With a couple of spare days to play with and inspired by my good friend Cass' Black Mountain Crossing write up on Bikepacking.com, I rallied the troops for a Welsh overnighter from deep in the valleys of South Wales.
Despite being early August, the weather was not on our side, with Storm Ellen rapidly approaching as we disembarked the train at Aberdare on our first day. Our journey deep into the heart of the Black Mountain to the west of the Brecon Beacons became a race against the incoming storm, hankered by the rough chunky byways of the ancient Sarn Helen 'road' and then a multi-hour hike-a-bike over the moorland.
Our initial plan to wild camp on the shores of the high Lyn y Fan Fach were dashed; lightning storms were incoming and it didn't seem like a good idea to head up the mountainside. Instead, we got lucky with a wonderful semi-wild campsite in the valley where we could shelter from the worst of the storm overnight.
Although most of the rain had fallen in the night, there were still huge winds battering the open landscape, so in fear of swollen rivers and unsafe mountain passes, we quickly made the decision to stick to the roads for our return leg on day two. Even that, it would turn out, would be pretty thrilling through the storm!
Photography by ForTheHellOfIt.cc
Our journey from the valleys of South Wales, deep into the heart of the Black Mountain to the west of the Brecon Beacons on the first day quickly became a race against the incoming storm.Despite wanting to make good progress to beat the worst of the weather, this route was not one to be rushed. We had to stop and explore Henrhyd Falls, the longest drop waterfall in South Wales, tackle the rough ancient byways including a stretch of the notorious Sarn Helen, and then spend nearly three hours hike-a-biking across the Black Mountain moorland through bog, up steep tracks and crossing swelling rivers. Our camping plans next to the high Llyn y Fan Fach dashed for fear of lightning strikes, our luck took a turn for the better, stumbling across a gorgeous semi-wild campsite down in the valley and a hostel that sold us some delicious craft beers.The worst of the storm passed in the night, as the four of us lay (or rather hung, in my case) cosy under two large tarps strung between the trees.
With gale-force winds battering us on the second day and worse weather forecast, we easily made the decision to avoid the next mountain pass and stick to the roads, which in this part of Wales are absolutely gorgeous.The almighty tailwind along the mountain road past Usk Reservoir was incredible, but led to a more terrifying descent of Bwlch Cerrig Duon, with winds so strong I had to dismount and push my bike for fear of being blown off the road. Terrifying, but life-affirming too.From there the day became more mellow, pedalling down to Glynneath via a proper breakfast stop at a roadside cafe at the Craig-y-nos Country Park and back to the great cycle track at Hirwaun to lead us rapidly back to Aberdare. This second day might not have been what we'd planned, but was just as thrilling.
Get recommendations on the best single tracks, peaks, & plenty of other exciting outdoor places.