A Hobbit in the Misty Mountains! Well, let me clarify that statement a bit. I am slightly undertall. I absolutely love food but I dont have hairy feet (not yet, anyway). I did however encounter some misty mountains the other day when I found myself going out for a day’s walk. I hadnt completely finalised my choice of walk but I did know it would be somewhere in the western Brecon Beacons.
The forecast was for a little bit of mist in the early morning between 500 and 700 metres up but generally good visibility. The rain was due to hold off and the outlook rather good. I got up early, drove through the valleys of South Wales and somewhere along the way decided to opt for the rising ridgeline of Fan Hir and a visit to Fan Brecheiniog. Now I hadnt been on this particular walk for a while and the views are always spectacular from the top. Well the alternative was a walk through Forest Fawr nearby and although a good walk was not as lofty as the Fan Hir ridge.
Daylight was drifting in as I climbed out of the car. It wasnt cold but there was a dabble of rain in the air. Hefting the pack I struggled up Llwyn-yr-ynn the first slope of the Fan Hir ridgeline. By the time I had gone a mile, I was already starting to sense an ever encroaching fog surrounding me. Still my heading was clear to me and my compass work holding true.
Another mile and the fog was now all around me and visibility down to a few yards.
Where was my sun and clear views? Still it was not even mid morning and I had all day. The fog was bound to lift later on and I was confident of splendid views when I reached the northern edge of the range. As I pushed on, the familiar shape of a low drystone stone shelter and trig point came out of the gloom. Taking this opportunity to have a spot of early lunch, I also took stock of my walk.
It was even foggier than before. A sleet shower had started up and I was getting the foreboding sense that my great views were just not going to materialise. Having chewed over my options, and finished my lunch, I decided to push on for a while and attain the edge of Fan Foel. At this point I would have the option for continuing west along Bannau Sir Gaer (my original plan), dropping down Fan Foel and picking up the Beacons way alongside the ridge or just retracing my steps back down Fan Hir. Always good to have options. Upon reaching the Fan Foel pathway it was obvious. The fog wasnt lifting and if I pushed on west the plateau would become difficult to navigate back south later on. I didnt want to retrace my steps so I made my way down Tro’r Fan Foel pathway to pick up the Beacons Way that would take me past Llyn y Fan Fawr and the route south.
As I dropped down, the visibility improved marginally although the mist swirled and chased around me. Pushing past the lake with the ridge looming up on my right hand side I started to make my way back to the south. Llyn y Fan Fawr is a great spot for a wildcamp although the wind can skim off the water at a fair pace.
Sometimes its best to camp a little further south and over the slight rise in front of the lake. From here you get a great impression of Fan Hir ridgeline, the lake itself and sweeping views to the south and east towards Fan Gyhirych and Fforest Fawr.
This is great wild walking country (although not as wild as the plateau I had just come down from). Still you get a real sense of open expanse and solitude with only the crows for company. On another day, I would have potentially made my way towards Fan Gyhirych and then drop down through Fforest Fawr picking up the Roman road (Sarn Helen) along my way. Today however, I was to continue south hugging the terrain at the bottom of the ridge.
The ground slowly dropped away in altitude and bent back right bringing the little single track road that bisects the terrain back into view. As I neared my starting point I had to navigate through some serious boggy sections and discovered to my horror that midges were happily trying to drain my blood. And boy do they like my blood.
Still soon enough I was back at the car. No sooner had I changed and got ready to set off then the heavens opened and there was a real downpour. I was lucky that I had cut short the walk as I would have still not seen much through the fog, would have had to navigate more carefully and then would have gotten thoroughly wet.
As I drove home I realised that I didnt mind my altered and shorter route as I had done a decent 9 mile walk and made the best of an otherwise poor day. The route had actually given me some impetus to look at planning a Beacons Way trip at some point (probably next year). Its great walking country and the west really is a bit wild.
And I did manage to find a rather nice cake shop on the way home 🙂