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Winter hiking in the Brecon Beacons


Winter hiking in the Brecon Beacons

Nia Knott

pen y fan.jpg

British people are obsessed with the weather - fact. Probably because our weather is so unpredictable it always gives us something new to talk about. This may be why British people are so grateful when it all comes together perfectly, and so good at getting out and making the most of the weather, whatever it may be. 

This weekend was a perfect example. We were treated to a decent covering of snow on most upland areas of the UK. Here in Wales we were pleasantly surprised by a thick layer of snow on the peaks of the Brecon Beacons National Park. 

Having planned two days hiking in the Beacons to get filling up the logbook for my upcoming Mountain Leader course, I was overjoyed as I made my way up through the Valleys from the South coast and saw the first glimpses of glistening white peaks on the horizon. 

The plan for the first day was to head to the Black Mountain (not to be confused with the Eastern Black Mountains Region) and Llyn y Fan Fach on the Carmarthenshire side of the park. It's quite remote out there and doesn't see anything like the numbers on the popular peaks of the Central Beacons such as Pen y Fan, Corn Du etc. We were out early and saw only a local farmer walking his three sheepdogs as we made our way up to the lake. Following the track the lake is hidden and reveals itself only at the very last minute. 

The lake is shrouded in myth and folklore; the legend of the lady of the lake and the Physicians of Myddfai come to life at the shore of this hidden, quiet and magical lake.

The hike continues more steeply up from the lake on to Bannau Sir Gau. The views were incredible and with a dusting of snow the escarpments were more dramatic than ever. We felt glad to be out early as even though we'd been buffeted by the wind on the top, as it stopped the cloud came in. 

Another early start on Sunday found me at Blaen y Gwyn near Talybont in the centre-east of the park. The aim was Fan y Big, a small (719m) but dramatic mountain with panoramic views across the park and beyond.

Conditions were more difficult than the previous day, as the snow had turned to ice overnight, and a thick layer of cloud lay stubbornly at 650m.

This hike is steep from the start, following the Nant (stream) Bwrefwr with several pretty waterfalls, and then up onto Craig y Fan Du. The cloud was dense and cold, but every now and again a freezing wind would rush up through the centre of the valley, giving glimpses of the stunning views this mountain is known for. 

Sadly it was close but no cigar at the summit - I was not rewarded for trudging through the snow with those views, but that's what makes hiking in Wales so addictive - you never quite know what you're going to get, on either end of the scale, and it gives us British something to keep talking about, hey.