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Cambrian Way day 10: Cwar Blaen dyffryn quarry to Storey Arms

September 18, 2016 · 16 comments

 

Date walked: July 6th 2016

Maps used:OS Explorer OL 13 (Brecon Beacons National Park Eastern Area) and OL 12 (Brecon Beacons National Park Western Area)

Distance: around 10 miles (but lots of ups and downs)

Guide book: Cambrian Way by A J. Drake 7th edition

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I have quite an ambivalent relationship with camping, which is why I don’t do it that often. I am not a great sleeper at the best of times and camping is not natures way to get a good nights sleep. The main impediment being that it gets light so bloody early. So around 6am I gave a shout to whoever might be awake that I fancied a cup of tea.  A “morning” floated by from Neil’s direction. So to start this post, here is a pic of Neil in his sleeping bag.

Camping in the Brecon Beacons on the Cambrian Way, photographed by Charles Hawes

Rather a sweet pic, I thought – a selfie

It was a lovely morning and the slightly misty Dyffryn Crawnon Valley below was as good a first view of the day as you could have wished for.

The Dyffryn Crawnon Valley, Brecon Beacons, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

By 6.30 we were all up….

Wild camping above the Dyffryn Crawnon Valley, Brecon Beacons. photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

Paul was a little slow to emerge.

…. and Neil had made a cup of tea; I had supplied Paul and I with half a mug of treacle-flavoured instant porridge. It was surprisingly good.

Camping on the Cambrian Way in the Brecon Beacons, photographed by Charles Hawes

Neil is a morning person I think, and it shows

Breaking camp and putting everything back in a pack can be slightly tiresome….

Camping on the Cambrian way in the Brecon Beacons, photographed by Charles Hawes

Though Neil, not having a tent, had it easy.

…but by 7sh we were packed and back on the path and greeting our first sheep of the day.

Sheep in the Brecon Beacons, photographed from The Cambrain way by Charles Hawes

What’s not to like about sheep?

The path continued through this now redundant quarry, sadly but almost inevitably now used as a dump for local house renovators.

Waste dumped in the Cwar yr Hendre quarry, Brecon Beacons, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes.

We found ourselves doing a little sheep-herding….

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…. and then on a large boulder at the edge of the quarry I saw a bird of prey sunning itself.

Peregrine Falcon in the Cwar blaen dyffryn quarry, Brecon Beacons, photographed by Charles Hawes

Missing a telephoto lens

It seemed entirely un-bothered by us and hung around long enough for me to get a little closer- a puffed up Peregrine Falcon!

Peregrin Falcoln at Cwar yr Hendre quarry, Brecon Beacons, photographed by Charles Hawes

I’m embarrassed at how bad this is compared to the expertise of my fellow blogger Dave Marsden in photographing birds, though he does carry better equipment than I

Although I am member of CPRW (Campaign for the Protection of Rural wales) in my walks I always enjoy getting close to the remains of our desecration of the landscape.

Cwar yr Hendre quarry Brecon Beacons, photographed from The Cambrian Way by

It’s partly the mystery of the places – trying to imagine what was what

A flooded part of the quarry provided a mirror-like surface in the still morning.

Cwar Yr Hendre qurarry, Brecon Beacons, photographed from The Cambrain Way by Charles Hawes

Though with little to reflect in it from this angle

We knew the direction we needed to head from here, but on the ground we struggled to find what we could recognise as a path.  This was not difficult terrain , though, the sheep and wild horses combining to render it fairly close-cropped.

Wild horses on Bryniau Gleison, Brecon Beacons, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

We were walking over the brow of Bryniau Gleision at around 1,700 feet. Below us to the right was the Talybont Reservoir.

Talybont Reservoir, photographed on the Cambrain Way from Bryniau Gleision by Charles Hawes

We passed several more families of wild horses – their foals were simply gorgeous.

Wild horses on Bryniau Gleision, photographed from the Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

Good enough to eat?

We did find a recognisable track after a while that led to our first Trig Point of the day at Pant y Creigiau (1854feet). It was surrounded by water.

Trig point at Pant y Creigiau, photographed from The Cambrian way by Charles Hawes

But not so much as to stop me taking a group pic (after a lot of fiddling with the self-timer)

Trig point at Pant y Creigiau, photographed from The Cambrian way by Charles Hawes

Clever, eh?

From this minor summit we could see ahead of us the peaks of Pen y fan and its sister mountains. But between us and them was a deep valley that would demand 1,000 feet of our altitude to cross.

View to Pen y Fan from Pant Y Creigiau, photographed from The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

Yep we just have to do a lot of down and up to get there.

