In February I headed to the Brecon Beacons National Park for an overnight trip on The Black Mountain (Y Mynydd Du). Not to be confused with The Black Mountains in the East of the park, this is in the far West. After parking in the short side road next to the Tafarn-Y-Garreg pub (which also has a small campsite by the river if you would prefer not to wild camp) I set off up the path. I have been back to this area since and the road had been blocked off with beer barrels, presumably it’s a private road that the pub owns and they wanted to stop people parking there. However it was possible to park on the road slightly further along. After walking through some woods and along the river I came to I started up the hill. It was very steep to start with and I was soon puffing up with my full winter pack.
There is effectively one long ridge to this mountain, which runs over the highest point (and today’s target) Fan Brycheiniog at 802 metres, and then goes on to Bannau Sir Gaer at 749 metres before descending. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t the best and the cloud frequently shrouded the hill, and it was cold enough that patches of snow were clinging on in the higher reaches. As I neared the top of the mountain I had occasional glimpses of the lake Llyn Y Fan Fawr, which nestled in the valley far below.
At this point, you are not very far from the summit. This was the first time I had climbed this hill and once I started up the final steep ascent up some rocky steps, visibility dropped to near zero. This was quite disconcerting given the winds were also high and I could no longer see the steep drop to my right. I made the decision to turn back. I later returned to climb it again (this time successfully reaching the summit with my daughter) only to realise I had turned back probably only about 75 metres from the summit. I scouted out a suitable pitch amongst the patches of snow for my Soulo and pitched up, getting in out of the wind as quickly as I could.
Once in warm dry clothes, I cooked up a meal of fried potatoes and onions with pork rillettes and a little tabasco. More interesting than freeze dried food, and warmed me up nicely. I took the below photo whilst I could still see. Soon the fog rolled in and the temperature dropped and I retreated to the comfort of my winter sleeping bag, grateful for all the effort I’d made lugging it up the hill now I was warm and dry.
I slept well in my winter sleeping bag, but unfortunately unzipped my tent to almost zero visibility again. I abandoned any idea of summiting and carefully made my way back to the car the way I had come. It was a slightly nervy descent at times as I couldn’t see more than about 10 metres in front of my face. I was almost at the bottom of the mountain before suddenly I could see again, and there was my car! The steep section I had ascended yesterday was equally painful on my knees in descent and I was grateful to reach the car and get my pack off. Although not able to bag the mountain on this occasion, it was a memorable camp in a memorable location.
I used the excellent Harvey Maps British Mountain Map of the Brecon Beacons for this trip.