Sunday, 29 December 2013

Cribyn, Pen y Fan, Corn Du Horseshoe

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 29 December 2013
Walkers - +Steve Smith, +Dave Wiggins
Accommodation - Tredegar House Country Park Caravan Club Site
Start Point - Neuadd car park (SO03688 17018)
Start Time - 09:04
Finish Point - Neuadd car park (SO03688 17018)
Finish Time - 15:49
Duration - 6hrs 45mins
Average pace - 1.65mph
Distance Walked - 11.15miles
Height Ascended - 988.67metres

Peaks visited
Nuttalls (190W - 444E&W)
Cribyn (20W - 273E &W)
Pen y Fan (21W - 274E &W)
Corn Du (22W - 275E, &W)
Y Gyrn (23W - 276E, &W)
Hewitts (138W - 317E)
Cribyn (20W - 192E, &W)
Pen y Fan (21W - 193E &W)
Marilyns (158W - 1550E,W&S)
Pen y Fan (9W - 79E,W&S)
Deweys (241W - 427EW&S)
HuMPs (364W - 2977EW&S)
Cribyn (10W - 127E,W&S)
Pen y Fan (11W - 128E,W&S)
W: Wales. 
E,W&S:England,Wales & Scotland

Walk Summary
A bonus unplanned overnight trip to South Wales and the Brecon Beacons turned out to be the last trip of my 2013 hill walking year. 
Further more because it was to the Brecon Beacons meant a further bonus of adding to the year's and total Welsh Nuttall count raising it from 19 to 23. 
However the reason for the unplanned trip and 550 mile round trip from Suffolk was what made it a very special trip.
Being able to share my peak-bagging passion with Brother-in-Law (BiL) Dave Wiggins over from Florida, USA for my son and new daughter-in-laws wedding.

Considering we have only met four times in more than 30 years we get on really well. Spending a night together in the camper van could only strengthen that bond? Yes we did sleep in the statutory manner of head to toe but my inexperience parking the van for an overnight stay on a slope meant Dave ended up sliding off the bottom of the bed, so inevitably we woke up facing the same way.

The inspiration for the walk as well as using Neuadd car park as the start point came from an earlier walk up Fan y Big and the three peaks east last August 2013, so the first part of the walk and steady ascent along the Roman Road to Bwlch ar y Fan went more or less as expected.
Apart from the low cloud and 3 or 4 inches of snow above 800m the first 3 peaks went as planned as well.

In fact I think Dave was thinking this peak bagging lark was a bit easy, especially as Pen y Fan was crowded with tourists, children and their dogs.

"Where have all these people come from?" He asks.
"Up the tourist route." I say
"Well if there is a tourist route, why the hell did we come up the way we did then?"

I did not bother answering the obvious question.
Anyway the next and lowest of the days peak would prove to be the most difficult. First of all, unlike the previous three summits, we could not see Y Gyrn all we could see was thick cloud and what looked like a sheer drop in the WNWesterly direction the compass needle was pointing. Dave needed convincing to head off west over the edge and I must admit so did I, but we then saw a couple of people appear from below, that gave us the clue as to where the path was. A precarious descent down the steep path to Craig Cwm Llwch was made even more difficult by the fresh snow being trodden into a slippery slope. Crampons would not have been inappropriate but we managed with judicious use of our trek poles.
Half way down, the cloud started to lift and by the time we got to the bottom there were clear blue skies. This did not really help with the navigation though. Looking in the direction of Y Gyrn only brought confusion. The distant peaks were too far away to be Y Gyrn so where was it?
It is basically a pimple on a large ledge between Corn Du and the final drop down to Glynn Tarell. A 24m rise giving it it's Nuttall qualification, but lost in the 250m height difference between the larger Corn Du and Y Gyrn.
More like the Mungrisdale Common of the Brecon Beacons.

