HILL, DALES AND MOUNTAIN HIKING

21st April 2009: Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk    Web page by Bryan Benn

Start/Finish:N.T. Cwm Gwdi car park

Highest Point: Pen y fan summit, 886m

Distance: circa 16 km

Weather: Sun and low mist, cloud later

Vertical altitude gain: circa 1000m

Time: 7 hrs

Brecon Beacons I had "discovered" the Snowdonian mountains in August 2008, and been back a good few times since then to an area that will always be the major Welsh mountain walking attraction for me. But I did know there were other parts of Wales with mountains, and by late April decided it was time to visit one of those: the Brecon Beacons. In particular one of the horseshoe walks taking in the highest summit of the Beacons, Pen y Fan.
Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

An attraction of the Brecon Beacons is that it is just possible to do a decent walk there on a day trip from my home near Maidstone in Kent. Traffic conditions permitting of course. And traffic was fine after a very early start from home got me off to an 08.20 start from the National Trust car park at Cwm Gwdi, South of Brecon. With Pen y Fan in view very soon!

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

I dropped downhill from the car park and used lanes and paths, heading for the North ridge route up to Cribyn. Which starts on a ridge called Bryn Teg. That was ahead with the peak of Cribyn behind it just visible behind it.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

I wasn't thinking straight after the early start and stayed on the track that heads up the East side of Bryn Teg, to a small shoulder at Bwlch Ar y Fan between Fan y Big and Cribyn.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

Over head a bird of prey hovered. But not for me, even though I was walking very slowly!

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

I continued on the track until I could see the end of the Cwm very clearly, with Cribyn being passed to my right, (out of shot), when I should of course been heading straight for that mountain.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

The track up though to Bwlch Ar y Fan looked inviting and was a much longer but easier route up to Cribyn.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

But I specifically wanted to climb to Cribyn up the very steep North ridge. So first had to leave the track I was on and find a way up the steep side of Bryn Teg next to me.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

That was a steep ascent, but initially at least I got to level ground on Bryn Teg. With a lovely view of Pen y Fan, the highest Summit in the Brecon Beacons, to my right. That should be my second summit of the day after Cribyn.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

The top of Bryn Teg may have been level, but not the climb up to the summit of Cribyn. Indeed the steepness and the drop offs either side, especially to the right, were steep enough to trigger my vertigo as I made my ascent.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

Pen Y Fan to my right, with the steepness of Cribyn obvious from the terrain much closer!

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

As I climbed, I did have time to look over towards Fan y Big.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

Not far to go, although the last section was the steepest. Occasionally needing to use a hand to steady myself

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

Finally the summit of Cribyn! Time for a breather and a slurp of isotonic drink.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

Looking North West from the summit.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

The view across to Fan y Big and the track over Bwlch Ar y Fan.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

I was soon on my way, dropping steeply to the shoulder overlooking the cliffs of Craig Cwm Sere. Ahead was Pen y Fan and it's massive and steep East cliffs. And just behind in the centre, is the flat top of Corn Ddu.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

A look back up to Cribyn from the lowest point between that peak and Pen y Fan.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

Over 220m of ascent from the shoulder up to the summit of Pen y Fan was ahead of me.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

This path was much busier than the Bryn Teg route up to Cribyn. Evidenced by significant erosion on the track.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

Getting close to the top of Pen y Fan now. With the final summit of the day, Corn Ddu, now looking close as well.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

Cribyn, seen from the top of Pen y Fan. The very steep North ridge is obvious from here. No wonder my vertigo was kicking in walking up that!

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

A wider view of Cribyn from the top of Pen y Fan, showing the two main tracks up to Pen y Fan from that general direction.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

As the lovely sunny day was quickly replaced by low cloud and a cold wind I headed on over the small dip to get to the summit of Corn Ddu. The third summit in my horseshoe walk.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

View SE from near the top of Pen y Fan as I walked across to Corn Ddu.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

Approaching low cloud and the remains of the morning's valley mist didn't give a very clear view NW from the summit of Corn Ddu.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

View back from the summit of Corn Ddu to Pen y Fan.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

Back on Pen y Fan, and my route back to Cwm Gwdi along the ridge of Cefn Cwm Llwch. With an initial steep descent.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

A look back from the Cefn Cwm Llwch route over the Pen y Fan cliffs to Cribyn.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

A view back up the track to the summit of Pen y Fan. A steep climb, but not as steep as that up the North ridge to Cribyn.

Brecon Beacons "horseshoe" walk Brecon Beacons

I walked on across Cefn Cwm Llwch, at one point looking back over my shoulder at the curving centre part of my "horseshoe" walk, with Cribyn to the left and Pen y Fan top right. Lower down on my route I wrongly chose to stay to the right under Alt Ddu. I should have taken the left "fork" past Twyn Cil-rhew to the starting car park. My route saw me descend a very steep slope, lose the path and end up climbing a fence, a stone wall and some gates! Finishing with a tiring uphill walk on a lane back up to the National Trust car park at Cwm Gwdi! But that didn't spoil a really great first visit to the Brecon Beacons.