For the first of my 12 wild camping trips in 12 months I ventured to the Brecon Beacons – Pen y Fan weekend walk. I aimed for a relatively short route due to the darker winter days, although I was able to get up high as the weather was reasonable for this time of year and there was very little wind.
Friday was mainly about getting over to the Brecon Beacons and finding somewhere to camp. I parked in the Pont ar Daf car park just below Pen y Fan as its a good place to leave the car for a couple of days and allowed me good access to the hills immediately after parking up.
I walked down the road towards the Storey Arms Centre and then took the path to start my ascent. This was a fairly steep way to start the walk but I was eager to get going and enjoyed the climb. As it started to get dark the path levelled out and descended slowly towards a stream, and there were a few flat patches so I decided to stop here for the evening.
I could see the occasional flash of a headtorch on Saturday morning and looked outside the tent across the hill to see a whole row of people climbing Pen y Fan. I would assume they were looking to see the sunrise from the top but the clouds were low and I reckon they were a tad disappointed.
Once I’d had my breakfast and packed away my tent I set off along a fairly steep path towards Corn Du. This route was much quieter than the direct path up Pen y Fan appeared to be and I was happy about this. However, I joined the main path on top of Corn Du and this was a lot busier. The walk along the top, over Pen y Fan to Fan y Big was easy to navigate despite the low cloud. It was fairly up and down but enjoyable, and a good start to the day.
I was quite surprised to see this many people lining up to take a picture on top of Pen y Fan in the chilly weather. Certainly good to see people enjoying the hills, but a few of them did appear somewhat underdressed. I also encountered a lady in jeans just before I reached the top of Fan y Big who asked me how far to ‘the plaque’, and she looked freezing!
The cloud cleared nicely as I took the turn off along Craig y Fan Ddu and allowed some excellent views. I had intended, perhaps optimistically, to continue along the top and descend to the end of the Talybont Reservoir. With the short winter days I decided to turn off earlier. However, if you were looking to do this walk in the summer, this would be a great way of extending it.
The walk down, with the sun out, was excellent. I walked down past the waterfalls, and used the opportunity to test my new Katadyn Befree water filter. This was a lightweight piece of kit that was easy to use and allowed me to fill up both of my one litre water bottles in around two minutes. So far this has been a good water filter, although I’m interested to see how I get on with it on longer walks.
Once passed the waterfalls I joined the road for around half a mile, then took the track into the Taf Fechan Forest. The forest opened up and allowed some nice views of the reservoir and surrounding landscape. The aim was to get to the Neuadd Reservoirs to camp, and the walk along the track towards these was easy going, albeit quite busy.
I arrived at Neuadd Reservoirs relatively early and the farmer was moving a number of cows around. As a result, I decided to extend my walk slightly, and begun the climb up Graig Fan Ddu to find somewhere to camp.
As Saturday had finished with good weather, I camped reasonably high to hopefully have good views in the morning. This was evidently a tad optimistic for January…
I had intended to take the wider path up to the trigpoint at Twyn Mwyalchod, but instead took the path directly up on to the ridge. This was a good choice as the climb was steep but exciting and the low cloud meant I wouldn’t have had any views from the trigpoint anyhow.
The walk along the ridge was easily navigable in the low cloud, which I was grateful for. Reaching one of the large footpaths that climbs Pen y Fan quite early in the day, I decided to extend my walk slightly. I crossed this path on a slightly smaller path, and continued over to the other large footpath up Pen y Fan. I wanted to avoid some of the crowds so crossed over this onto a much smaller path towards the Tommy Jones obelisk. This was a good choice as the sun came out for a few moments and allowed some excellent views and photo opportunities.
I chose to take the gradual descent down back towards the main road. This path disappeared and I enjoyed the need to concentrate in the low cloud for navigation. Despite how busy it was on the large routes, I avoided most of the crowds until I got back down the the Storey Arms Centre. I walked along the track next to the forest to get back to the car, finishing the walk by early afternoon.
Highly recommend this walk if you’re lucky enough to have decent weather in the winter months. Short enough for the winter days but reaching high points with good views. Also easily extendable by following the path along the top down towards the Talybont Reservoir and opportunities to camp high in spring or summer. Some parts were busy, though other parts were much quieter and felt more remote.
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