Saturday 4th September 2010

I felt like having a day on the hills after having a particularly busy and stressful week in work. I’d already been up to the bothy on Fan Brychieniog and Llyn y Fan Fawr the previous Thursday as the sunset looked promising but more to the point, I needed to get out.

Helen dropped me off at a point alongside the immature River Tawe on the “old Trecastle Road” at Grid Ref SN853217 sometime near 10.45am. Western Beacons (formerly Bridgend) Mountain Rescue Team were parked up and a Police helicopter was making low passes along the ridge of Fan Hir. “Mmm…..there may be a chance of some excitement” I thought. Not to be though, it turned out to be an exercise. Initially I had visions of taking part in some line searching again – just like the good old days. Ah well, at least nobody was injured.
So…after a quick chat with some of the team, I set off up towards Llyn y Fan Fawr. Many of you will know the area I’m talking about I’m sure; a few hundred yards up the river, you cross an improvised ford that has been created by walkers and farmers on their quads. From here most people follow a well trodden path across the boggy marsh before the hill steepens. I’ve at last found a drier route a hundred yards or so to the left, which follows up the right hand side of a deepish valley containing a small stream that flows into the Tawe below. Above, the path meets Nant y Llyn, which flows directly from Llyn y Fan Fawr so I follow this to the lake shore with dry boots. This route has the added attraction (for me) of being less popular with the increasing number of visitors to the lake and hills beyond.
It took me about 30 minutes to get to the lake, which I was hoping would be mill pond still and reflective. Unfortunately not on this occasion (so I still have an excuse to go back), there was a slight breeze across the surface of the water as you can see.
From here it’s another 20 minutes or so up the staircase (pictured below) and Bwlch Giedd to Fan Brycheiniog and the bothy.

This photograph clearly shows the efforts being undertaken by the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority to combat upland erosion. Is it working?? This is a question I ask myself everytime I walk up here and elsewhere on the Beacons. I fully understand the theory behind it but in my personal experience of this location, it's not working. Walkers I've either spoken with or watched, prefer to walk up on the pitched stonework path, newly and painstakingly crafted by volunteers and BBNPA staff, but during descent most will veer off to either side to walk on the grass.
I have my own theory as to why:

  1. the rocks tend to grab at the soles of your boots and trip you up whilst descending

  2. the descent is harder on the knees when you walk on the rocky path
In my opinion the rocks need to be consolidated with soil and vegetation to make the path a little easier going underfoot. At present its worsening the issue by widening the path (as you can see above), creating new water courses and it's bloody ugly, not to mention, extremely expensive when you consider the need for helicopters to deliver the materials! Not wanting to continue my rant too much, I've elected not to post the picture of the paving slabs layed  along a 50 meter section towards the summit of Fan Brycheiniog!!

Behind me you can see part of the Fan Brycheiniog bothy. Not a Bothy in the true sense of the word but a partial shelter that I have used for over 20 years to have a cuppa in when the weather is doing its best to blow me off the escarpment. I've tried to find out more about this particular construction but there seems to be very little written about it. I know that there are many similar shelters dotted around Mynydd Du, some of which were used as shelters by farmers and drovers. Others were recorded as being used as shooting hides in the 18th and 19th centuries. Also in view is the "Trig Point" and Twr y Fan Foel.

Looking back at Fan Brycheiniog with a good portion of Llyn y Fan Fawr in shot. The background holds a hazy image of Fan Gyhirych. From this point it’s a relatively short but steep descent via Bwlch Blaen Twrch to the foot of the steep climb up to Picws Du. I didn't bother walking out to Fan Foel.
The imposing view is difficult to scale from this point but the climb to the summit of Picws Du and Bannau Sir Gaer isn't as bad as you may think and......

...the view from the top is worth the effort too. View to the Eastof my standpoint; far left of the horizon is Fan Foel with Fan Brycheiniog just right of centre.
At this point you also get your first full view of the legendary Llyn y fan Fach, which is about 160m below and to the West. This is said to be the home of the “lady of the lake”. You can read a full recount of the legend in my subsequent blog
Llyn y Fan Fach is the more accessible and therefore more popular of the two lakes. At its dam, there is a true bothy available to be used by anyone as an overnight shelter/ refuge with nothing but a roof, fireplace and a bench for comfort. These bothys are becoming increasingly popular with mountain bikers as many are located on bridleways.
I have many more photographs of both lakes on my flickr page (link top right of this page).

This view back along the "Fans" always impresses me. I love this part of the world. As I was taking this shot I was listening to the unmistakable screech of a Peregrine Falcon - the very first time I've ever heard one in my local uplands. Despite hanging around I didn't get to see it unfortunately.
From here I turned my back on the Fans and headed down Waun Lefrith towards Carreg yr Ogof and the middle section of my walk.