Author Topic: Pen y Fan loop via Cwm Gwdi (Brecon Beacons without a car Part 2)  (Read 365 times)


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A banging weather forecast had me geared up for a big day, setting out straight from Brecon to tackle Pen y Fan from the north.

The walk to Cwm Gwdi car park wasnít particularly scenic but still rather lovely in the morning light, following a stream to steadily ascend along country lanes. There are a few routes from there up onto Cefn Cwm Llywch, but I got the impression it didnít really matter which, as long as you aim for the highest bit. Approaching Pen y Fan from this side certainly is a quieter route. There were just two cars in the car park and I didnít see another soul until I got to the very top.

Looking back down towards Cwm Gwdi car park, Brecon town in the distance.

I was in just a t-shirt for the sweaty walk up to Cefn Cwm Llywch, but that soon changed once on the exposed ridge. Wrapped up warm and cocooned in cloud, with a strong, bitterly cold wind coming in from the west, it was an amazing and atmospheric walk along the ridge. A thick blanket of cloud over the peaks meant I couldnít see Pen y Fan itself.

Part way up my belly began complaining, so I elegantly stuffed some flapjack through the small gap in my coat and carried on.

A very blustery Cefn Cwm Llywch.

Eventually Pen y Fan loomed out of the mist and suddenly I was at the top, with other people. There was no view to speak of and only a handful of fellow hikers, though a steady stream seemed to be coming up the Storey Arms route Ė as I gather is the norm.

Pen y Fan

I hung a left and followed Craig Cwm Sere down and up to Cribyn, by which point the cloud had lifted and the sun appeared. Incredible views all around! I happily sat watching two dogs (who had just met) play energetically just metres from the sheer drop.

Amazing views from Cribyn, looking back at Pen y Fan...

...and onwards to Fan y Big (great, great name)

Down and up again to Fan y Big (hur), with more amazing views and sunshine poking through. Sitting there, eating a sandwich and enjoying the sunshine, I decided to extend the route Iíd planned. Rather than head back along Cefn Cyff, why not carry on round the next ridge and go back via Rhiw Bwlch y Ddwyallt? A quick calculation suggested itíd be tight, but that Iíd definitely be back in relative civilisation by sunset.

It was a great choice. Craig Cwarelli in particular was such a lovely trail, beautiful views back to Pen y Fan et al on the left and Peak District-esque underfoot. I was skipping along in beautiful afternoon sunlight singing to myself like a loon.

L-R: Pen y Fan, Cribyn and Fan y Big

Craig Cwarelli

Once around the ridge and heading down towards civilisation, the path became pretty boggy and unclear in places. So unclear after Pen y Bryn in fact that I managed to end up on the wrong fork, leading down towards Pencelli. Ultimately this added on a mile or two to the route back to Brecon. But happily, Pencelli was a lovely little place, with a bridge over the canal and some moored canal boats. 

After a frustrating half hour in the fading light, scuppered by an overgrown path and an electric fence across a right-of-way ( :knuppel2: ), I got onto the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal path. Some lovely reflections in the water at that time of day. I followed the canal all the way back to Brecon and arrived at 5pm, just as the light was at its last. Another amazing day, a beast for me at just under 19 miles.

Who says Wales has lots of sheep?

The Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal

Everyone I met in Wales was so friendly and the scenery was superb. Iíll definitely be back!
« Last Edit: 20:11:29, 12/01/20 by Hazelnuts »


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An excellent round and photos  O0. The northern approaches are much quieter and have a grand view of the escarpments. The atmospheric Pen y Fan photo is grim but great!.


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That's my favourite approach to Pen y Fan, I love the way you crest and there it is. Lovely pics, thanks for posting  O0
Where there's a will ...


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Super photos and lovely desciptions to boot. O0 Now I just know I must walk up from the North side next time.
Walking for me is an antidote to all that rushing around in life that sometimes happens.

gary m

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Great photos
you have 1 life live it

Lee R

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Great story & photos :)


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Another excellent report, Hazelnuts - keep them coming!

I particularly like the view back towards Pen-y-Fan from Cribyn, and the view back down the ridge of the 3 hills. I lived in Snowdonia for 17 years, but never really got to grips with the Brecon Beacons. Squirmed around in a cave for several hours near Crickhowell, and crossed the western flank of the range on a long distance walk, but that's it.
« Last Edit: 17:48:02, 14/01/20 by richardh1905 »


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Excellent report. I did traverse the Brecon Beacons when I was on a scout camp in South Wales, but that was more than 40 years ago. I donít recall seeing anybody else on the route, other than a border collie that followed us the whole way. We also did some crawling around in caves near Crickhowell, which might have been the same caves mentioned by Richard.


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Great, atmospheric photos. I've done parts of that walk at various times but the whole thing in one go looks quite an epic!


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Excellent pics & report  O0

Tracey :)
***Happiness is only a smile away***