Friday, 31 July 2015

Mountain Biking the Hill Boundary of Powys - Day 6

25 years ago today I set off with a good friend; Mark, on the sixth 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 6

31.07.90 – Mynydd Du – Fforest Fawr – below the Brecon Beacons     

As we arrived at the camp site yesterday the sun had broken through the blanket of cloud and gave us a beautiful evening, the skies had remained clear overnight and when Mark unzipped the door of the tent this morning the warmth of the sun greeted us.  We were soon up and having breakfast and getting the bikes ready for another day on the hill.  Today’s hill range was Mynydd Du with its high point being Fan Brycheiniog.

After setting off we nearly overshot our intended junction and almost ended up in a dingle as we headed toward the hills, we stopped and examined the map and happy that we were on the right route carried on toward the track that approaches Llyn y Fan Fach.  This track would give us good access toward our intended hill.

We rode as far as the filter beds where a small fish hatchery is placed, the sun beat down which was a welcome addition when compared to our crossing of the Berwyn and Pumlumon, but the heat was unrelenting and slowed our progress.

We cycled as far up the track as we could and then contoured around the hillside aiming for the small path that climbs steeply up to Bwlch Blaen Twrch which is positioned between Picws Du and Fan Brycheiniog.  The slopes ahead of us seemed never ending and the bikes were slung over our shoulders as we edged our way up toward the bwlch.

Taking a rest below Picws Du

The heat starts to take its toll

Steep ground on the way up toward Bwlch Blaen Twrch

Beyond the bwlch we carried and pushed the bikes up the final slopes to the summit of Fan Brycheiniog where we rested, ate some food and took a couple of photos next to the trig pillar.  We had now reached the summit of four out of the eight hill ranges we planned on visiting and the next three high points of Fforest Fawr, the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains lay tantalisingly in view to our east.

Beyond the bwlch we pushed and carried the bikes to the summit of Fan Brycheiniog

Beside the trig pillar on Fan Brycheiniog.  Four down, four more to go

Our onward route headed south over Fan Hir and proved quite stunning as we cycled down from the summit of Fan Brycheiniog, up the slopes of Fan Hir, over its high point and down its extended southerly ridge.  Except for occasionally stopping to take photographs we cycled this entire route to within a couple of hundred metres of the road where we were met by Barry.

Cycling over Fan Hir was exhilarating

Open and free and all the way down to Glyntawe

We met Barry just north of Glyntawe and stopped off for a welcome drink in the local pub, before cycling the four miles up the A 4067.  At the top of this road we found a quiet spot to have a late lunch before heading east on a minor road toward Heol Senni.  This minor road skirts the northern flank of the Fforest Fawr hills and reaches its high point at around 420m, it then plunges down to Heal Senni loosing almost 180m in height as it does so.  Much of this section is on open land and has sheep wandering from their hillside grazing onto and over the minor road to find juicy morsels of grass on the opposing grass verge.  This section of road is almost 2km in length and has no significant corners on it, with much of it being completely straight, we both put our heads down and our backsides over the back of the seat and hurtled down the road with Mark overtaking a car and me almost wiping out a sheep, having reached 52mph we pulled on the brakes as we entered Heol Senni, this would prove the fastest time recorded during the ten day expedition.

Arranging to meet the back-up vehicle at the Storey Arms at the top of the A 470 we continued out of Heol Senni and onto a short section of the A 4215 before turning right onto a minor road that took us to the busy A road.  This road is the major north – south trunk road in Wales and thankfully we were only cycling on it for about 3 miles.  Our fitness levels were now attuned to the rigours of each day and we set a good pace cycling up the road, it was good to see Hazel and Barry pulled up off the road opposite the Storey Arms and we rested for a few minutes happy in the knowledge that our next hill; Fan Fawr, was straight above us and could be tackled in the evening.

As Hazel and Barry drove down the road to a large lay-by next to forestry which would be our camp for the night, Mark and I sped up Fan Fawr.  It took us 30 minutes to get to the top from the Storey Arms, we only stopped once and I quickly took a photo for posterity as we did so.

On our way up Fan Fawr

The view from the top was stunning with beautiful evening summer light, and Mark stood next to the small summit cairn with his bike raised above his head.  We spent a number of minutes on the summit soaking in the view, another hill had been completed and it had only taken us 30 minutes to do so! 

At the summit of Fan Fawr.  Five down, three more to go

Just before setting off on our 12 minute ride down Fan Fawr

Looking out from the summit of Fforest Fawr the days seemed to be merging into one another with Fan Brycheiniog and Fan Fawr visited today, Pen y Fan planned for tomorrow and Drygarn Fawr visited yesterday, we were making excellent progress and celebrated by whizzing down from the summit of Fan Fawr back to the Storey Arms in 12 minutes.

After cycling down the road we joined Barry and Hazel in the back-up vehicle as the local midges plagued us, they really were quite evil during the night.  Tomorrow we were heading up to Pen y Fan, the highest summit in the Brecon Beacons and also the highest point that we would reach during our ten day adventure.

Tomorrow:  Brecon Beacons – Crickhowell – below the Black Mountains     

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