20110821_MHW_Fan Frynych – Corn Du – Pen y Fan – A-Walk
Who : The Midland Hill Walkers – Walking Club
Where : Brecon Beacons – Wales
Maps used : Brecon Beacons National Park Map – 2x extracts of some kind given to me by a fellow walker – but I think 1,25,000 OS Explorer Map Sheet No.OL12 Brecon Beacons National Park (Western Area) covers the walk.
Start Point : SN 952,246
End Point : SN 995,260 … Village of Lubanas/Tai’r Bull
Distance : Approx 20.5 km (12.8 miles) (by WalkJogRun Route Mapping and my Memory Map 1:50,000 National parks programme)
Approx significant heights : Climb-1 = 330m (1080ft) + climb-2 470m (1540ft)
Summary : A-Party walk with The Midland Hill Walkers; taking in a couple of tops in The Brecon Beacons National Park. A very strenuous walk as there was a good distance involved as well as over 2,600 feet of significant uphill sections (and equivalent downhill’s) – A great walk !!!
If you click on a pic’ and it should launch as a larger image on my flickr photostream. There are also another ten pics in the set on flickr not shown in this diary post.
Once out of Kenilworth, we headed off for the longish journey to South Wales, to start the walk to the south-west of the town of Brecon which gives its name to the region we’d be walking in : The Brecon Beacons National Park. The B-party were dropped off first and the A party continued on to be dropped off a little later by the side of the A4215 … in the middle of nowhere really. I’d decided that, because I’d never been up Corn Du/Pen y Fan before and although it’d probably stretch me somewhat, I’d do the A-walk. Given a decent weather forecast, I wasn’t going to miss out on the chance today.
Once dropped off and ruck-sacks hoisted onto backs, we started off with a little road walking down a quiet lane (towards Heil Senni) for about half a mile until we reached a turn off to Blaenbrynich. Passing the farm, the path rose up a vibrant green grassy field dotted with a multitude of yellow starry dandelions highlighted by the sun. This was a lovely start to the days walking as a small group of us at the back of the group discussed the dominance of the English cricket team during recent test matches. Ahead of us loomed the steep northerly slopes of Fan Frynych, looking quite daunting, but our route picked up a farm track onto which we turned right, to skirt along the baseline of the hill. The gravel track rose quite steadily with Fan Frynych’s ridge above us on our left and a wide rural view off below us to our right.
After about a mile, the track steepened considerably as it swung round to the south, the views opening up across the valley below; a patchwork of green fields, hedgerows and areas of woodland backed by the hills of The Brecon Beacons/Black Mountains; beautiful. As we rounded the nose of the ridge, we turned almost a full 180 degrees to continue our ascent and then another half-right to follow a path still uphill, but now rising up the broad ridge. We now had about a mile of steady climbing to reach the summit of Fan Frynych. As with a lot of mountains, the views from the ridge were probably better than the actual ground we were on, but the views, they were just spectacular – The shapely hills, mountains and valleys offset against a beautiful vivid blue sky with one or two fluffy white clouds were simply perfect!
As we crested the top of Fan Frynych (part of Craig Cerrig Gleisiad National Nature Reserve) we were greeted by the twin tops of Pen y Fan and Corn Du dominating the sky line across the wide Glyn Tarell valley. I have to admit that, at least to me, they looked a very long way away, considering I knew that was where we were heading. Being at the summit meant the next section had to be downhill, so taking a path swinging south we dropped steadily over more grassy moorland, with views all around, to reach a wide saddle with one or two pools dotting the terrain. We then had another small climb to reach the crest of Craig Cerrig Gleisiad, maintaining the superb views, especially to our left where the ground dropped away steeply into the Glyn Tarell valley. The hill top became a refreshment stop allowing us to admire a group of hill ponies grazing the upland area for some time.
