Saturday, 14 May 2011

Black Mountains - Waun Fach Circular - 29/1/11

Looking at the OS map on the Friday night I was still undecided which route to go for, I knew I was heading for the Black Mountains in south Wales and Waun Fach in particular but couldn’t decide whether to do go from Llanbedr, and head to my main target via table mountain and Pen Allt-mawr and returning via Pen y Gadair Fawr and the edge of Mynydd Du forest or to start in the forest and head straight to Pen Y Gadair and Waun Fach then round to Twmpa otherwise known as Lord Herefords Knob and Hay Bluff picking up the Offa’s Dyke path and dropping down into the Vale of Ewyas before returning to the forest car park. I eventually decided on the first route principally for the reason that I had already done the latter half of the second route adding in a wild camp just a few months previously.

The alarm rudely woke me from my sleep as I planned to set off in the early hours, I knew I needed to get over to the village of Llanbedr a mile or so north of Crickhowell to give me enough time to complete the route in daylight. With my gear already packed the night before I was able to set off on time. We arrived at our start point wasting no time in parking the car and setting off. It was a cold but clear late January morning and I knew as we went higher the temperature would drop significantly. After an initial small section of road we turned off and headed up a steep track towards Perth-y-pa farm and soon got to our first goal of the day, Table Mountain, a small flat topped hill of 453m, where it is believed that an ancient Welsh ruler, Hywel Dda had a fortress. From here in the distance I could see over to the Brecon Beacons including the distinctive tops of Pen y Fan and Corn Du, and back from the direction we had come was the equally distinctive shape of the Sugar Loaf.

On Table Mountain looking at the Sugar Loaf

Pushing forward we went up a steep path towards Pen Cerrig-calch the ground was getting harder and more frozen as we went higher, the gradient eased and we were greeted by a group of wild ponies who just ignored us and continued to go about their business, after a further steady ascent we reached the trig point at 701m, at this height it was now pretty cold and the gloves came out the rucksack. Although having a trig point the summit was fairly featureless, the clouds now started to obscure the sun but thankfully not low enough to threaten the tops we continued on and made our way across the saddle heading for Pen Allt-mawr after a while I looked back towards Pen Cerrig-calch the clouds looking darker but with no threat of rain they created a very atmospheric picture with the sun trying hard to penetrate through.

Wild Ponies

Pen Cerrig-calch

Atmospheric shot looking back to Pen Cerrig-calch
It wasn’t long before we reached Pen Allt-mawr and our second trig point of the day at 719m; we could now see the remainder of our route stretching out in front of us up to Waun Fach and across the horizon. There was steep but short descent down, which I had to do twice, I’d dropped a glove obviously from when I was taking pictures. So having got back up to the trig point for the second time I eventually found the missing glove and descended again, the next section of the route was an enjoyable easy and steady walk across remote country never really gaining or losing any significant height. Passing minor tops Pen Twyn Glas and Mynydd Llysiau.

From Pen Allt-mawr looking towards Waun Fach

Looking back to Pen Allt-mawr from near Pen Twyn Glas 

The final push up to Waun Fach could be seen but my pace was now slowing as I was in need of a rest and some refreshment, so with tired legs I gradually made my way to the day’s main target, Waun Fach at 810m the highest point of the Black Mountains. As we gained height the ground was now white with frost and although cold I would rather it be like this as it can be very wet and boggy up here. So finally reaching the remains of the summit cairn I sat down for a well earned rest. I shared the peak with 3 guys all from Colchester and these where the only people I saw all day. The cold was really starting bite now so out came the insulation jacket, I quickly set up the jet boil for a nice warming “Look what we found” sausage casserole and a hot chocolate. Megan was enjoying her dog biscuits and water, proof that is was cold was the water in the bottom of Megan’s bowl starting to freeze.

A frosty Waun Fach summit

Warming up with a hot chocolate and lunch on Waun Fach
The cloud came in for a brief period and feeling refreshed I took a bearing and set off for Pen y Gadair Fawr. It was a quick walk to the cairn at a height of 800m the cloud had cleared just as I reached the top and I could now see the next section of the walk along the top edge of the forest, this was a long and straight forward stretch keeping the forest to my left, I saw some fantastic looking icicles on the edge of a grassy bank.

Stunning Icicles
 I was beginning to wonder when this segment of the walk would end as it seemed to go on for quite a while so I was relieved when I could see the trig point on Crug Mawr in the distance, seeing my final peak of the day my pace quickened and after a small ascent I reached the top of the 550m hill. From here I could now see the whole of the walk laid out in front of me, I was fully aware that I only had about another hour of full daylight left so I wasted no time and continued, picking up the Beacons Way off the hills and onto the road, all that remained now was to pick up the footpath back to Llanbedr going across a picturesque bridge over a wooded stream. We got back to the car in just under 8 hours and in daylight, perfect timing. I drove home satisfied that I had completed a very enjoyable walk.


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