PEN Y FAN – The easiest way to the top of Pen y Fan and Corn Du.
This week’s Walk Wednesday is all about the highest peak in the National Park and southern Britain. Here’s another great guide, from the man everyone would want to be with in a survival situation! Who struggles to get lost come fog, snow or rain, known in the adventure world as Kevin Walker.
DISTANCE – 7kms (4 miles)
HEIGHT GAIN – 460 metres (1500 feet).
START POINT – Pont ar Daf Car Park.
GRID REFERENCE – SN/987198.
MAPS – OS Explorer OL12. Harvey Superwalker – Brecon Beacons East. BMC Mountain Map – Brecon Beacons.
Pen y Fan is 886 metres high – the highest point in southern Britain. It is a mountain in every sense of the word. Although some people climb it wearing little more than shirts, shorts and trainers, this is far from ideal as the weather here can change with frightening speed and ferocity.
Even in the height of summer when you may wish to wear only T-shirt and shorts, you should carry extra clothing to cover your arms and legs, a full set of waterproofs (jacket & trousers), plus a hat and gloves. Trainers are less than perfect – sturdy walking boots are strongly recommended. You will get hungry and thirsty, so take something to eat and plenty to drink. It would also be prudent to carry a small first aid kit, a polythene survival bag (to provide protection for anyone who has an accident), and a whistle with which to signal in case of emergency.
Finally, although the paths are well-defined throughout, it is easy to become disorientated if the mist descends (which it can do rapidly). Do not be afraid to turn back at the first sign of bad weather – the mountain will always be there for you to enjoy some other time – you may not! Ideally, you should carry a map & compass (and know how to use them!)
The walk starts from a large lay-by on the A470 over the Brecon Beacons, between Brecon and Merthyr Tydfil. The lay-by is set back from the road near its highest point, just to the south of the Storey Arms Outdoor Education Centre. There are public toilets here, and there are usually snack and ice-cream vans in the area.
Take the obvious path from the lay-by, cross the footbridge, and follow the well-defined track up the mountainside beyond, soon passing a National Trust marker. The path continues to climb, sometimes steeply, sometimes less steep, eventually reaching the obvious saddle of Bwlch Duwynt (the aptly named “Windy Pass”) where the views really open out. Ignore paths to the left (towards Corn Du) and the right (towards Duwynt), instead continuing straight ahead on the main track, which traverses the right-hand slopes of Corn Du, soon reaching a wide saddle between the two flat-topped summits. Continue straight ahead up one final slope to reach the summit of Pen y Fan. Keep your eyes open for sections of fossilised beach! Assuming reasonable weather, the views from the top are spectacular in every direction, but beware of the vertical cliffs beyond the summit cairn!
When you decide to leave, retrace your steps to the saddle, then trend right and make the steep, short ascent to the flat summit of Corn Du, another fine viewpoint. Watch out for the steep cliffs to the right.
Leave Corn Du by scrambling carefully down the rocks on the western side to gain the obvious pitched path that leads down the ridge towards the small lake – Llyn Cwm Llwch. Although you can
detour straight ahead in order to visit the Tommy Jones Obelisk (see one of my previous blogs in September 2011), the main track soon curves to the left, away from the edge, and descends gently into the valley, eventually crossing the stream at the bottom – where you may get wet feet in or shortly after unsettled weather! On the far side of the stream, the path climbs steeply up the southern slopes of Y Gyrn, then descends to the road at Storey Arms, with fine views down Glyn Tarrell and across to Fan Fawr. At the road, turn left and follow the wide verge back to the Pont ar Daf Car Park.
Another interesting walk: Hay-on-Wye Circular and a Taste of Offa’s Dyke