Once sated, we set off again with a long descent over grassy moorland in a generally south/south eastern direction. There was a path of sorts “on the ground” but not so distinct to spoil the feel of remoteness of the area; the sweeping hills and valleys all conspiring to give a wild feel to the walk – Lovely in good weather like today, but I’d guess could be quite intimidating in poor weather. We were walking part of The Beacons Way now and the pace fairly zinged along given the downhill nature, easy-going terrain and absolutely no stiles. I really enjoyed the walk across here, even as we neared the busy A470 and Storey Arms Centre. There were obviously a lot of people down there, virtually none of whom were on our side of the valley.
As we neared the car park at Storey Arms Centre, I could make out our B-party contingent starting a steep climb up the side of a coniferous plantation towards Y Gyrn. We soon reached the car park, dodged the cars trying to find a space, and instead of following the B-party’s route we turned right down the side of the A470 (southwards) until we reached another area of car-parking set back from the main road. This was absolutely teaming with people, with fast food and ice cream vans and a toilet block. After the remoteness of the morning walk this was not a very welcome area to be walking through and I was quite happy when we all moved off. I didn’t envy the leaders trying to keep count of all of our party in amongst the throng.
The route turned left on a major path, soon crossing a rocky river (Blaen Taf Fawr) via a substantial footbridge and then immediately steepened as the wide made-up path headed uphill climbing towards Corn Du. The climb was well over a mile in length and apart from the obvious physical exertion needed, another difficulty was the number of fellow walkers, mostly now descending – it was almost like a game of slalom dodgems at times. Our leader gave us carte-blanche to take our own pace up the mountain, eventually to all meet up again just under the final summit climb onto Corn Du. I felt really quite relieved when I reached this point, as this was by far the hardest climb I’d done for quite some considerable time. I think it felt worse than it might have done because of the unrelenting gradient, there didn’t seem to be any respite at any point on the climb.
Perversely, the final rockier, steeper climb up onto the summit of Corn Du somehow seemed easier; perhaps the short rest and then change in gradient were all that was needed for the final push to the top. The views from the top were absolutely stunning – in all directions; especially to the north where the mountain dropped away, almost sheer, into the huge amphitheatre of Cwm Llwch.
The next top of Pen y Fan was only a short distance away, reached via an easy descent to a shallow saddle and then another little climb, all following the edge along the mountain top. The summit of Pen y Fan is marked by a pile of stones set in a wide circle leading up to a small national trust marker giving the height at 886 metres above sea level (that’s 2,906.8 feet) which I believe is the highest place in South Wales. It’s not every day you get to the top of a fantastic mountain with the weather to match and this just had to be marked by some group photo’s
… and then after another short time drinking in the views, it was back over to Corn Du for the second time before dropping north westwards along the edge above the cwm to reach a small obelisk. From here we took a path now dropping slightly right and then arching further round to the right and then to the left in a large zig-zag above the dark waters of a small corrie lake “Llyn Cwm Llwch” (sorry mixing my Scottish and Welsh nouns for the mountain hollow …. or maybe you know this physical feature as a cirque?, from the French language!).
The route was virtually all downhill now, following the Cwm Llwch valley from the highland area and into more enclosed gentler farmland. I love being on the big wide open spaces of mountains where you can reflect on how small you are in the landscape and in the wider world as a whole (very philosophical don’t you think); I also when walking try to stay as high as possible for as long as possible, but, I also like the more intimate contrasting feel of dropping down to the tree line and pasture lands …. just as well really, as it’s gotta be done at the end of every mountainous walk at some point!
Anyway, the path reached the bottom of the valley, where, after a short distance on a farm track, rather than swing right to join a minor road we turned off left (continuing more or less northwards) to cross a few fields, passing Llwynbedw on route, to pick up some minor country lanes, crossing the Taff Trail at one point (route map) and later the Afon Tarell (river) just before our finish at Libanus on the A470. The coach was waiting for us by the side of the road and after getting changed and a very welcome pint (or was it two?) in The Tai’r Bull Country Inn, it whisked us back up through southern Wales to the M5 and a snoozey journey back to Kenilworth.
A simply brilliant days walking! Strenuous? Yes … Tiring? Definitely! But brilliant none-the-less.
…. If you’d like to comment on my diary or any of my pic’s please feel welcome.