Before the recent local lockdown restrictions took place, my family and I took a walk up the tallest mountain in South Wales. Pen y Fan sits in the heart of the Brecon Beacons in Powys, Wales.
We’ve walked here on two previous occasions during the summer holidays and both times our starting point was Pont ar Daf car park. It’s a more direct route and constant climb, passing by Corn Du as you head for the peak of Pen y Fan and all its stunning surrounding views.
Pont ar Daf carpark is also your last chance of visiting a toilet/portaloo before your climb, so definitely worth a stop.
However, this time we walked from the Storey Arms Outdoor Education Centre on the A470, which is about a mile’s walk from Pont ar Daf carpark. Even though we arrived at 8.30am both carparks were full so we parked at the Beacons reservoir lay by and walked the short 1.3 mile walk to the Storey Arms.
The Storey Arms pathway is supposedly easier but longer than the one starting at Pont ar Daf car park. I was quite blazé as I thought I was in for a simple climb.
However, a rubble and stone pathway leads you up the first steep slope and I had to stop/start until I got into my stride. It didn’t help that it was also windy, cold and very misty as we started our ascent which added to the difficulty of this walk.
As the early morning mist started to ease up, the views were stunning even with the constant ascent and descent of the path. Crossing a small stream on steppingstones, we took our first refuel break listening to the sound of the water gently rushing down the mountainside. Bliss.
Continuing the final long uphill walk, the low lying mist kept appearing and disappearing as we climbed. At times, visibility was only a few metres ahead and coupled with the wind, made it feel phenomenally cold for September.
We reached Corn Du’s summit just as the mist disappeared for a few seconds and that’s when I saw the exceptional views we’d been walking alongside which had been clouded by the morning’s haze.
Corn Du’s summit stands just below that of Pen y Fan’s at 873m (2864ft), no mean feat. We had a family photo taken together on the cairn just to prove how dense the low mist was. (Behind us is the Brecon valley!) We were disappointed not to continue seeing the amazing views we’ve witnessed in the past.
We carried on our walk to reach the peak of Pen y Fan at 886 metres (2,907 ft) above sea-level.
I was surprised to see the number of people queuing to have photographs taken by Pen y Fan’s stone plaque. We decided not to queue this time as we’ve had photos taken there on sunnier days in the past, as shown in the photo below, taken about 2 years ago.
Pen y Fan is one of the kinder mountains to climb with its excellent pathways which are very well managed by the National Trust. Never underestimate mountains though, as the weather changes in an instant. I always err on the side of caution and was glad of my clothing layers.
A quick snack at the top (it was too cold to stay long) and we started our descent down the more direct pathway towards Pont ar Daf carpark.
The sun started to break through and although the wind was still strong, our walk down was relatively easy, apart from trying to socially distance pass the many walkers.
All in all, it was, as always an amazing but challenging walk. Catching glimpses of the fantastic views of the Brecon valley, when breaks in the low mist allowed, just added to the ambience of the mountain walk I haven’t experienced before.
Pen y Fan is a spectacular mountain to climb but choose the time of year carefully and ensure you dress accordingly and equip yourself properly before you leave.
Next time, we’d love to climb Pen y Fan in the snow and although it would be an extremely hard walk it would be worth it to witness breathtaking, picturesque views of snow capped mountains. Of course, this will all depend on our future lockdown restrictions.