Saturday, 16 November 2013

Pen y Fan from Brecon via Cribyn 7.11.13

A circular walk, 13.7 miles, 6 - 7 hours.

A mountain trek that takes in the highest point in the Brecon Beacons national park.

There comes a time when wandering around moors and boggy low hills can get a bit monotonous, don't get me wrong I do love a roam on the moors, but after a while you get that urge to get back to climbing some higher terrain.
 I was staying in Shrewsbury - which makes an excellent base to be able to travel to the Welsh mountain ranges in a 'day out'. I had always wanted to climb Pen y Fan, it stands the highest peak in the vast national park of the Brecon Beacons and makes for an impressive sight from any angle. I had drawn up a route that would be sensible at this time of year, to allow for the less light available and that would take in Pen y Fan, but also some of its neighbouring mountains too.
 This route I drew up starts in the popular town of Brecon, beginning a new region for my walking routes, 'Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains' - the latter of which I hope to do some exploring of in the near future. 
 The day was set to be the best of the week with a forecast of sunny spells with occasional scattered showers, and snow flurries on the higher summits - pretty good for early November.
 I was heading from Shrewsbury by train to Abervagenny, where I caught the number 43 bus which got me into a sunny, but cold Brecon at just after 9 am. 
 As a starting point for the walk I had selected the Parish Church of St Mary's which sits pretty much in the centre of the town...
Pen y Fan and Pole Bank walk 003
The route passes to the right of the church and heads towards a road junction. Turning left at the junction, the route follows a road that crosses over the River Usk before cutting left again along a small lane that runs next to the river...
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The lane soon ends and begins an easy to follow footpath that is sign posted...
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The path starts to head uphill and allows you over the A40...
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After the bridge the path then twists left and continues uphill...
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The route soon becomes a rock strewn path that's a good test for the knee ligaments...
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I had noticed on the map a Trig Point in a field a few hundred yards from the path. This had to be bagged - so cutting right from the track, I headed up the steep embankment, and cut over a barbed wire fence and made my way across a sheep filled field to bag the only Trig Point of the walk on Cefn Cantref at 293 metres. This high point also gives the first glimpse of the mountains to climb up ahead...
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From the Trig I headed back to the track, the track eventually merges out onto a narrow lane.
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At this time of year routes are all about short cuts to save time, from the above farm house a route cuts left through the gate in the left of the photo, and follows - what on this day was a running stream bed...
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The 'path' brings you back out onto a lane which passes the Cantref Adventure Farm, and you pass a church on your right hand side...
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Here passing the church...
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Just after the church yard, a footpath is on your right hand side...
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The footpath allows you to cross over the fast flowing Afon Cynrig via a footbridge, although on this day - the path was flowing too after all the previous day's rain...
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The footbridge brings you out onto a boggy field, but the path is easy to follow. At the edge of the field a stile brings you out onto another stream bed path, turning left up the path a well built set of steps allows you out across another field...
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After the above field the path brings you out onto another lane which I followed for about 200 yards...
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In the above picture to the left, a stile allows you off the lane where the route continues across a crop filled field, towards another lane that cuts steeply uphill...
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At the top of the steep lane a footpath cuts right sign posted for Fan y Big...
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Another of these, by now familiar rocky stream bed footpaths, this one again is fairly hard going, but allows you out onto the hillside...
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The path is steep and boggy as you climb towards the top of Cefyn Cyff...
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Here approaching the summit of Cefyn Cyff, which is marked by a cairn at 611 metres...
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It was nice to take the time to take in the scenery of this part of the Brecon Beacons. Here I'm stood in front of Cribyn to the left, and flat topped Pen y Fan to the right...
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And looking towards the Black Mountains to the East from Cefyn Cyff...
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Pressing onwards now towards Fan y Big...
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Pointed Fan y Big summit to the left up ahead, with the impressive semi circular ridge of Craig Cwm Cynwyn, leading to the summit of Cribyn...
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Welsh Mountain Ponies on the slopes of Fan y Big...
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Heavy cloud just starting to skim the tops of  Pen y Fan and neighbouring Corn Du bringing rain...
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Fan y Big summit has a famous feature that has to be done when on this route - a plinth of rock that sticks out over the precipitous side of the mountain known as the Diving Board...
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The Diving Board in the rain...
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There has been a kind of stair case built that allows you to climb down from Fan y Big, or climb up it if you're heading the other way of course. But in wet conditions like this, it made for a slippery descent...
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Cloud gracing the summit of Cribyn up ahead now...
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A steep climb upcoming here onto Craig Cwm Cynwyn...
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Pen y Fan and Pole Bank walk 105
A good test of fitness is the climb up onto this ridge...
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From left; Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Cribyn...
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Looking back towards Fan y Big and the mass of Waun Rydd beyond...
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And back towards Cefyn Cyff and the Black Mountains beyond...
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The summit of Cribyn is marked again by a cairn at a height of 795 metres. Considering this is one of the busiest places to walk in the U.K, it was remarkably quiet on this day, the weather had improved considerably by now too...
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Pen y Fan and its twin neighbour Corn Du up ahead now...
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Pen y Fan and Pole Bank walk 127
Pen y Fan...
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As you would expect between these two mountains, it's quite boggy. However there has been some considerable work done to this path at some point in the past to get you across the bogs and up onto the hillside...
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Pen y Fan and Pole Bank walk 137
The approach to Pen y Fan is called Craig Cwm Sere and it commands some fine views. Here looking south east towards the Neuadd Reservoirs, Pentwyn Reservoir and a very distant Pontsticill Reservoir beyond...
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And here looking back towards Cribyn...
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A steep ascent...
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This part of the Brecon Beacons is used as part of the fitness and navigation phase of the selection process of the UK's Special Forces personnel, an exercise known as the 'Fan Dance'. Remembrance crosses adorn a lot of this mountain, and as a mark of respect to those guys I was proud to be wearing my poppy.

Feeling very similar to Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales, but on a slightly larger scale, the last few steps of Craig Cwm Sere brings you out onto the wind swept flat top summit plateau of Pen y Fan...
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Pen y Fan and Pole Bank walk 150
The summit is marked by a large cairn, complete with a national trust marker stone at 886 metres...
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Cribyn now far below...
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And looking towards neighbouring Corn Du in the sleet, just 13 metres lower than Pen y Fan...
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Corn Du and the small lake on its lower slopes - Llyn Cwm Llwch...
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The route continues from the summit in a north easterly direction, the ridge path is easy to follow across Cefn Cwm Llwch...
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Brecon comes back into view...
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Here looking back at Cribyn and Pen y Fan from the final cairn of the walk, the summit of Allt Ddu...
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From Allt Ddu the path drops sharply downhill, but keeping left the route cuts towards some boggy ground that seems to receive all the run off from the mountains. But a sign posted path allows you out onto a small lane...
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This begins a bit of lane walking back towards Brecon...
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Here crossing the River Usk back into Brecon, in heavy rain...
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And finally back outside the church of St Mary's completing the walk. And most importantly, time for a pint before heading back to Abervagenny.
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Overall a great walk that takes in some fine scenery. It took me about 5 and a half hours, but I would give yourself up to 7 hours to allow for the uphill sections and perhaps an explore of Corn Du, which I seriously did consider at one point.

 The Brecon Beacons is a vast area of South Wales that screams to be explored, and explore it you must!
Thank you for reading.

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