The Beacons Beckon – RMC goes to Wales

[click on any picture to get an enlarged view]

Icy cold January winds on the slopes of the Brecons

 RMC is Reading Mountaineering Club. With a monthly program of trips for walkers, climbers, scramblers, and bikers there are members from far and wide.

Last Friday a select group joined the queues on the M4 towards Wales and the Brecon Beacons YHA hostel. This comfortable old farmhouse is in the middle of nowhere yet only a short drive from Merthyr Tydfil. Two miles from the nearest building and hidden from the road it is easy to miss in the dark.

A range of accommodation including rooms as well as dormitories, a lounge with comfortable leather sofas and a log fire, and a few beers makes for a good venue. They can also provide a cooked breakfast and a three course dinner on request.

At the bottom of the back field is the Taff trail – at this point the old post route – which leads to one of the start points to Pen Y Fan.

Heading up from the Storey Arms Centre we had a wide circular route planned taking in Pen Y Fan and some other tops to the east of the road before crossing to other side and returning on the ridge to the west.

Simon in the lead, still optimistic that we will complete his well-planned walk

 With snow underfoot and a cold wind from the north-west we headed upwards into the cloud. We knew there were hundreds of people here because of the parked cars on the road, but we couldn’t see them – one redeeming feature of these weather conditions!

Heading into the cloud that obscures the way ahead
A pow-wow at the top of Corn Dhu results in a revised plan
Time to reach for the crampons on the icy path down

 At the top of Corn Dhu, with poor visibility, ice underfoot, and a weather forecast that promised strong winds, we decided to head down. We could explore the valley and possibly the opposite ridge with Fan Fawr which remained out of the cloud. The car park down on the A470 was frantically busy with Saturday trippers eager to enjoy the snow. A food stall meant I could substitute for the packed lunch which I’d left in the hostel and the water bottle which escaped my grip on the top and slipped and slid out of sight down the icy slope slope.

RMC members examine the quality of the Welsh snow

We crossed the road and headed south west to gain the ridge on the opposite side. North along the ridge brought up to Fan Fawr where, ice axes at the ready we headed down steeply off the escarpment. The snow was soft and deep and as it turned out the chances of a slip were remote.

Fan Fawr give a chance to use the ice axe

A circular walk, much shorter than planned but nevertheless a good taste of winter conditions in the Brecons.

On Sunday the weather prospect was better and four of the group headed elsewhere to use their bikes. Three of us drove round to Taf Fechan Forest for a rewarding tramp to Pen Y Fan via Cribyn on the east side, returning on the western ridge from Corn Du.

It was quiet on our side of the hill with only a couple of cars in the car park when we arrived.

From slope of Cribyn looking towards Taf Fechlan Forest
Pen Y Fan from Cribyn
On top of Pen Y Fan looking North West
The Swarm advances from Corn Dhu

From Cribyn we had extensive views and a sharp drop down to the slope of Pen Y Fan. It was a surprise to arrive here and find the summit cairn area empty of people. This was not to last for long. To the west swarming over and around Corn Dhu was a mass of ant like dots – hundreds of people of all ages many with dogs – heading along the icy path to Pen Y Fan.

The Race to the top of Pen Y Fan

We stopped for lunch on Corn Dhu near where we had turned the day before.

Just below Corn Dhu summit looking west Fan Fawr in middle distance
The Ridge route S from Corn Dhu

 The return brought us off the ridge, in deep snow, down to cross the lower dam below Neuadd and onto the private road which leads back to the carpark.

The ridge from Corn Dhu – a break in its defences provided a route down with deep snow
Crossing the valley at Neuadd

  A good round trip of about 14 km taking about 4 hours.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *