Saturday, 18 June 2011

#127 - Pen y Bryn and Carn Pica

There were some snippets of pleasure; looking across to Fan y Big, Cribyn and Pen y Fan in a brief window of sunshine.

Today was one of those when you stop, five hours into the six, and you say to yourself; "What the bloody hell am I doing this for?" With the unrelenting rain continually chipping away at your resolve, this was definitely a day for visiting a museum, or a tea shop, or whatever it is that normal people do!

On paper, this looked a fairly straightforward walk; some nice height gain and a respectable distance to keep me ticking over for the trip to Switzerland in July. In reality, the weather and the terrain lengthened it by an hour and a half longer than I expected.

The ascent of Pen y Bryn was head long into the wind and rain, and tough going. How I envied the multitude who were going in the opposite direction, their morning ramble near completion.
Reaching my turn off point, at the end of Rhiw Bwlch y Ddwyallt, I had hoped to grab a bite to eat, but I had committed a schoolboy error and only brought food to cook, and the weather wasn't going to let that happen! I had to content myself with a few jaffa cakes to restore my energy. I carried on, optimistic I'd find shelter lower down. Crossing the boggy Waun Rydd, I reached the impressive cairn at Carn Pica at a stage when the rain was heaviest. A saturated muddy path now descends steeply, dropping a 150 metres in half a kilometre, and I was uneasy using it, opting to take to the slightly stabler heather banks by its side. By Twyn Du, I had a short respite from the down, but soon came a slippery grass track through the mountains' skirt of ferns.

Eventually, I reached Aber Village, where I turned north to make my way back to Pencelli. Honestly, if a bus had come by, I would have jumped on it! Still, I had not been able to set up the stove and have a break. I decided I just had to get it done. Turning off the road, I started to climb again on a route known as the Usk Valley Walk, at first through a field of knee length grass, with no discernable path.

Still the rain persisted, and each stile I had to negotiate seemed higher, and more slippery. When I reached a road just above Cui Farm, I stopped at a stile, and sat down for the first time in five hours, and attempted to summon up the energy to complete. This was when I questioned the reasoning behind what I was doing. To be sat on that step, on the edge of the road, rain pouring down seemed such a sad situation to be in on such a miserable day.

Eventually, I picked myself up, and carried on up. With the hundred metre climb up from the village finally complete, the path becomes a red dirt track that starts to descend. From this point I was teased with a view of the campsite below me with my orange quasar ultralite tent like a beacon guiding me home. Unfortunately, there were still some other obstacles to contend with.

Turning off the Usk Valley Walk, I headed straight down a track that is clearly marked as a byway free to all, but at the end of it three gates had deliberately been locked. I wondered if the access had now been removed but, only a matter of thirty yards from the road, I could see a footpath sign pointing straight back up the track! My rights of way assured, and not wanting to lenghten my walk by another half hour, when I was five minutes away from a hot meal and shower, I climbed the gates and marched out to the road and the campsite. What a day!

  • Date: 18/06/11
  • Region: Brecon Beacons National Park
  • Status: Solo
  • Description: Pencelli - Pen y Bryn - Bwlch Main - Waun Rydd - Carn Pica - Twyn Du - Aber - Usk Valley Walk - Pencelli - Heavy rain, some sunshine, 17km, 6 hours
  • Type of Walk: Personal Walking