small plateau provided a good place to catch my breath and enjoy the views over Beddgelert; Cnicht and the Moelwyns were clear to the south, and the Snowdon range was straight ahead, with snow still on many of the slopes and thick cloud over the summit. After this break, there was a rough scramble up over the obscure path to the ridge. On my own, after my brother pulled out with a pulled muscle, I tentatively reached for the next foothold in the shale and wondered what I would do if I slipped at this point. This was mid-week in late March and I’d only seen one other walker so far (who’d kindly warned my of how tricky this bit of the route could be); and though the weather was mild at the moment it probably wouldn’t stay that way. So with extra care I looked round for the best route up (and I still l think I never found it), and was relieved eventually to pull myself up onto the ridge that leads to the summit. The view from Moel Hebog includes the whole of the Nantille ridge stretched out beyond Moel yr Ogof and to the west the coast of Wales stretching up from Porthmadog. Off the summit I followed a stone wall that dropped steeply to the bwch and then climbed up to Moel yr Ogof (the Bare Hill of the Cave, which takes its name from the cave just off the summit where Owain Glyndwr hid from the armies of Henry IV).

Past the summit, the path cuts across the rocky crest to the Moel Lefn. Dark grey clouds had now gathered over Nantille ridge, so I moved on quickly down through the valley into the far end of the woods from where I’d started. Inevitably there were a few false steps in the woods, but not too much of a delay, and I made it back finally to the car at the end of a hard but worthwhile 6 miles that felt like much more.

Cnicht

March 26, 2009 at 10:00 pm | Posted in Walking | 1 Comment
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The wind was ripping across from the sea at dawn. There was lashing rain as well and it was just a question of waiting it out and hoping for better. By mid-morning though the rain had stopped and the winds had eased and so we headed towards Cnicht (the Knight), the striking peak that stands south of the Snowdon range overlooking the coastline.

This was my brother’s first mountain peak – so I’d chosen something dramatic but not too challenging. The walk out of Croesor takes you gradually up the ridge to the summit with the North Wales coast line stretching out behind you, while across the valley to the north west there are clear views of Moel Hebog and behind that the Nantille ridge. The only problem was the fierce wind form the north and at one point we had to take shelter behind an outcrop before tacking an exposed part of the ridge. There is short scramble to the summit, which though it then leads onto an extended ridge to the west, still feels like and exposed and dramatic top with awesome views all around. After that it was a gentle walk over the ridge to the second peak, Cnicht South Top, and then down to Llyn yr Adar (lake of the birds).

The full horseshoe walk take you over the higher peaks of the Moelwyns but we kept that for another trip and cut back down past the old quarry works and onto the path along the side of Cwm Croesor. Despite a short burst of heavy rain this was a gentle walk with the hills glistening as the sun returned after the downpour.

Fan y Big and Waun Rydd

March 15, 2009 at 10:00 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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A 10-mile walk taking in the the escarpment from Fan y Big  across to Waun Rydd and then out to Allt Llywd. A fantastic early spring day, with clear skies all the way and apart from a sharp wind on edge up to after Waun Rydd, it stayed warm all the time.

As it was a Sunday, the car parks were busy and there were a fair few people on Fan y Big but I was on my own with the ravens once I get out towards Waun Rydd. Had lunch in peace on the crest between Fan y Big and the Waun Rydd escarpment – with wonderful views over the valley below.  On the walk from Waun Rydd there are great views over to Pen Carrog-Calch, Crickhowell and Sugar Loaf, with the Black Mountains further out.

Twmpa and Black Mountain

February 24, 2009 at 10:00 pm | Posted in Walking | Leave a comment
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I arrived at Gospel Pass in thick mist and there was no improvement as I walked up to the summit of Twmpa. The far ridge over Black Mountain, my eventual destination, was little more than a shadow, and I just hoped that it might lift for my return leg along the ridge.

Things improved as I walked down the Nant Bwch valley and dipped below the mist. The valley itself is marked by the gentle river running through it and by the series of three streams running down from the bluff above creating small waterfalls. The middle stream has carved out a small grassy and rock strewn plateau. Just before reaching this spot, I came across a dead fox strewn across the path. It wasn’t clear what had killed it, some of its innards were showing and the crows and buzzards had obviously made a start. It had a strange grimace on its face, suggesting it may have died painfully and aware. It seemed forced to tie this image to the peacefulness of the valley – balancing the brutal facts of nature against its beauty seems trite – the dead fox was just that in all its honest brutality and the landscape carved out by water and wind and ice was similarly true and untouchable. They were juxtaposed only by the accident of death and of my being there that day.

I emerged out of the valley at Capel-Y-Fin and after a few mistaken steps started the long climb up to the ridge, meeting the Offa’s Dyke Path at the top, where the mist was thick again. Black Mountain’s southern peak is marked only by a few stones. Though there were glimpses of the fine views across to the Vale of Ewyas on one side and Olchon Valley on the other, sitting on the cairn for lunch was an ascetic experience, but at least there was no lashing rain. Then it was on over the peat bogs, easy walking only because of the work done on the Offa’s Dyke Path.

On the whole walk I saw only one other group of walkers, and there was something majestic about the quietness and the greyness, but it’s a route to do again in fine weather.

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