THE SUGAR LOAF
This weeks Walk Wednesday by Kevin Walker is a Brecon Beacons favourite that is soaked in legend and myth. It’s a walk up the iconic Sugar Loaf Mountain. This walk offers incredible views and is not too strenuous. According to walking guide Kevin: “It’s an great introduction to hill walking, on a straightforward route giving spectacular views in all directions.”
DISTANCE – 8kms (5 miles) HEIGHT GAIN – 350 metres (1200 feet). START POINT – Llanwenarth Viewpoint Car Park. GRID REFERENCE – SO/268167. MAPS – OS Explorer OL13. OS Landranger 161,
DESCRIPTION: A relatively simple hill walk to the top of a much-maligned yet iconic mountain. The ease of access means that the peak is hugely popular, especially during summer weekends, but this route avoids the most frequented paths and offers stunning views and surprisingly atmospheric walking. The stand-alone position of this peak means that the views from the summit are truly panoramic.
PARKING: From Abergavenny town centre, follow the A40 towards Brecon. 600m beyond Neville Hall Hospital, and just before the Lamb & Flag public house, turn right onto a narrow lane signposted to the Sugar Loaf Vineyard. Take the first turning left, turn left again at the T-junction, then follow the road steeply uphill. Just past the very sharp left-hand bend, bear right onto another narrow lane and follow this to the obvious large car park, where there is a viewpoint indicator.
From the far end of the car parking area, follow the rough track that trends uphill to the right, gently climbing away from the lane, soon reaching a stone wall that comes in from the left. Carry straight on alongside the wall on a good path, veering away from the main track.
Continue to trend left alongside the wall for about 800m. The path now becomes narrower as it swings to the right, away from the wall, and heads downhill towards a larch wood, at the far corner of which it turns sharp left and descends steeply into a V-shaped valley. Cross the stream at the bottom, then follow the continuation of the path to the left, but almost immediately turn right onto an obvious, grassy path that swings left and gently climbs across the valley side towards a dilapidated stone wall. At this point you will be heading almost directly away from the obvious summit of Sugar Loaf!
Don’t despair… I’m sending you this way to get some stunning views! Continue around the front of the spur with increasingly good views of the Black Mountains and the Grwyne Fechan valley. The path soon levels out and swings right, passing between some old fenced enclosures to the left and some disturbed ground to the right – the remains of tile-stone quarries. At the far end of the quarries, turn right onto a grassy path, and continue up the centre of the wide spur above, trending slightly right along the well-defined path, soon entering an area of patchy gorse. At the end of this section you reach a very obvious T-junction with a major path – a grand viewpoint!
Turn right onto the major path, and follow this in increasingly steep steps, all the way to the summit. You will have a good excuse to stop after each steep step as the views get more and more stunning in almost all directions as you climb. When you are almost at the top, ignore the flanking paths that head off to the left and right, and instead make the final steep climb onto the rocky summit ridge directly above. Carefully scramble over the rocks to reach the summit, which is marked by a trig point pillar. If you wish to stay for a while and perhaps eat your packed lunch, there are plenty of great places to shelter from the wind just below the summit.
The best descent route starts from the far (south-eastern) end of the summit ridge. Carefully scramble down the rocks, then turn right and descend more steep rock steps to reach an obvious path heading towards the obvious Rholben spur. Keep your eyes on small children and nervous adults here, as some of the rock steps are tricky… but it is all achievable, there is usually an easier way, and the difficulties are soon over.
Once on kinder terrain, follow the obvious path to the first junction, and take the right hand fork, following another well-defined path that eventually curves to the left around the head of Cwm Trosnant (St Mary’s Vale). Just keep straight on at all junctions, and you will eventually reach the stone wall that you met on your outward journey. Turn left, and retrace your steps back to the Llanwenarth Viewpoint Car Park. This is one of the walks followed during Kevin’s astonishing walking breaks and guided day walks. Check out what else he has to offer at www.mountainacts.co.uk.