3.17 miles and 2 hours 10 minutes later we arrived at the top of Duwynt, an ex-Nuttall that we could have reached in about 20 minutes had we walked the easy ½ mile direct from Corn Du.
Instead we had managed to bag the isolated Y Gyrn which could have been done on another day as an up, down and round from The Storey Arms. Although that is something I do try to watch out for and find hard to avoid. - Just pulling in that extra peak. Maybe that is why many of my walks end up being tougher than they should be?
At this point I could see Dave seemed tired (so was I) but now we had the 2½ miles to walk along the steep edges of Rhiw yr Ysgyfarnog and Graig Fan Ddu and then the final mile to the van after a steep descent to Lower Neuadd reservoir.
The conditions had deteriorated as well with the strong winds we had had most of the day being supplemented by rain going on to snow. I have to say though Dave coped admirably as if he had been bagging years. Yes he was quiet and yes I am sure he wondered what the hell he was doing with me in this, what seemed bleak and isolated place in the UK, as we trudged as quickly as safety would allow, staying away from the edge that the wind seemed determined to blow us towards. He pulled the hood up on his Berghaus High Trails, from boots I had loaned him for the day and just got on with it.

After nearly 2 miles we reached the cairn that marked the descent route to Lower Neaudd Reaervoir but with the rain it just looked too steep, slippery and wet to attempt. So we stayed high for an extra ½ mile and took a slightly less steep but far muddier option down, towards and along the northern boundary of the Taf Fechan forest.

By the time we had reached the filter house at Lower Neaudd reservoir all thoughts of tiredness had gone and we were both well chuffed with what we had achieved during our day trip as we chatted and walked along the final part of the reservoir tarmacked access road back to the camper van, where hot soup sandwich and cake was prepared before our 5 hour drive back to Suffolk. Where finally copious amounts of alcohol (Stella, Old Rosie and Daves favorite - Grey Goose) were consumed in to the early hours

Well done Dave, it might not be your passion, but as expected you completed what you set out to achieve.

A day trip I never thought I would do - South Wales from East Anglia and probably one I will not do again. Unless it is the only way to get another peak bagging trip in with BiL Dave Wiggins.

  • It is possible to go Nuttall bagging in the UK as part of a day trip from East Anglia.
  • If there is a path to follow, weather it is marked on the map or not and it means an extra mile or more, it is usually easier to stay on the path. This would have been the case on this walk from the obelisk as well as on the unmarked path along fence heading south from Y Gyrn summit to the path back up towards Corn Du and over the Blaen Taf Fawr crossing.

