I love our national parks dearly but always try to find their hidden corners; either their geographically remote edges or visiting their star attractions out of season or out of hours. The Black Mountain certainly falls into the geographically remoter end of the Brecon Beacons; even on a summer Saturday we only passed a few groups and even found a lake quiet enough for a spontaneous swim. Granted the weather wasn’t the best (understatement) but given that earlier in the week it had been officially too hot to move this actually was fairly welcome.
I had visited the area before, again in bad weather; a snowy winters day did not result in a summit, a swim or any sunshine. If these are the baseline criteria of a good day out then, on this occasion, a good day out was definitely had; even if the sunshine was measured in rays rather than hours.
We took a route out and up from the Tafan-y-Garreg pub gaining height quickly into the mist that shrouded the upper levels of the escarpment that runs northwest towards the summit of The Black Mountain. Desperate for a view, we tried to find the edge of the escarpment without any luck; looking at the map later we realised we had been a little premature and the true ‘edge’ doesn’t really emerge until around 650m. Once we had relocated and continued to follow the ground upwards there was no view but the area had a certain mythical quality. With the valley below covered in cloud it felt that there could be anything down there; dragons, dinosaurs, as yet unknown mythical creatures. The summit had a lovely shelter but given the cloud and wind we didn’t hang around! Our first view of the day came after about 3 hours of walking when we descended towards Llyn Y Fan Fach. Skirting around this lake, which can also be accessed by track from the YHA at Llanddeusant we walked onto the quietest section of the day. There is a path that winds it’s way back under the escarpment along to Llyn y Fan Fawr, at times cutting right under the giant green cliffs. Llyn y Fan Fawr was as far as I got on my winter escapades but on this occasion it marked an almost home feeling. As such, the idea of a quick dip seemed too appealing to pass up. Scouting the lake shore I found a perfect, slightly sheltered entry point, stripped of and ran in and out in pretty quick succession. It was chilly but so refreshing and liberating. From here it was an easy downhill yomp back to the car. All in all, a wonderfully varied route with some hidden gems.
Total Distance: 20km
Total ascent: 1000m
GR for swimming: 832 217
If you have access to OS maps online the route we used can be found here