Mountain Country

Mountain Country

The Brecon Beacons

The Black Mountains

The Elan Valley

Plymlimon

Radnor Fforest

South Wales

The Brecon Beacons National Park

The Brecon Beacons National Park stretches roughly from Offa’s Dyke Path in east to Carreg Cennen in the West. It incorporates two mountain ranges, the Black Mountains in the East and the Brecon Beacons running west from the Black Mountains.

The entire park is heavily used and every top has worn paths leading to the summit. There are few remote places, mostly on the lower ground. However, with a little imagination, and the ability to read a real map, strong days can readily be planned and on a good day chances are, as ever, you will be able to spend a reasonable amount of time in good country.

The Park is made up of the Black Mountains to the east and the Brecon Beacons as you come west. The Black Mountains are not part of the Brecon Beacons but they are part of the Brecon Beacons National Park. In the Black Mountains there is a Black Mountain north top and a Black Mountain south top, both summits, and just to the north is the Black Hill, which has the height of a mountain but is not classed as an individual mountain, although it is a good summit. To the far west is the Black Mountain, which is part of the Brecon Beacons.

The whole park is stuffed full of ancient monuments, many if not most unmarked on the maps. It certainly has at least as high a density of ancient monuments as Dartmoor, probably more. You can’t move for stumbling over them.

The Black Mountains

The Black Mountains are situated to the east of the Park with the towns of Abergavenny in the south and Hay on Wye to the north. The town of Crickhowell is worth a visit. This country can be spectacular both in the summer and winter. Very boggy in most parts when it’s wet with a thick layer of peat. Most of the paths are heavily eroded but there is some repair work ongoing. The valleys are pretty, the most notable being ‘The Holy Valley’ with Cwm Yoy church and Llanthony Priory as well known tourist attractions.

There are a couple of ridges; Y grib (The Dragon’s Back) and (The Cat’s Back), although neither are challenging if you have your footing. It is possible to do all the Nuttalls in the Black Mountains in a day and the Black Mountains circular route is more or less the same level of challenge and demand as the Welsh 3000s, although the terrain is a little easier with less hight gain. But if you take on some rough ground it makes up for this.

It is great country for training if you’re short on options and very pleasant if you avoid the crowds.

Maps include:

Harvey Superwalker 1:25 Brecon Beacons East

OS Landranger 161 1:50

OS Explorer OL 13 1:25

Some of the more remote corners include (in no particular order; all GRs deliberately approximate):

Twr Pen-cyrn (SO203145) across to Chartists Cave (SO127152) although Chartists Cave is easy to get and can get busy but the area is good;

Pen y Manlwyn (SO208312) across to Twyn Talycefn (SO222323) but there is a foot and mouth fence running through the valley that needs to be crossed (you can legally go over, under, or through an obstruction on Open Access and/or on a footpath but most not intentionally damage the obstruction);

Twynllech area (SO245355)

Ridges include:

Y Grib (Dragon’s Back; From SO190310 to SO200310) – not really a ridge if you are aware of your footing

Crib y Garth (Cat’s Back; From SO290330 to SO270350) – not really a ridge if you are aware of your footing

Decent climbs (ascents) include:

Chwarel y Fan (SO258294 ) from path at SO262302

Black Mountain South Top (SO267322) from The Vision Farm (SO264310)

Pen y Gadair Fawr (SO229288) from Blaen y Cwm (SO255283)

Pen Twyn Mawr (SO242268) from Tir y Nant (SO235237)

Pen Allt Mawr (SO205242) from Rhyd Fawr path (SO195264)

Pen Cerrig Calch (SO217223) from permitted footpath at Open Access (SO233288 – there is a hidden path just along as you hit the woodland at c. SO233227 that goes straight to summit)

For rock you can try:

Darren Cliau (SO155205) across to Craig y Cilau (SO185161)

There may be some gullies at (but will be chossy and dodgy):

East of Darren Lwyd (SO240330 – SO240-340)

East of Black Mountain (SO260330 – SO260350)

Worthwhile organised events include:

Black Dragon Challenge https://www.blackdragonchallenge.com/

Big Black Mountain Challenged http://www.longtownmrt.org.uk/bbmc.html

The Brecon Beacons

The Brecon Beacons can be grouped into three relatively distinct areas around two main roads; the A470 and the A4067. The area from the A470 heading east is the most heavily used, but the other areas are, unfortunately, growing in popularity. The Black mountain missaf to the west of the A4067 is the most remote part of the country and has some good rock features and river valleys if lacking in height.

