Dave and Rufus’ lads week day 6 – The lake below the small mountain

Llyn y Fan Fach (the lake below the small mountain) is one of my favourite locations. It’s hard to find – I used to get lost when trying to drive to it because all the lanes around look the same. Even today, as I was driving towards the mountains, I wasn’t sure I was on the right road until I got to the rough track that leads to the little car park. Llyn y Fan Fawr, it’s companion lake just over the far ridge, is easier to drive to although the walk across rough moorland is a little tougher.

We left the car park at about 8.30 and headed up a rough track to a trout farm and beyond it to a dam and a small rescue shelter. It’s a long and steady slog up to the dam, uphill all the way with no respite. Great training. By the time I got to the shelter, Rufus had gone inside to have a look around so I made my way over tot he dam and waited for him. Water fascinates and calls to Rufus, so it was only a matter of moments before he joined me and we had a happy 10 minutes splashing about in the lake. Llyn y Fan Fach is a glacial lake cupped by the mountains of Bannau Sir Gaer. Rufus barking at my lack of stone throwing skills echoed around the mountains and for several minutes, there were many Rufuses all requiring a stone to be thrown.

The path up onto Bannau Sir Gaer starts from the lake, and climbs steadily until it reaches the high point of Picws Du. We set off and the many sheep in our way parted as we moved. Once again, Rufus showed no interest in them and lead the way. We came upon the first of a series of cairns built to indicate the path and lead walkers away from the treacherous edge which was crumbing in places.

It was a grey old day but I could see Foel Fawr, another of our regular hills, in the distance to the west. To the east, as we reached the top of Picws Du, was Fan Brecheiniog. But that wasn’t for today. Later in my training schedule, I’ll be doing the two lakes in one circular walk.

It was windy at the top, and threatening rain, so we turned around and made our way down to the lake again. The steady downhill path was most welcome and we were down in no time. There was many more echoing barks and stones thrown before we set off past the trout farm and back to the car park. There was time for a paddle int he river and a few photos of the wagtails before the rain set in, and we left for home.

Our route.

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I think we’ve been here before…

“It’s 4.30am – you do not need to go out right now, Rufus.”

“It’s 4.45am – you still don’t need to go out. When you’re home you don’t go out until 6.30am.”

“It’s 5am, Rufus. You can hold on for a bit.”

“It’s 5.10am. 5 minutes in the garden and then we go back to bed.”

There follows 5 minutes of snuffling, sniffing, exploring in the garden and three drops of wee. Three drops! Grrrr.

There follows another 90 minutes of snuggly warm bed.

After breakfast, we set off for Fan Brechieniog. I decided to follow the same path as last week, as it was interesting and challenging and provided plenty of ascent. The weather was colder – a north-easterly wind blew across the hilltops and chilled me right from the start. Gloves and hat went on straight away. Ahead, the north facing slopes of the mountains were white with snow.

Alas, underfoot it was boggy and marshy and soaking wet. No ice to make the going better. I had decided I wanted to push a bit today and the plan was always to climb Fan Brecheiniog. There was no hanging around on the top of Moel Feity and we bypassed the memorial stone to the crashed bomber crew as we went over the top of the hill and down to the valley between it and Llyn y Fan Fawr.

At the stream in the valley, Rufus found the carcass of a sheep. It had been dead for ages and was little more than a skeleton. Rufus saw a collection of bones but he came when I called him and managed to stay aroma-free. We headed up the sheep trail on the other side and turned to face Fan Foel – the pointy bit at the end of Fan Brecheiniog. We’d be up there soon. There was a long kilometre of slog across open moor with no paths to follow and I was grateful for the good visibility and my familiarity with this route.

All the while Rufus was weaving across my path 50m ahead of me. He’d disappear into a dip and then reappear, checking to see if I was there before heading of to a new scent.  He crested the hill ahead and dipped from view and when I climbed up to it, the view across the lake was spectacular. It was a deep blue and small puffy clouds filled the equally blue sky above. On the right was the mountain. On the shore was Rufus, paw deep in cooling water.

