#169 – Brecon Beacons day – Craig Fan Du, Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Cribyn

Brecon Beacons skyline – Pen y Fan is the highest peak towards the left

Brecon Beacons skyline – Pen y Fan is the highest peak towards the left

Looking towards Cribyn (centre) and Pen y Fan (left of centre)

Looking towards Cribyn (centre) and Pen y Fan (left of centre)

The route (clockwise)

The route (clockwise)

Living on the edge of the Clwydian Hills, with Snowdonia just an hour away by car, it’s easy to ignore the other hills and mountains of Wales. Last summer we took a trip south including a couple of days out in the hills, and our attention turned towards the Brecon Beacons. I’ve written about the Beacons before (see post #38) and we haven’t had a bad day here yet – Pen y Fan (the highest peak in the Beacons) was on the menu again, but this time from a different direction.

The lane towards the Neuadd Reservoirs

The lane towards the Neuadd Reservoirs

Looking down towards the Neuadd Reservoirs

Looking down towards the Neuadd Reservoirs

Our trips to Mid and South Wales usually include a visit to friends, and Barbara was up for a walk in the Beacons as part of her preparation for a trekking trip in the Himalayas. The horseshoe circuit from the Neuadd Reservoirs looked good on the map, and included the summits of Graig Fan Ddu, Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Cribyn. With a good weather forecast thrown in, we had all the ingredients to make a good day out.

The final steep bit up an unpleasant earthy gully ….

The final steep bit up an unpleasant earthy gully ….

…. before reaching a level path ….

…. before reaching a level path ….

…. heading towards Craig Fan Ddu

…. heading towards Craig Fan Ddu

An easy walk up a lane loosened us up for the major height gain of the day – 200 metres over a distance of 800 metres was always going to feel a bit steep, but it didn’t take long to reach the top of the 25% slope. An unpleasantly loose earthy gully brought us to almost level ground at Craig Fan Ddu – whilst Chris and Barbara took the easy path, I went off-piste with Border Collie ‘Mist’ to visit the scene of a tragic WW2 flying accident.

* * *

Supermarine Spitfire

Supermarine Spitfire

In May 1942, Spitfire X4588 of 53 Operational Training Unit RAF Llandow, piloted by Sergeant Donald Perry Carruthers of the Royal Canadian Air Force, took off to take part in a formation flying exercise. A combination of bad weather and a small error in navigation resulted in the aircraft becoming detached from the formation. The aircraft subsequently crashed on the summit of Graig Fan Ddu, killing Sgt Carruthers.

Memorial cairn at the crash site

Memorial cairn at the crash site

The site is now marked by a small cairn incorporating some of the wreckage from the aircraft, and a glint of metal helped me home in. Some people find these sites macabre whilst others find them ugly – for me they are a fitting memorial to the sacrifices made by others to preserve the freedoms we often take for granted. I stayed in silence for a couple of minutes before sending ‘Mist’ off to find Chris and Barbara– in a short time she was back with me, barking to indicate where the others were.

* * *

Heading towards the ridge of Rhiw yr Ysgyfarnog

Heading towards the ridge of Rhiw yr Ysgyfarnog

‘One man and his dog’ – Pen y Fan (centre) and Corn Du (left)

‘One man and his dog’ – Pen y Fan (centre) and Corn Du (left)

Still on the level path ….

Still on the level path ….

…. heading to Rhiw yr Ysgyfarnog

…. heading to Rhiw yr Ysgyfarnog

Cwm Crew dropping down to the south-west

Cwm Crew dropping down to the south-west

“Looks like another dog to me” – ‘Mist’ spots another Border Collie ahead

“Looks like another dog to me” – ‘Mist’ spots another Border Collie ahead

Having made our major height gain for the day, the route now was a steady wander towards Corn Du and Pen y Fan. The broad ridge narrowed at Rhiw yr Ysgyfarnog, but not enough to bother Chris who isn’t too keen on big drops. The main interest for the humans was the unmistakable skyline ahead, but ‘Mist’ was far more interested in another Border Collie heading towards us!

Craig Fan Ddu now well behind us ….

