Saturday, 1 August 2015

Mountain Biking the Hill Boundary of Powys - Day 7

25 years ago today I set off with a good friend; Mark, on the seventh 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 7

01.08.90 – Brecon Beacons – Crickhowell – below the Black Mountains     

Our original plan was to walk and ride up the main path from the Storey Arms that heads toward Corn Du and Pen y Fan, but as we had slept next to the start of another good path that heads up directly toward Pen y Fan and bi-passes Corn Du we thought ‘let’s go for it’, and this we did as the ascent only took 55 minutes much of which was cycling.  On our way we overtook a number of walkers and none overtook us.

Mark cycling up Pen y Fan, our high point of the journey, with Corn Du in the background

Although the ascent of Pen y Fan had only taken us 55 minutes the conditions were warming up to the point that it was a grind as we cycled and pushed the bikes to the summit.  Once there we posed for a customary summit photograph next to the trig pillar which has now been removed.

Beside the old trig pillar at the summit of Pen y Fan.  Six down, two more to go

We now needed to head east to our next objective; the top of the Black Mountains and to get there we planned on descending the southerly ridge of Corn Du that passes over Bwlch Duwynt before hurting down next to Craig Gwaun Taf and Graig Fan Ddu, these cliffs are no more than steep craggy escarpment edges but as we rode down over the rutted path the land disappeared abruptly on our left, it certainly wasn’t a place to be thrown over the handlebars.

Our route down from Pen y Fan

We picked our way down off the ridge to the Lower Neuadd Reservoir and cycled across the dam to a track on the opposing side; this took us down to the paved road and led us toward the Talybont Reservoir.  Even on this road we had a grinding 100m of ascent to do, these small road inclines sometimes came as a surprise as even though we had planned the route well and navigated the roads by map which was always open in its map case on the front of my bike, they appeared suddenly as by now we were speeding along the road sections.

We rested at the Talybont Reservoir which was our prescribed rendezvous point with Hazel and Barry.  The sun beat down as we rested; it seemed as if the whole country was baking under its intensity.

Taking a well earned rest beside Talybont Reservoir

Barry joined us for the cycle ride into Crickhowell and picked up a puncture on the way, considering what the bikes were being put through they had survived almost intact up until this point with Mark needing a minor adjustment to his brake block and the wobble of my rear wheel which was due to a buckle.  Once the puncture was mended we continued on our journey through Crickhowell and headed out of the town just north of eastward on a minor lane that swung around the southern slopes of the Black Mountains.

We were aiming for the Grwyne Fawr valley and a parking spot in a small forested area which was our planned camp for the night.  To get there we had about 10 miles to negotiate on minor lanes, throughout this journey these minor roads proved a joy to cycle as only the occasional car would appear.

As we pulled up at our camp Hazel was waiting with the van and soon the tent was set up and bangers and beans delivered to the hungry cyclists.  As we ate the evening quickly disappeared, there was a stream next to this parking area and a convenient picnic bench which we took full advantage of.

Our evening meal, and we needed it

The view of our camp site, Mark's got an excuse because he was young, but Barry.... well.....

We had now completed six out of the eight mountain ranges and only had two more to do; Waun Fach the highest point of the Black Mountains and Great Rhos the highest point of the Radnor Forest.  As I rested my body in the sleeping bag I wondered if the weather would break or the heat of today would intensify even further, little did we know that the highest temperature ever recorded in Britain was only two days away and the next few days were going to be ferociously warm.

Tomorrow:  Black Mountains – Gospel Pass – Hay-on-Wye     

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