Originally, this was to be a blog about my preparations to enter the TGO Challenge in 2012. For a variety of reasons that didn't happen, so this has now become the repository for my outdoor musings.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Fan Fawr

My aim is to get in at least one half decent mountain walk every month. It doesn't necessarily have to be long-distance, but perhaps in a new area where navigation will be tested, over tougher, pathless terrain or in "interesting" weather. My jaunt around Fan Fawr on Friday definitely ticked all these boxes.

All week there had been talk of unseasonally cold weather, and as Friday drew closer the Metcheck and MetOffice mountain area forecasts for the Brecons showed cold but bright conditions, with the chance of snow later in the day. Perfect. I left Cheltenham just after 7 a.m. and enjoyed a beautiful drive along the A40 to Brecon where I headed south to the Storey Arms. There had been some high cloud to the west and as I parked up fronds of grey were reaching over Fan Frynych. The view east was very pleasant though!

Corn Du, looking all frosty.

Suitably geared up, I headed up the path that tracks along the edge of the escarpment, rising towards Craig Cerrig-Gleisiad. The ground was rock hard and the frozen boot prints made for awkward walking at times, but the frozen water formations around the little rills and streams were beautiful.

Grass or glass?

A short while later I was at the top Craig Cerrig-Gleisiad and I could see the delightful, low, snow-bearing clouds to the west. Lovely. Occasionally little bits of hard snow would ping of my Berghaus Mountain Cap, a tiny foretaste of what was to come. There was something about the solitude and the muted colours of the landscape which I found very pleasing though. Looking west the Black Mountain was gradually being engulfed by the advancing weather.

The White Trig Point of Ecthelion

On Frozen Pond

Black Mountain Panorama

I left Fan Frynych and headed towards Fan Dringarth and then Fan Llia, stopping along the way to put on my overtrousers and shell as the snow started coming down in earnest. Navigation was not too difficult here as the path was about as wide as a B road! Just after the "summit" of Fan Llia, I turned left, straight down the hill towards the Ystradfellte Reservoir. I crossed the dam and stopped for a bite to eat. An aborted attempt to rescue a sheep that had jumped in to the dam spill way followed, unfortunately the sheep didn't want to be rescued and as I didn't want to slide down the Afon Dringarth I clambered out to resume my journey.

As the next section was across rough and pathless ground I took a bearing, set my sights on something at the edge of visibility and set off. The next couple of hours were a thankless trudge. The ground was tussock-tabulous, slippery, featureless and with visibility reduced there wasn't even any view to take my mind off things. My original plan had been to traverse Fan Fawr, but in light of the conditions I thought I'd bypass it, head towards the Beacons Reservoir and pick up the Taff Trail back to the Storey Arms. What a slog. Anyway after what seemed like an age, but was probably only an age, I was striding purposefully up the A470 in to the lowering cloud and finally back at the van, ready for a slightly nervous trip down the increasingly snow-covered road to Brecon. All in all, Grough Maps says 18.7 km, with 617 metres of ascent (and descent). Time taken, including breaks, approx 6 hours. Naismith reckons 4 and a half but then what does he know?


  1. That Naismith fellow is a right smart-arse! Lovely pictures by the way. What happened to the unfortunate sheep?
    All very worthy this training lark... I walked to Waitrose yesterday. I don't suppose that counts? It's a bit parky out there.

  2. I'm hoping that the relevant shepherd/hill farmer came up to check on his flock and all ended well! I didn't want to get too carried away, it was slippery, steepish and the sheep was a bit startled. I felt bad walking off but the nearest habitation was about 1.5 miles downhill in the wrong direction. I did see a peregrine earlier in the day and loads of hill ponies, so my wildlife count was reasonable.
    I think it depends which Waitrose you walked to!

  3. Frosty start and snowy finish. I reckon you made a wise decision changing your route. As for the sheep. You tried to help it. Some would not I expect.

  4. Lovely photos, mate, especially the grass or glass one!

  5. Thanks for the photo feedback, just for reference these pics were taken on a Fujifilm Finepix F70 EXR. I didn't fancy lugging my Nikon D50 with me...