Black Mountain bimble

Day 1 - Castell Dinas - Y Grib - Waun Fach - Pen Y Gadair Fawr - Pen Garreg.

A return trip to the Breacons to see something we hadn't already, and driving out of London on a friday evening is long, even without torrential rain, having to go back for a rain coat and bonfire night crowds.  After much squinting at starry headlights and misted windscreens, we arrived at the Castle Inn, Pengenffordd in time for a last pint, then to put the tent up by the light of a parafin lamp in the campsite alongside.

The following morning we're a little late to get out, but up to the Iron age Hill fort - Castell Dinas by about 11am.  Its cold, and muddy underfoot, but the colour of autumn is all around - a psychedelic circus, a song in burnt orange.  We had aimed to walk south first, but wanted to catch Y grib in the light and not in the rain, so thats what we do….up to Waun Fach by Y grib with only a group of older gents (''fall in by Harry''!) and a couple of dogs for occasional company.  A beautiful but gradual ridge line arcs upwards to the high ground beyond, a serpents back. 

As we get up we can see over to Breacon, Hay on Wye, Offas Dyke on one side and Pen Y fan on the other, in cloud behind us.  It's a threshold, the English border crossed, beckoning us to fall into the valleys proper.  I dearly love Wales, both T and I have family ties here, and in many ways its our outdoor home.

On the approach to Waun fach we see a glider from the airfield outside Talgarth traversing the ridge line, and the weather comes in a little.  The trig point is raised about 1.5m in a pit of mud scarred by footprints.  Along from Waun fach, the ground is increasingly boggy, and we have to 'pole vault' from one tussock to another to avoid sinking altogether.

We stop for lunch when the ground firms up and the skies clear for a while, but the rain starts again as we finish our crisps, more persistent this time.  Lets get moving quickly to keep warm. 

Up to Pen Y Gadair Fawr is backlit wonderment as only walking our little islands can manage.  The light is low and the clouds are heavy. The wind picks up a pace and whisks the wet around our heads, hoods up.  My body knows when its home.  

At this point we should have gone down.  But of course, we didn't.  We…I….am so hungry on my first day out I always push the envelope a little.  I really must learn from this though, its not helpful when in good company.  We look at the map and decide we can walk along a couple of miles and come down off Pen Garreg, which is not pathed but looks promising.

The rain eases again and we pass forestry commission plantations on the left, and a new branching valley on our right.  The hills are tricky round here, navigation is less obvious than at first appears - maybe why its used for specialist army training.  That and the ground, which in the wetter months is  tricksy stuff.  Can't imagine trying to run with a 35kg load on this sodden peat.

In the end Pen Garreg is fine, though we are tired by this point and finding the ford to cross the river and start our way back eludes us for a few minutes.  My knees are giving me hell on the descent as well, its always the way, the first 2 or so outtings after alot of cycling are often very painful.  I must look into this more, its a muscle group thing, and I have to get to the bottom of it, the pain is something else.

OK, so now its late, I lost track of time for a bit, and its getting dark already at 4.45pm, after the clocks changing recently.  We find the track and aim back for the col to take us home.  Its a brisk and moonless 2 hour and 6 mile walk back, in the pitch black.  T is cross with me and rightly so, there is no need for us to be doing this.  Still, its not raining, we have our little torches, plenty of water and a cracker or 2, and gaining confidence in navigation all the while.  Nothing to fear, would only stop us thinking straight home. 

We will find out more about fear in tomorrows episode.  But tonight, we find the turns we need and head back for pub grub and perfectly kept CRWU bitter, a sing song from the bunkhouse gang, then a long night in the tent as rain falls for 10 hours.