Archive for February 4th, 2009

February 4, 2009

A weekend in the Black Mountains

by backpackingbongos

Got back on Sunday night from a cracking weekend in the Black Mountains (eastern side of the Brecon Beacons national park).  Got picked up after work and driven to a friends remote cottage in the Grwyne Fawr valley.  Its nice to be able to relax and not concentrate on driving.

Turned off the A465 at about 9.00pm for a few miles drive along deserted country lanes, then a mile up a bumpy track to the cottage.  The contrast from inner city Nottingham to the silence and darkness of the Black Mountains was startling.  The fact that the cottage is without electricity and a mile off of the road only adds to that contrast.  We were soon sitting in front of the roaring fire, eating soup and catching up with friends.

I was the last one up in the morning, really in the mood for a lie in but there are hills out there to be climbed!  I also had some new boots to break in (Salomon Elios mid xcr).  After a good cooked breakfast we are following Mac down the hill to the road through the Grwyne Fawr valley.  This is only the second time ever that I have been led on a walk (the first time was also with Mac the year before) so it was nice not to have to concentrate on the map, or even really know where we were headed!  We were soon heading up a path alongside Nant y Gwerydd onto open country.  The weather was dry but pretty cloudy and hazy, at least the clouds were off the tops.  No sooner as we had ascended the ridge line just below the summit of Bal-mawr, Mac was leading us straight downhill into Cwm Bwchel.

Descending into Cwm Bwchel


A lovely valley with a steep twisting path that  gave a great view of LLanthony priory before dropping to the floor of the Vale of Ewyas.  There would be no level walking today as we were soon heading up the other side of the valley onto the Hatterrall ridge.  A quick peek over the ridge gave a great view of the English countryside before we retreated out of the wind and found a great scenic lunch spot.

Lunch stop on the edge of the Hatterrall ridge.


It was straight back down on a contouring line to have a look at the Cwmyoy landslip.  A good mile or so of difficult walking through a boulder strewn landscape with trees dripping with moss.  A stretch that I would recomend to anyone (follow the fence line at the border of open country).  We soon reached Cwmyoy church for a quick breather and a coffee.

We still had loads of climbing to do before getting back to the cottage.  Up onto the ridge on the other side of the valley from cwmyoy gave us great veiws before we once again headed downhill to the valley floor of Grwyne Fawr.  For the last stretch it was up hill yet again, but in the dark and through forestry to reach the cottage.

8 hours we were out but only covering 11.5 miles.  Maybe it was the 1000 metres of ascent that slowed us down!  Oh and my new boots did not give me blisters.  Which was nice!

Map of the days walk (click for full size)


The next morning dawned colder, much colder.  The wind was roaring through the trees and there was the threat of snow in the air.  The ground yesterday was really muddy, today it was as hard as iron.  It was a stiff climb up to the suumit of Crug Mawr, a fantastic view point of the ridges leading north.  However the wind was so strong that you could lean into it without falling over.  The wind chill pretty much paralysed my face and I had to shelter my eyes for fear that my eyeballs would freeze!

The summit of Crug Mawr – almost too windy to stand!


We all staggered off of the hill down into Partishrow where we got some relief from the wind then headed up the other side of the valley to the summit of Gaer, which from the map appears to be an old fort of some kind.  For a small hill it offers extensive views in all directions and gives a good indication of the layout of the Black mountains.

Mac and myself on the summit of Gaer


Looking north from Gaer


The ridge north is a joy to walk and a couple of miles passed quickly before we found ourselves descending back into the valley and back to the cottage.  Snow just started to fall as we were packing the car for the drive home.

Map of the days walk (click for full size)


Snow just begins to fall outside the cottage as we leave on Sunday afternoon……..