Wild Camp: Cambrian mountains and Pumlumon Fawr summit

Alpkit Rig 7 Bivi Cambrian Mountains

In June I had a free weekend and I decided to head back to Wales. The June 2021 issue of Trail Magazine had a nice circular route taking in the highest summit in mid-Wales, Pumlumon Fawr, as well as Y Garn, a summit just to the south. I had wanted to wild camp in the Cambrian hills and to climb Pumlumon Fawr for a while, so decided this would be the weekend. Soon I was packed up and heading on the long drive out from London to Nant-Y-Moch reservoir.

Things got off to an inauspicious start. I had searched online for the postcode to the reservoir and punched it into my sat nav. It decided to take me down the road from the A487. This was much further than from the A44, and was frankly terrifying single-track territory with pretty steep drops to one side. The road from the A44 is also single track, but wider and not as scary. I’d advise going that way. As a result of my mistake, the final part of the drive to the car park involved me having to drive across the dam itself. Quite an experience, but I was grateful to finally pull into the parking.

After chatting with a couple of local people in the car park, I donned my boots, set my poles and headed off up the tarmac road that led to the path. I reflected later that I was desperate to get off the road initially, and by the end of the walk couldn’t wait to be back on it. Soon I passed the ‘ppg station’ (had to look it up – it means ‘pumping station’), and not long after that I was on the track that leads up to Llyn Llygad Rheidol.

It was fairly windy, but looking up I could see the summits were clear and I was quite keen to get onto one this evening given the long days. I still had hours left until dark. Once at the Llyn, I was struck by how beautiful it was despite the various installations around it. The summit of Pumlumon Fawr towered above it.

The weather was starting to close in and I considered camping here. However the obvious camping spot was made more obvious by an appalling firepit and various scorched patches on the ground. There really isn’t any need to do this, and it was disappointing to see. I certainly didn’t want to camp next to it.

The guide next said to head up to the east, on mostly pathless terrain to gain height above the Llyn. The first task however was to cross the outfall from the Llyn. I chose a spot that didn’t look too slippery and gingerly tiptoed across, then started my way up the hill. Technically not difficult at all but I had to pause for “photographs” (code for “a breather”) a couple of times. Soon I was at the fence that heads south, and I followed it for a while noting that the wind had come up. The summits were still clear, but once I reached just short of 700 metres a bank of cloud rolled across and suddenly, literally within 2 or 3 minutes, visibility had dropped considerably and I sensed it was going to rain. I decided to put my Alpkit Rig 7 tarp up so I had some shelter. This proved to be a good move, as by the time I had my bivi set up it was bucketing rain.

Alpkit Rig 7 Tarp and Bivi Wild Camp in the Cambrian Mountains

I cracked open a beer and started cooking my walnut pesto potatoes for my dinner. The rain and wind got steadily worse and I was grateful for the quick decision to put the tarp up. It was flapping and cracking a bit in the wind, but I was well protected underneath it. After a few squares of chocolate I changed and got into my bivi bag, settling down with my kindle to read for a while as the rain drummed on the tarp overhead.

Once it got dark, I put my head down and must have fallen asleep pretty quickly as the next thing I knew I was waking at about 2am. The rain and wind had stopped. In fact the tarp was barely moving. I had a look outside and it was still very claggy with very low visibility. I zipped back up and dived under my quilt for a bit more sleep. I slept fitfully for a couple of hours, and at around 4am I had another peek outside. The cloud at high level had cleared, with just some cloud down in the valley, and I enjoyed an hour or so waiting for the sun to come up with a coffee.

Early morning Alpkit Rig 7 Tarp and Bivi Wild Camp in the Cambrian Mountains

I was keen to complete the summits whilst the weather was good, and also to get back to London in time for a roast dinner, so I set about making my blueberry porridge whilst I packed up, enjoying the ever changing light in front of me.

Once I’d eaten and packed, I started off up the hill. Soon the views became even more expansive. The sun was burning off the cloud and I could see north to Snowdonia and south to the Brecon Beacons. As I made the final pull up to the summit of Pumulmon Fawr, the views were truly spectacular, spoiled only by the wind turbines dotting the landscape.

After enjoying the summit for a while, I hopped over the stile (ok, I heaved my sorry middle-aged body over it in a particularly ungainly manner) and headed south towards Y-Garn, which is central in the picture above. Pumlumon Fawr stands at 752 metres, Y-Garn at 684 metres, but the views were no less spectacular, particularly the views back to Pumlumon Fawr, but also to the south. Wisps of cloud were still clinging to the valleys and I spent some time at the summit shelter enjoying the views.

The guide next directed me to “head in the general direction of the small strip of plantation above the ppg station”. This was a cue that there was no path. Soon I was barrelling down the hill, ankles crunching into rabbit holes, knees being pummelled and generally beginning to feel that this descent was going to spoil a good walk. As I got lower, things got wetter and soon my trousers and boots were soaked after a few good dunkings. Eventually, however, I found myself walking alongside said plantation and, as I said at the beginning, found myself grateful for the tarmac I was keen to see the back of the day before. There was just one final push uphill before coasting back to the car. A really great walk, and a great overnight camp. I drove home a happy man, despite the traffic, resolving not to leave it too long before I return to beautiful mid-Wales.

I used the OS Maps Explorer 213 – Aberwystwyth and Cwm Rheidol – Devil’s Bridge for this trip.

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