We stopped for our first break and Rufus chased stones while I snacked. Then we made our way along the western shore to the point where the path leads up to the gap between Fan Brecheiniog and Fan Hir. Waiting at the path were a group of about 20 walkers and I decided to let then go first. They set off while Rufus was catching more stones and after I’d given them a few minutes, we went too. But they were slow and the stragglers had barely got above the lake. We passed the first three within a few minutes and caught up with the other just before the gap. They had stopped to rest and were blocking the path quite effectively. Rufus ignored them and pushed past and by the time I got to them they were shifting off the route.

We carried on up to Fan Brechiniog itself, taking it slowly. The wind was much colder now and snow lay in patches everywhere. At the trig point two people were sheltering against the wind and we left them to it. At Fan Foel, the views all around were fantastic and we took a detour to see Llyn y Fan Fach and the Bannau Brecheiniog in the distance. We were beginning to feel the cold now so it was time to head back. On the way, we passed the walking group at the shelter – once again blocking the path with ruck sacks and walking poles.

I used my walking pole to ease the strain on my knee, and it was much better so I felt like going on. Rufus seemed fine and the wind had died down at the gap, so we made our way up the opposite side to Fan Hir. We walked along for about 15 minutes until we got to the summit. Then we turned around to come back down to the lake.

At Llyn y Fan Fawr, we took another break and Rufus caught more stones in mid air. But it was time to go back to the car so off we set down the hill, passing the source of the Tawe and following little streams that would become the river further down. We were both tiring now and the pace slackened a bit. Rufus pulled quite far ahead, always checking now an again to see if I was ok. His head would suddenly pop up from behind a tuft of grass in the distance before dropping out of sight again. We met at the main river crossing and stayed together as we contoured around the side of Moel Feity.

Back home, two tired boys filled their bellies with food and sat in front of the fire, drifting off to sleep.

Today we walked 7.5 miles, climbed 559m, caught 15 stones and dredged another 7 from the lake,  and it took us just under 4 hours.

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Garreg Lwyd

On Saturday, Rufus and I decided to revisit an old friend – Garreg Lywd on the western end of the Black Mountain, near Brynamman. It’s a relatively easy hill to top, with the option to go on and on, potentially to Fan Brecheiniog if we have the time. We’ve never gone that far but the views to the east of Bannau Sir Gaer and beyond are gorgeous. We often mentally tick off the peaks we’ve done from here. Well, I do. Rufus just runs around, rolls in the grass and explores the rocks.

It was a beautiful morning with just enough of a breeze to keep things from being too hot. Even so, Rufus was drinking a lot but I’d anticipated that. On Garreg Lwyd, I took a 360 degree panoramic photo (which I can’t upload) as the views were so spectacular. We set off east towards Foel Fraith which meant dropping down to into a valley and climbing up the other side. It’s great exercise and relatively easy going.

At the top of Foel Fraith, we took a break and had a bit of a rough and tumble fight in the grass. I can tell when Rufus is enjoying as we play fight and he runs off and charges at me again. We moved on further east, dropping down into another valley and curving round to the north to reach the source of the river Clydach. Rufus has learnt to read the landscape and spots potential rivers by the dips and twists of the ground ahead. He quickly spotted the narrow cut of the fledgling river and was off down the hill like a shot. He stopped once to check I was following him before carrying on. By the time I reached the river, he was paddling up to the knees, grateful for the cooling water.

There then followed the usual battle of wills between me (trying to take photos of the waterfalls) and him (standing in front of the camera until I threw stones for him). He won, of course, but I managed to get some snapshots in too. After a short break, we followed the river down to the west and back towards the quarry where I’d parked the car.

The quarry at Foel Fawr was used to provide limestone but has long since ceased production. There are some ruined buildings and mining equipment. The view from the top of the quarry north is magnificent and there is a clear line between mountains and farm land. Today, there were hangliders launching themselves from the hills across the road.

The road north from here will be familiar to anyone who watches Top Gear as it features in several of their sports cars tests.

All too soon it was time to head back to the car and home. We’d had fun and some sun and that’s all you can ask for.

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