South Wales

South Wales

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.

South Wales has the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons, both of which are mountain ranges. The Brecon Beacons National Park includes the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains. Not to confuse things, but, the Western side of the Brecon Beacons is called the Black Mountain and the Black Mountains in the East also have a Black Mountain as well as The Black Hill across the border in England.

There are good, if limited, opportunities for QMDs in both the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains and with some effort it is possible to get off the paths and tourist trails and explore more widely. These mountains are littered with ancient monuments, most of them unlisted, and Roman sites. They easily equal Dartmoor, if not surpass it, in this respect. Keep your eyes open and you will start to see all sorts of interesting features.

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 Challenge http://www.longtownmrt.org.uk/bbmc.html

The Black Mountains Summits

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GPX file of Black Mountains Summits

Black Mountains Route Descriptions in downloadable PDF format

Black Mountains GPX Routes and Tracks

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Black Mountains Challenge TRACK

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Black Mountains Extended Black Dragon UNOFFICIAL ROUTE

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Black Mountains Lola’s Walk In Memorium TRACK

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Black Mountains Lola’s Walk Extended ROUTE

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Black Mountains Storm’s version of Lola’s Walk TRACK

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Black Mountains Waun Fach Roundabout TRACK

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Black Mountains Waun Fach Roundabout ROUTE

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 summits are given as a whole.

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 north 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.

The Transfan Route (my version)

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My version of the classic Transfan Route (Approximate) designed and developed by Mynyddwyr De Cymru

The Brecon Beacons Summits

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GPX file of Brecon Beacons Summits

The Eastern Beacons

Best approached from the north and the east. Avoid the Pont ar Daf car park and Storey Arms unless you like crowds. Particular nice approaches from Pencelli, Talybont, and the Three Rivers National Trust car park SO024248.

Eastern Beacons Route Descriptions in downloadable PDF format

Eastern Beacons GPX Routes and Tracks

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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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Eastern Beacons A Pen y Fan QMD (Perhaps the only one…?)

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Eastern Beacons A Brecon Beacons Park Society Walk

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Eastern Beacons GPX for Llanfrynych alternative circuit

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Eastern Beacons Nant Crewe – Nant Ddu roundabout

The Central Beacons

Best approached from the car park at Cefn Perfedd SN927164.

Central Beacons Route Descriptions in PDF format

Central Beacons GPX Routes and Tracks

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Central Beacons Fan Fawr Cwm Du circuit (1)

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Central Beacons Fan Fawr Cwm Du Track (2)

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Central Beacons Fan Fraith Roundabout

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Central Beacons Freddie’s Walk in Memorium Fan Gyhirych North Face

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Central Beacons Freddie’s Walk slightly longer ROUTE

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Central Beacons Penwyllt circuit

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Central Beacons Penwyllt ROUTE

The Western Beacons

This part of the Beacons contains the most remote place in Wales Tyle Garw, and the notoriously remote 471 trig point. It is instructive to get out to the 471 and appreciate what it means to be ‘remote’ in Wales. Note that Tyle Garw is more remote than Fur Tor, the most remote place in England.

Western Beacons Route Descriptions in PDF format

Western Beacons GPX Routes and Tracks

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Western Beacons GPX Fan Brycheiniog north Missaf with Storm TRACK

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Western Beacons GPX Fan Brycheiniog north Missaf with Storm ROUTE

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Western Beacons Black mountain with some rough ground

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Western Beacons Garreg Lwyd ROUTE

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GPX Garreg Lwyd Northern Circuit with Storm TRACK

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GPX Garreg Lwyd Northern Circuit with Storm ROUTE

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Western Beacons Sadie’s Walk In Memorium

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