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Sunday, 22 October 2017

3 days in the Black Mountains.

The Black Mountain's located on the eastern fringes of the Brecon Beacons (Not to be confused with Black Mountain on the western side of the Brecon Beacon's ) Is an area I've never visited, despite it only being around a 2hr drive from where I live .Over the years  much of my walking and back packing has been concentrated around Snowdonia , Lake District , The Berwyns & The Peak District .

I've covered many, many miles in these area's, to the extent that it was becoming very familiar territory .. I was in need of some new ground to explore . The Black Mountain's fitted the bill nicely .

Day 1 12.9 miles ascent 2898ft. descent 2035ft.

On line research led me to a nice start /finish at a car park at the foot of Black Hill. I had 3 day's to play with so I came up with a rough route which I could change depending on weather conditions .

The forecast for the weekend was mainly dry but with strong winds ahead of storm Ophelia arriving Sunday into Monday .A good choice to test my newly acquired Hilleberg Soulo which I bought with snowy winter camps in mind .

Pulling into the empty car park at around 8pm I surveyed the conditions - light drizzle with a strong wind  the higher tops still in cloud. It was very mild for the time of year so I decided on a windshirt over my very light base layer  before shouldering my pack and setting off on the steep climb to Black Hill.

looking back towards the car park from Black Hill

view south on ascent of Black Hill

Soon I reached the summit , the higher tops were beginning to clear with signs of brightness appearing. There were some nice views towards Hay Bluff - which I intended visiting on my way back in 3 day's time .

Black Hill summit

looking towards Hay Bluff form Black Hill

Next my attention turned to The Black Mountains ridge and I  branched off to pick up the Offa's Dyke path running along it's spine. This turned out to be a very nice high level walk , and I followed it all the way down to a cairn at spot height 552 mtrs before heading west to cross the Vale of Ewyas , before ascending to Bal Bach via Cwm Bwchel.

Looking back to black Hill

looking south along the Offa's Dyke path along the Black Mountain ridge

light on Black Hill from the Offa's Dyke path

View across the Vale of Ewyas to Bal Mawr

light in the Vale of Ewyas

Llanthony Priory ruins.

It was quite a warm climb to Bal Bach in warm Autumnul sunshine and the cooling breeze on reaching the top was most welcome . The bracken looked splended in it's full autumn colours - rich orange / brown , it would be gone in a few weeks as the seasons shift from autumn to winter .

Autumn colours from Cwm Bwchel.

Ahead was Bal Mawr and I set of towards it's summit arriving soon after . I surveyed the route ahead the set off looking for a place to camp along the way . The ridge is mostly covered in heather, so I checked out a few possibilities - a few sheep nibbled patches  in amongst the bracken on the steep sides - but none turned out to be flat enough . I eventually settled on a spot just south of Chwarel y Fan - nice and flat on a patch of shortish heather . It was very exposed though- the strong winds ( later measured at a constant 45 mph) would be a good 1st test of the Hilleberg Soulo ! it has a good reputation for being a good solid shelter , so I set it up and put my faith in the guylines preventing it- and me from being blown of the hillside .

The 1st pitch went well , but the heather meant I couldn't get the bottom pegs around the base in sufficiently to get the flysheet taught . Despite a bit of flappy fabric however, it felt solid and secure as the winds did their best to detach us from the mountain .

Bal Mawr.

pitch near Bwlch Bach.

Morning came  and I still had a flysheet above my head , I had slept very well - the heather providing a nice soft and comfortable bed for the night . Lighting my meth stove for a brew I snuggled back down for a few minutes whilst I waited for the water to boil.

Whilst enjoying breakfast I downloaded the latest weather forecast which wasn't looking good - particulary the period sunday  evening to Monday morning ... after a dull start it would brighten up before storm force winds with gusts to 70 - 80mph arrived , the exact timing of this was uncertain . I thought about heading back in case it came early, but in the end I decided to descend to see if I could find a sheltered spot for the night , at the same time exploring a bit more of the surrounding area.

Once breakfast was finished I set about packing ready to strike camp . whilst taking down the tent  a couple of back packers came along the ridge " not windy enough for you up here then ? " they jokingly said - they had camped down in the valley  but me being a stubborn sod I always try to camp as high as possible... for the better views.

Once everything was packed and the 'idiot' check was done I set off towards Chwarel y Fan under bright blue skies.

Day 2  12 miles ascent 1521ft. descent 1655ft.

 Grwyne Fawr Resevoir.

Chwarel y Fan.

Shortly after the summit of Chwarel Y Fan I branched off on a descending path towards Grwyne Fawr Resevoir.
Grwyne Fawr Dam.

A little further up I descended to check out the bothy , a lovely spot next to the inlet stream at the northern edge of Grwyne Fawr Resevoir . It is a fairly compact bothy , and initially I could see any where to sleep until I spied an iron ladder leading to a small sleeping platform just big enough for 2 .

I intended returning later if the weather turned grim , but would need a plan 'b ' in case it was occupied. I continued on keeping an eye out for a good sheltered spot along the way.

Grwyne Fawr Bothy.

Inside Grwyne Fawr Bothy.

A few miles on I came across a lovely sheltered spot on some raised ground beside the stream .
It was only 12 pm though - far too early for a camp so I added it as a poi in viewranger in case I needed to return later .

Still having a good few hours of walking time ahead, I quickly planned a route and headed for Waun Fach  taking a slanting line over mostly pathless terrain towards Pen y Manllwyn .

 Unfortunately upon arrival I was greeted with zero views , the thick clag making it feel a very bleak place - not a place to linger today.

Heading back to Pen y Manllwyn I continued north on the path passing Y Crib ( also known as the dragons back ) before continuing North East to the summit Cairn at Rhos Dirion, passing a lovely herd of wild ponies along the way.

Wild Welsh Pony .

Rhos Dirion summit .

From Ros Dirion I headed south east towards Twyn Talycefn before descending towards spot height 607 m from where I descended back towards Grwyne Fawr Resevoir , this time taking a walk along the dam wall .

Heading towards Twyn Talycefn

view from Grwyne Fawr Dam

Autumn Colour.

By now it was getting late  so I decided to head for the spot I found earlier where I set up camp for the evening . This time the ground was better and I was able to get the base pegs in better - resulting in a much tighter pitch .

Pitch near the Grwyne Fawr.

After fetching water from the nearby stream I settled down and spent a leisurely evening cooking dinner , a few brews , before relaxing with the rest of the very nice single malt I had with me .

Around dawn there were some hefty showers and I again lit the meths stove before lying back listing to the patter of rain drops on the flysheet.

Another leisurely breakfast was consumed then I packed every thing  away inside the tent ,  before getting out and quickly dropping the tent before heading back to Rhos Dirion.

Day 3 8.7.miles ascent 1406ft. descent 2140ft.

From there I continued to Lord Hereford's Knob ( Twmpa ) then descended to the lane before climbing back up to Hay Bluff.

looking back towards Twmpa.

Hay Bluff summit .

From there I headed back to Black Hill taking 1 last time to look back at the views before heading back to the car park . The winds were getting very strong - knocking me of my feet on a few occasions !

A wind speed / temp reading was taken on my skywatch - around 57 mph constant , 75 mph gusts and a very mild 17.5 c . storm Ophelia was here ... time to get back down.

It had been a very enjoyable 3 days in some new ground , and I look forward to returning to explore further.

Looking north from Black Hill.

Till next time...
Happy Wildcamping
Daron :-)

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