It has to be said that for the most part the whole country around Pen-y-Fan resembles the worst example of an M4 services 24/7/365 and the summit resembles an Asda car park – so be prepared and avoid it if you can. Nonetheless, sometimes it has to be incorporated into a day and there are a couple of ways of doing that without it all seeming like a drive to London and back in a convoy of decal diesels and second-hand ford escorts.

The ground varies markedly in this range. It tends to be a little firmer in the east and as you move west the peat bog increases as does the mud. Like the Black Mountains most paths are heavily eroded. There is good remote country on lower ground and especially the Black Mountain missaf.

Red Kites are now fairly common, there is a good frog population, and there is herd of wild deer somewhere in the cray reservoir area, broadly speaking, but don’t expect to see them (we have seen spoor). You do see the occasional lizard and the rodent population seems viable. Foxes seem under threat, as do moles.

Maps include:

Harvey Superwalker 1:25 Brecon Beacons East and West

Harvey 1:40 Brecon Beacons

OS Landranger 160 1:50 (and annoying 146)

OS Explorer OL 12 & 13 1:25

Some of the more remote corners include:

The country around Cefn/Cwar yr Ystrad (with old abandoned quarry sometimes attacked by motorbikes, as is all of the park) SO087138

Bryniau Gleision SO085161 to Pan y Creigiau SO056162

Allt Forgan SO065178 to Waun Rhydd SO062207

Cwm Cwareli SO055215

Cwm Oergwm SO045205

Ffynnon Lysiog SO028030 to Garn Ddu SO025122

Fan Frynych SO958228 to Pont Blaen Cwm-du SO942215

Fan Nedd SO913184 to Fan Bwlch Chwyth SO912216

Blaen-Nedd Uchaf SO904157 to Caving Club SO856154

North face of Fan Gyhirych SO881191

Northern Missaf of Black Mountain SO0790260 to SO830260 to 850220 to SO800230

Mynydd Myddfai SO807298 to Mynydd Bach Trecastle SO825310

Southern missaf of Black Mountain especially around the 471 trig point SO791174 and Tyle Garw SO780170

Travelling west from Tyle Garw along the SO—170 northing

The country between Garreg Las SO778203 west along the SO—202 northing

Decent climbs (ascents) include:

Tor y Foel SO114195

Carn Pica SO070202 from the east

Allt Lwyd SO079189 from the east

Gwalciau’r Cwm SO066193 from Allt Forgan SO065178

Cribyn SO023213 from north

Pen y Fan SO012215 from the north (but summit is a like the worst example of a motorway services, only worse)

Fan Fawr SO970193 from the south or from the west (NOTE: river crossing at 5-10m upstream from junction of Nant y Gwair and Nant Mawr SO951197)

Fan Dringarth SO941193 and Fan Llia SO937185 from the west

Fan Nedd SO913184 from north

Fan Frynych SO957227 from north

Fan Gyhirych SO881191 from north or west

Fan Foel SO822223 from north

Bwlch Blaen Twrch SO816218 from north

Garreg Lwyd SO740179 from south

For rock you can try:

The ridge on the south and west of Gwaun Cefnygarreg SO946137

Cribarth area (including quarry) around SO828143 (some face on the north side)

Carreg a gap SO825159 to Sinc Geidd SO810178

And limestone pavement at Tyle Garw SO780175 and Garreg Las SO775195

There are a number of areas with gullies but they are chossy and unstable and the country is prone to landslip. Areas include:

The north and west faces of Bannau Sir Gaer SO810219 (running along the 219 northing)

Cwm Cwareli SO055204, Cwm Oergwm SO200045, and Cwm Cynwyn (including a gully up to the Fan y Big diving board) SO210207

The south face of Cwm Du SO950218

The Beacons Way is worth considering as a trek. It is c. 100miles and could be done in 48 hours self-sufficient. The stretch travelling westwards up to Pen y Fan is probably the most demanding and after that it becomes quieter and more relaxed.

South Wales

Brecon Beacons

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GPX for North Pen y Fan circuit tracked. Almost the complete route but missed out Cwar Mawr and Twyn Cil-rhew (which are worth including). Did this clockwise. The ascents up the ridges are tough gradients this way round.

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GPX for Llanfrynych alternative circuit

Black Mountains

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Black Mountains Challenge TRACK

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