Walk Description
Snow capped Pen y Fan beyond Craig Fan Ddu on the left
from Neuadd car park
 1.) Exit the Neuadd car park either by the footpath to the north or the vehicular entrance to the south.
 2.) Either way turn left on the tarmacked road
 3.) In no time the Taf Trail turns sharply to the right at the point of a fork in the road.
 4.) With Pen y Fan straight ahead leave the Taf Trail and take the right fork up the unmade track.
At the apex of the Taf Trail and with Pen y Fan straight ahead
take the fork up hill and to the right
 5.) Follow track past Taf Fechan Forrest then descend gully to cross Nant y Gloesydd and ascend other side to return to track.
Nant y Gloesydd flowing towards Filter House and
Lower Neuadd Reservoir dam. Return home will be along opposite ridge.
 6.) Stay on track, which was actually an old Roman road, all the way to Bwlch ar y Fan.
Unmade track (possible Roman Road) continues towards Bwlch ar y Fan
 7.) At Bwlch turn left and towards ascent up Craig Cwm Cynwyn, towards what you may expect to be the summit of Cribyn.
Dave Wiggins at Bwlch ar y Fan just before (final?)
ascent up Cribyn
 8.) It is not, as you reach the first ridge and start of Craig Cym Cynwyn, Cribyn summit will appear on your right.
Not quite final ascent. Cribyn summit finally reveals itself on
early part of ascent up Craig Cwm Cynwyn
 9.) As the path along Craig Cym Cynwyn veers to the NNW the rate of ascent eases, the hard work for this peak is behind you and it is now a simple case of following the path up a gentle ascent for a further 500 m to Cribyn summit cairn.
After 1¾ hours walking we can just see summit cairn on Cribyn
10.) Descend to bwlch on the way to Pen y Fan via the obvious SW (ish) path.
Cloud is descending and winning the battle with the sun as we look south
towards Upper Neuadd Reservoir from bwlch between Cribyn & Pen y Fan
11.) Then continue ascent to Pen y Fan at bwlch junction of paths. The ascent is quite steep for most of the way concluded with a bit of a scramble near the top to arrive on the summit plateau.
Pen y Fan from Cribyn, showing ascent route on left hand side.
Corn Du beyond
12.) Once on the plateau head north for the crowds and summit cairn.
Hey where have all these people come from?
13.) After waiting your turn to take pictures of the summit head to Cribyn again on the SW (ish) path.
Path towards Corn Du from Pen y Fan summit area
14.) To the west of Corn Du summit cairn look out for steep path descending to Craig Cwm Llwch.
15.) The first part of the descent is quite steep so take extra care especially if it is slippery as it was when we were there.
Looking back at path down crag on east side of Corn Du.
Not easy to find in poor visibility and very slippery today
16.) After steep part of descent stay on path following rim of Craig Cwm Llwch all the way to The Obelisk.
Looking ahead along Craig Cwm Llwch. Obelisk is near 2nd smaller gully
17.) You do not have to go all the way to the Obelisk but we felt it was easier to stay on the path rather take a direct bearing across open moorland to Y Gyrn. It is also worth it for the views and photo opportunity.
The Obelisk above Llyn Cwm Llwch
18.) You can also stay on the path past the Obelisk, but we were tempted to head straight for the path we could see by taking a direct line through the small patch of peat hags and groughs. This was quite tiring and probably would have taken less out of us if we had stayed on the path.
Just few peat hags and groughs cutting the corner off to the path up Y Gyrn
19.) After rejoining path, follow it uphill to the fence line along the ridge.
20.) Turn left and follow the fence to the summit of Y Gyrn.
The post and cairn marks Y Gyrn summit on the right of the fence,
Fan Fawr beyond
21.) From Y Gyrn summit we headed SE on a direct route across open ground intending to pick the path up to  Craig Cwym Llwch on the other side of Blaen Taf Fawr but decided it would be easier to head for the path at the Blaen Taf Fawr crossing. In hindsight it would have been better to have followed the fence south from the summit to the path up Corn Du and still end up at the Blaen Taf Fawr with a lot less effort.
Blaen Taf Fawr crossing, Corn Du ahead
22.) Follow the path almost to the path along Craig Cwym Llwch and turn right at the top to Bwlch Duwynt.

23.) At the Bwlch turn right and make the final ascent of the day to the ex-Nuttall Duwynt.

24.) Stay left and continue due south along Rhiw yr Ysgyfarnog and Graig Fan Ddu for about 1½ to 2 miles avoiding going too close to the edge especially if it is windy.
Cairn that seems to mark nothing more than top of Cefn Crew ridge.
Keep to the left.
25.) Descend to Lower Neuadd Reservoir either at the path marked by the cairn (1½ miles) or if you do not fancy a wet or steepish descent go on an extra ½ mile for a slightly easier but muddier path directly above north boundary of Taf Fechan forest.
Lower Neuadd Resrevoir from Craig Fan Ddu.
The van and walks end is parked in woods on mid right
26.) Cross dam of Lower Neuadd Reservoir, use footbridge over Nat y Gloesydd, and pass derelict filter house ending up on tarmacked reservoir access road.

27.) Follow access road south back to van and walks end at Taf Fechan forest Neuadd car park.
Walks end and almost empty Neuadd car park

More Photographs
Corn Du and Pen y Fan beyond Upper & Lower Neuadd Reservoirs
Click on photograph to view slide-show