Neil reckoned that he could see a more direct route than the wiggly narrow path that we could see ahead of us on the shoulder of Craig y Fan Ddu but I reckoned that taking it would prove to be a mistake.

cambrian-day-10-24

At the bottom of the hill (the path deeply rutted by the ravages of 4x4s, causing Paul to have  a right chunner), we agreed that I was right (natch).  Our path here was joined by the Taff Trail  and as we left that, Beacons Way. It was quite a slog making our way up the very steep (but well stepped)  path,

Climbing the Beacons and Cambrian Way to Craig y Fan Ddu, photographed by Charles Hawes

Paul trends to lead the way up the hills

We passed an impressive waterfall,  its waters seeming especially attractive in what was turning out to be quite a hot day.

Waterfall on The Cambrian Way near Blaen y Glyn in the Brecon Beacons, photographed by Charles Hawes

The views from the top were well worth the effort we made to gain them.

View towards the Talybont reservoir from Craig y Fan Ddu photographed from the Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

Here we were significantly higher than the trig point on the other side of the valley and for a while we enjoyed a very gentle continuing ascent on the ridge of Craig y Fan Ddu.

Walking along Craig y Fan Ddu on the Cambrian Way, photographed by Charles Hawes

You can’t keep a good man back

A quick zig-zag left then right gave us a new view back to the Pentwyn Reservoir.

Pentwyn Reservoir, photographed from Craig y Fan Ddu on the Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

It is linked to the lower Pontsticill reservoir below

We were heading north now, still rising gently on a solid pavement of red sandstone.

Craig y Fan Ddu, Brecon Beacons, photographed on The Cambrian Way by Charles Hawes

Then, suddenly, we were at the edge of the escarpment which we have met several times on the Cambrian Way, Cwm Oergwm in front of us and beyond that the wide Usk Valley.

 

Charles Hawes on the Cambrian Way near Gwaun Cerrig Llwydion, photographed by Paul Steer

Time for a sit (or in Neil’s case, a collapse) – pic courtesy of Paul

The view behind us now was back over the Upper Neuadd Reservoir a much used path off the summit of Fan y Big clearly visible above the left of the lake.

View to the Upper Neuadd Reservoir photographed from The Cambrian Way near Fan y Big by Charles Hawes

Our route was now going to present the most challenging part of the day.  We had planned to climb the four linked peaks of Fan y Big, Cribyn, Pen y Fan and Corn Du. But what we had already done had taken its toll on Neil and he really wanted to make it to Pen y Fan. Paul was a bit knackered, too so just before Fan y Big my two comrades took a path below the first two peaks which would still bring them up to Pen y Fan. I resolved to carry on as planned, though I was not exactly feeling perky.But then I am heroic like that.

Fan Y Big (2,359 feet) was  easy enough from where we were, its flat peak occupied by a group of fit young men.

Fan y Big, the Cambrian Way, in the Brecon Beacons photographed by Charles Hawes

I mean fit, not fanciable. They may be fanciable. I’m just not doing a gay undertone here.

It may have been a rather nondescript summit, but the view along the face of the escarpment to the other peaks was stunning. And just a bit intimidating.

View from Fan y Big to Cribyn, Pen y Fan and Corn Du, photographed by Charles Hawes

From here  down to the saddle between Fan Y Big and Cribyn called Bwlch  Tar y Fan meant a descent of  around 400 feet. And from there back up to Cribyn (2,608 feet) required regaining around 650 feet.

Path from Bwlch Tar y Fan to Cribyn, photographed by Charles Hawes

This looks far less steep than it was!

And rather slowly gained they were. When I reached the top I really needed a few minutes recuperation. As I sat I was amazed to see a group of two guys and two girls in their teens or possibly 20’s carrying full camping gear who were getting to the summit on a very steep path that approached the mountain from the north.

The shoulder of Cribyn, Brecon Beacons, photographed by Charles Hawes

They were almost running!

When they arrived they were not even out of breath, making me feel very old/envious/tired. Ahead, Pen Y Fan may not have been very far for crows but to reach it I need to drop around 400 feet and then climb up over 700 feet. (I’ve been studying those contours)

View to Pen Y Fan from Cribyn, Brecon Beacons, photographed by Charles Hawes

At the time I wasn’t thinking of these figures. All I was thinking was that I had no choice, but if I could have somehow been magically transported to this highest of South Wales peaks from where I stood I would have taken that option. By now the going down was getting just as hard work as the going up.  And the going up was very, very, slow. I was comforted by finding that I was not alone in my struggle.  It was a question of head down and taking it one (small) step at a time.

Laid path to summit of Pen Y Fan, Brecon Beacons, photographed by Charles Hawes

It didn’t help that I was, by now, out of water (big mistake) and was probably getting a bit dehydrated. The last few hundred feet were probably the steepest of the day.

View from near the summit of Pen Y Fan towards Cribyn, photographed by Charles Hawes

I can’t tell you how nice it is when you do finally get to the top, though.  Paul and Neil were gratifyingly impressed that I had managed it. Note to self – do not do that again with camping gear.

Charles Hawes on Pen Y Fan, Brecon Beacons, photographed by Paul Steer

I really like this pic that Paul took. Kind of sums it all up.

