While the path to Pen y Fan looked like the route to a religious shrine, crammed with hundreds of pilgrims; the route to Fan Fawr was, well…empty…except for the two of us. Phew!
As we dropped down from the A470 to the ‘Taff Trail’ path, we followed the Taf Fawr to the point where it enters the Beacons Reservoir. You have to keep your wits about you if you want to avoid the numerous boggy patches through which the path runs. However, once we reached the far end of the reservoir (via moorland and forest tracks) we were glad to begin our ascent of Fan Fawr’s long, curving eastern ridge - Cefn Yr Henriw.
As we neared the summit, we spied the trig point off to the west. We decided to visit it although it wasn’t on our walk route. We were glad that we made the detour. Just as we got there, the sun emerged from the overcast sky and we had a great view of previously visited western peaks – Fan Nedd, Fan Gyhirych, Fan Frynych, Fan Hir and Fan Brycheiniog.
We then made our way to the ‘true summit’ (734 m/2048 ft), marked by a small cairn. Whilst we had a quick snack, we watched the continuous line of ‘pilgrims’ making their way up the Pen y Fan path, and a couple of paragliders frightening sheep on the other side of the valley.
As we made our post-lunch descent, we met another walker with her two dogs, one of whom took a great interest in Lynne! Like us, she was avoiding the crowds. We exchanged a few pleasantries and congratulations (she had just graduated!), then made our way back to the busy car park.
- We learned that not all trig points are placed on the true summit! This trig point was at 715 m compared to the 734 m peak.
- We learned that the OS Leisure app works and is really useful! I (Andrew) had downloaded the latest OS Explorer (1:25,000) for the area. The guide book had an older version of the map and some features were missing. Using the app we were able to see that a fence had been put up since the old version...and we were exactly where we should be!
- We had it affirmed that, while we enjoy meeting and chatting with other walkers, part of the attraction of hill-walking is 'getting away from it all'. It sounds anti-social but seeing the jammed car parks and crowds heading up to Pen y Fan is a real turn off...especially the queue at the trig point! It's great that people are being active, particularly children and young adults, and the views should be shared by all. However, some interesting questions arise...will the car parks begin charging soon? How will the increased maintenance of the footpaths be paid for? At the moment everything is free. I hope that it does not become restrictive pastime due to the necessity of charges as a result of its popularity. There is a fine balance to be maintained.