Craig Fan Ddu now well behind us ….

…. with Corn Du and Pen y Fan ahead ….

…. with Corn Du and Pen y Fan ahead ….

…. and Cribyn and Pen y Big on the opposite side of the Valley

…. and Cribyn and Pen y Big on the opposite side of the Valley

Looking back at the pass of Bwlch Duwynt we had great views of Craig Fan Ddu, now well behind us. Corn Du and Pen y Fan were directly ahead, and across the valley our last summit, Cribyn, was waiting.

Corn Du with Pen y Fan beyond

Corn Du with Pen y Fan beyond

Looking back towards Corn Du on the way to Pen y Fan

Looking back towards Corn Du on the way to Pen y Fan

Pen y Fan summit with the ITERA race paying a visit

Pen y Fan summit with the ITERA race paying a visit

A small height gain took us to the top of Corn Du, quickly followed by the main attraction of Pen y Fan. The summit was busy with competitors on the ITERA race, a 5 day nonstop adventure race for mixed gender teams of 4. The route is about 600 kms in length, and includes running, trekking, mountain biking, kayaking, canyoneering and some rope work. It made our day out look quite puny in comparison!

Start of the descent from Pen y Fan with Cribyn ahead

Start of the descent from Pen y Fan with Cribyn ahead

The route up Cribyn

The route up Cribyn

Heading back towards the Neuadd Reservoirs

Heading back towards the Neuadd Reservoirs

Upper Neuadd Reservoir (centre)

Upper Neuadd Reservoir (centre)

The descent down Craig Cwm Sere is rough and steep, which aggravated an already ‘grumbling’ knee joint with Chris. At the start of the ascent of Cribyn, she decided to take the easier path contouring round the south-west side. I went with her to keep her company, but Barbara was in turbo mode now – she went solo for Cribyn, and soon caught us up at Bwlch ar y Fan. From there it was downhill, passing the Neuadd Reservoirs on the other side.    The next day the rain was torrential!

Heading for home with Cribyn (centre) and Pen y Fan/Corn Du (beyond and left)

Heading for home with Cribyn (centre) and Pen y Fan/Corn Du (beyond and left)

Text and images © Paul Shorrock

About Paul Shorrock

I've been mucking about in the mountains for longer than I care to mention. I started out by walking my local hills, then went on to rock climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Still doing it, and still getting a buzz. I'm now sharing the fun, through my guided walking business (Hillcraft Guided Walking) and by writing routes for other publishers, mainly Walking World and Discovery Walking Guides. Just to make sure I keep really busy, I am also currently a member of my local mountain rescue team.
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10 Responses to #169 – Brecon Beacons day – Craig Fan Du, Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Cribyn

  1. smith greame says:

    Lovely mountains. I totally like all the photos.

  2. Looks glorious Paul. I think I have been up Pen y Fan once…we used to come to the Brecons many years ago as guests of South Wales Caving Club – once or twice when the weather was too wet for caving we would have a day in the mountains and Pen y Fan springs to mind. The photos are superb and the mountains look stunning. I would love to go back one day…

    • Thanks SP – I did some training near here with the Royal Marines in the 1970’s, but didn’t go back to the Beacons until nine years ago, so still lots to go at for me as well.

  3. What a beautiful hike! Thanks for sharing. I like the memorials along the way. It’s not just garbage, it’s history.

  4. LensScaper says:

    Sadly another blank on my CV, but this looks like a superb walk, Paul. Pen Y Fan is such an unusual but visually exciting mountain – excellent shots, Paul.

  5. I like the Brecons but rarely get there – I’ve only done the standard route from the Storey Arms though. I think it’s Fan y Big? I did that too once via the Roman Road which runs up to a col before it. I prefer Corn Du to Pen Y Fan… but then I’ve got to be different! 😉

    Your route looks good apart from the steep loose-earth gully!
    Carol.

  6. Pingback: #170 – The Cambrian Mountains of Mid-Wales | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

  7. Pingback: #174 – Mynydd Du (The Black Mountain) in the Western Brecon Beacons | Paul Shorrock – One Man's Mountains AKA One Pillock's Hillocks

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