As always, the cairn on the summit was busy and we waited our turn for a group pic taken by one of the many others that were milling around.

Charles Hawes, Neil Smurthwaite and Paul Steer on Pen Y Fan

Nice snap

The regular followers of this blog will know that this was the second time in recent months that I had climbed Pen Y Fan – it still felt quite special though.  From Pen Y Fan we might have taken a route down to Storey Arms that avoided climbing Corn Du but Neil and Paul were reasonably recovered and I would have felt it was not in the spirit of the Cambrian Way to avoid a peak. Paul led the way…

 

Path from Pen Y Fan to Corn Du, Brecon Beacons, photographed by Charles Hawes

…… and we were there in just a few minutes.

Charles Hawes and Paul Steer on the summit of Corn Du Brecon Beacons, photographed by Neil Smurthwaite

Nice pic from Neil, here

Looking down towards our route down to Storey Arms I had forgotten just how much more walking we had to do. It was a bit of a downer. We were all fairly bushed.

 

View to path down to Storey Arms from Corn Du, Brecon Beacons, photographed by Charles Hawes

Paul continued to lead and Neil and I had a good winge, charging Paul to get the drinks in when he reached the road.

 

View to path down to Storey Arms from Corn Du, Brecon Beacons, photographed by Charles Hawes

Which he did, like the Good Man that he is. That had been an exhilarating and exhausting day.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Neil September 18, 2016 at 6:55 am

It was an amazing days walk with fabulous views, even if by the end we were all suffering from dehydration (and in my case, general fatigue).
And yes, your climb up those 2 extra mountain tops that Paul and I circumnavigated, can correctly be described as heroic !!!
🙂

Reply

Charles September 19, 2016 at 5:40 pm

I hope you noted that I made no gratuitous remarks about you side-stepping some peaks!

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Paul Steer September 18, 2016 at 8:19 am

Watching gurkhas virtually running on the way up Pen y Fan with full kit and a smiley greeting made me want to weep. Oh to be young and fit like you Charles.

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Charles September 19, 2016 at 5:41 pm

Yes, well I just hope that you will be able to keep up when you reach my age.

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John Kingdon September 18, 2016 at 8:21 am

I have two questions. (1) Why do the three of you go walking supposedly together but then you go off up a few little inclines on your own or Paul walks on his own half a mile in front or Neil goes off on his own to point? And (2) Why is it that whenever there’s a photo of Paul and someone(s), the someone(s) are always standing on higher ground or made to appear so by camera angle? Paul is far kinder in his photos of you, always managing to avoid any view of that thing you’re always moaning about.

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Charles September 19, 2016 at 5:45 pm

This is one of those well known phenomenon which reflects walkers differing abilities and inclinations to go at different paces depending on the terrain. But also sometimes its a question of people wanting a bit of personal space. Personally I like to have some periods where I am not engaged with talking during the day. I always feel that I take in my surroundings better if I am not with anyone. As for Paul, I think he is just naturally retiring.

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John Kingdon September 19, 2016 at 8:11 pm

Which (ignoring your total avoidance of the questions) probably explains why Neil gets less colourful after breakfast and Paul strides off in front, especially when he’s walking up an incline. Incidentally, I do note that in commenting on these accounts of your multi-day walks Anne never asks about facilities! Oh, and presumably you mean “phenomena”, “walkers'” and “it’s”. Mention that only as Anne’s having a day orf.

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Julia September 18, 2016 at 8:50 am

Fresh and green – and looks fun

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Charles September 19, 2016 at 5:49 pm

Green, yes. And a bit of brown where we have worn out the green. And some pink in the steps. Not to mention blue skies.

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Ruth September 18, 2016 at 9:22 pm

Wow. That looks (a) hard and (b) wonderful. What beautiful views. Great blog post and wonderful photos.

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Charles September 19, 2016 at 5:47 pm

Thanks Ruth, -t’was indeed hard and beautiful. Only two more days left in the Beacons before we head north.

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Valerie Lapthorne September 19, 2016 at 12:21 pm

Thanks for this. Well done

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Kev the Yank September 25, 2016 at 1:01 pm

Love the photos! They struck me as particularly splendid this time! Forgive me for not having anything snarky to say this time…

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Charles September 25, 2016 at 5:46 pm

Thanks Kevin. You are forgiven. I like the word “snarky”.

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David Marsden September 27, 2016 at 5:50 am

An envy inducing day’s walk, Charles – that scarp face is incredible. I’ve only now read up about the Cambrian Way and seen what a monster it is, in terms of distance and height. I’ve just returned from a few days walking in Snowdonia and regret not visiting it for twenty years. Tryfan and the Carneddau were stunning – but I wouldn’t like to climb the latter with a full pack. D

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Charles September 28, 2016 at 1:48 pm

Always feels nice to be promoting envy. Yes, its going to get tough. Neil’s committed to getting fitter as head for Llandovery. I shall miss the Beacons. They have been fab. A great finale to them in next post but one.

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