Thursday, 30 July 2015

Mountain Biking the Hill Boundary of Powys - Day 5

25 years ago today I set off with a good friend; Mark, on the fifth day of our attempt to circumnavigate by bicycle Wales’ largest county; Powys.  To add interest to the venture we planned on visiting the highest point of each of the eight 2,000ft hill ranges within the county, which are all situated around its periphery, bikes included.  We were backed up by Hazel and Barry; without whom our little adventure would not have taken place.  Prior to setting off and during our trip we raised money for the British Heart Foundation and the Ystradgynlais Mountain Rescue team.

The following is an account of this ten day expedition with each day’s journey appearing on the Mapping Mountains blog 25 years after it had taken place.

The county of Powys with the eight 2,000ft hill ranges positioned around its periphery

Day 5

30.07.90 – Drygarn Fawr – Llanwrtyd Wells – below Mynydd Du     

It rained during the night and I hoped that this would stop by the morning as the prospect of navigating in mist and rain whilst carrying bikes to the top of Drygarn Fawr did not excite me.  We were awake by 7.15am and heading uphill 75 minutes later, thankfully the tops were clear of mist and cloud.

This was the one hill that I had serious worries about as there were few options for an easy and convenient ascent route up the hill.  We opted to use an old path to an abandoned small mine that gained height above the Rhiwnant which was below us just to the south.

Mark heading up the track to the old mine with the Rhiwnant below

Beyond the small mine we carried the bikes for three miles through a wilderness of wet fern and grass, with a multitude of tussocks, bogs and mayhem to contend with.  The underfoot conditions were not easy and progress was slow, but ahead of us we could see the beehive cairn on top of Drygarn Fawr and bit by bit we got closer to its summit.

The tussock grasslands of the Elenydd seemed never ending

Only another two miles to go

When we arrived Mark celebrated by climbing to the top of the cairn with his bike and posed for a couple of photographs.  We had been lucky as the cloud base was only just above these hills with the higher ones to our south under clag.

Mark celebrating at the top of Drygarn Fawr.  Three down, five more to go

We now headed south for the continuation of our trip, I’d never done this from the summit of Drygarn Fawr before, and although I knew a route existed through a forest down to a narrow road that led to Abergwesyn, we had to find our entrance into this forest and hope that the track existed on the ground.  We left the beehive cairn behind us and cycled down the hill toward the forest and found the entrance and the track, thankfully it did exist and we hurtled down it to the narrow lane below.

We were met by Hazel and Barry with delicious mugs of tea, and proceeded to collapse onto the road.  It had been a pure slog to the top of Drygarn Fawr and although I felt knackered I also felt content as the cycle ride was proving great fun and I now knew that the most difficult hill had been overcome.

Out for the count, and I felt in a similar way

Before continuing we had bacon and egg baps at Llanwrtyd Wells and then it was back on the bikes heading south on minor roads toward Mynydd Epynt.  The crossing of the Epynt would take us to our next hill range; Mynydd Du, but to get there we were reliant upon the road over the Epynt being open.  The whole northern and western area of these hills is part of a military artillery range and the road can be closed at short notice.  We found the red flag flying, but the road open and continued cycling south.

Entering the Epynt

Cycling through the Epynt

We crossed Mynydd Bwlch-y-groes with views back north to where we had come from earlier in the day and views south to where we hoped to be tomorrow and the following day.  We dropped down onto the A 40 for a short distance into Trecastle and continued on a minor road heading west that took us toward the Usk Reservoir. 

Couldn't resist the temptation of cycling on part of the Usk Reservoir

Beyond the reservoir we followed the narrow road parallel to the grassy slopes of the northern escarpment of the high Mynydd Du peaks, all were now clear of cloud.  After a few more miles we turned into the camp site which was to be our luxury for the night and the first one visited on the trip.

Tomorrow's objective - Mynydd Du

Wondering if I'm ever going to make it to the top of the pointy thing in the background

A bit of luxury with the tent pitched at a campsite

It had been another great day and the high peaks of south Wales lay ahead of us over the next three days.  Three hills were behind us but we still had five to go.

Tomorrow:  Mynydd Du – Fforest Fawr – below the Brecon Beacons     

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