Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Cribyn

Back in February in lockdown I decided to stick some pins in a map of places I wanted to walk and visit, when we all could again. A few in the south west (Brown Willy in Cornwall already in the bag), some in south Wales, Snowdonia, Peak District and a few aspirational ones in Scotland. Well opening up started and I looked at how I could best fulfil some of these, having said to myself that, this virus is with us whether you like it or not, and its time to get on with things. South Wales looked doable in a one night stay and with some fine advice from Andy at Surfnslide I decided on the best way to tackle what is named the Pen y Fan horseshoe. Unfortunately Andy couldn’t join me on what turned out to be a stunning Friday morning in early July. The sun shone strongly and I was sweating by 9am! I had plans to potentially extend this walk on to Fan y Big and Waun Rydd, but I’ll save those to give me an excuse to come back, instead I chose to beat the M5 south bound Bristol traffic which is horrific every Friday afternoon. I just about managed it and was home by 5.30pm.

The walk itself is a cracker and the Rhiw yr Ysgyfarnog ridge is a brilliant way up a mountain, everywhere I looked there were glacially valleys and ridges spreading out like a octopuses tentacles. It was a brilliant place and justified the decision to come here. The faces of Cribyn and Pen y Fan plunge down into the valleys and walking the edges is far more impressive than seeing the photos, the only slight down was the number of horseflies, which took a keen interest in me, as they always do. Arms, legs and my head (just under what would have been the rim of my cap), were pickled with bites the next day, even with cream on. Still it didn’t spoil the walk at all and this one is likely to go on my list of favourite walks of the year. Pen y Fan ticked off. Next is the Lakes at the end of July

Start – Tal Fechan Forest car park (SO036170)

Route – Neuadd Reservoirs – Graig Fan Ddu – Rhiw yr Ysgyfarnog ridge – Craig Gwaun Taf – Bwlch Duwynt – Corn Du – Pen y Fan – Cribyn – Tor Glas – Tal Fechan Forest

Distance – 8.5 miles    Start time – 8.30am   Time taken – 5hrs  Highest Point – Pen y Fan 886 metres

Weather – Very warm, sunny, clouded over a bit on the return, lots of horseflies!

© Crown copyright 2021 Ordnance Survey FL 2021 SF
Pen y Fan at the end of the road, up on the right are some SAS/marines doing an out and back into the Taf Fechan Forest before heading up towards Tor Glas and Cribyn, I’ll see those guys later
The Rhiw yr Ysgyfarnog ridge is up on the left, I need to get up there first, straight ahead is Corn Du and Pen y Fan which are just clearing the misty clouds that have been hanging in the valleys. Clear blue skies overhead
One of the Neuadd reservoir buildings
The lower Neuadd reservoir, or what’s left of it. After a break in the lower wall they have decided to not bother with these two reservoirs anymore. Cribyn at the back still has a cap of cloud
Blimey it was hot walking up here. It was only 9.15am and I was sweating. My descent path can be seen as a line running, from the bwlch between Cribyn and Fan y Big, left to right across the photo
Up on the ridge, the best part now is I’m at 630metres asl, but the walk to Bwlch Duwynt at 820metres doesn’t feel like an uphill walk at all, the views are glorious and its one of the best paths I’ve been on. Cribyn still has a cloud cap but not for long
Looking back out in the direction of Merthyr Tydfil. I had a sit here to enjoy the views and have a rest and a coffee. I wasn’t as organised as Andy from Surfnslide and didn’t bring my stove to cook a breakfast, but this would have been the spot to have it if I had.
Gwaun Taf is below and from left to right, Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Cribyn
As you head along the Rhiw yr Ysgyfarnog ridge glacial valleys open up on all sides this one is Cwm Crew
Back along the ridge, the horseflies were particularly bad along this stretch Gwaun Taf down to my left
Cron Du, Pen y Fan and Cribyn, which is looking a bit steep from here
Looking west in the distance to the Black Mountain
The path up to Corn Du, not far beyond that to Pen y Fan
The SAS/marines who have walked Cribyn and Pen y Fan, they looped around Corn Du and then down towards the Storey Arms, its 10.30am so they are on track form opening time!
Gwaun Taf towards the Neuadd Reservoirs
Corn Du summit
Down to Cwm Llwch and its Llyn, next off to Pen y Fan
I’m here, Pen y Fan, Mid Wales is beyond
Yours truly and Cribyn behind
And a proper view to Cribyn, I’ll head over there to the right and down Jacob’s ladder
Cefn Cwm Llwch
Heading down from Pen y Fan, you can see the tree outline of the upper Neuadd Reservoir clearly from here
The northern face of Cribyn, you can see the terrace path that runs across the face from here, starting just as you start climbing up to Cribyn
And looking back the other way, the face of Pen y Fan
Cribyn summit, looking down to Fan y Big and Waun Rydd back left
It was at this point I noticed the clouds had gathered over head a bit. There was due to be rain about 3pm hence my early start, looking back at Cribyn, Pen y Fan back left
As I descend Cribyn I look north into Cwm Cynwyn
Down off Cribyn and now for the long walk out through Tor Glas
The ornate wall of the upper Neuadd reservoir, my ascent route is behind, I followed a path along the line of trees heading up the hill, you can see the path leading up to the ridge
Cribyn, Pen y Fan and Corn Du
I had a sit here and one last look at the valley up to Pen y Fan
Almost back to the car now the Rhiw yr Ysgyfarnog ridge up on the left, the only way up to Pen y Fan in my opinion
Back at the car park by 1.30pm, not bad at all. And spaces here for cars if needed. So if you plan to walk Pen y Fan, come in the week when others are working and outside of school holidays and you should get a spot. If you can, then you are in from a treat if you head left and steeply up to the ridge, all the way to Corn Du. Perfection. A great walk.

5 thoughts on “Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Cribyn

  1. Nice route. It is one that I had intended to do but because I was being dropped off I felt that doing a loop from the Storey Arms would be better. I did the entire horseshoe barring the tiny stretch between Bwlch Duwynt and Corn Du, but also picking up Y Gyrn and Fan y Big. It was a stupendous walk and I do think that tackling the major summits near the beginning helped, although it did leave the long ridge that you did first towards the end. That, though, was much more exciting than I thought. I am a sucker for escarpments! I was only there two days ago and cannot wait to return to the Brecons.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve heard the edge from Fan y Big to Waun Rydd is the best of the lot so I’ll have that in my sights for future visits. I like that the Brecons are only a few hours away and some of the Black Mountains to the east look worth an explore as well. Lots to see.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Superb day out, bit sad I couldn’t join you and show off a bit! It is a classic route and agree it’s the best way to do Pen y Fan. The escarpments and edges as well as the deep valleys are a real highlight. Next on your list should be the Black Mountain to the west, my favourite.
    No pub at the Storey Arms sadly, it’s just a rather shabby looking Outdoor Education Centre and massively busy car park. Easiest way up the mountain but a dull and tedious ascent

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve got a pin in the map against the Black Mountain already so that one is on the to do list. Loved this day out though, especially as by 9am I’d done all the hard ascent until you get round to climbing Cribyn. The tourists can do the Storey Arms ascent which leaves the peace and quiet approach for us walkers

      Liked by 1 person

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