Brecon Beacons: Llyn Y Fan Fach Overnight Hike
Words & Photos: Sidetracked Adventures
My friends and I believe there is always time to squeeze in a little adventure and so with a limited window for us all to meet we decided to go hiking and camping in the Brecon Beacons and headed out. It was one those times where everything and anything gets bundled in the car, the weather had been unpredictably wild for a few days so it was important to be prepared. En-route we stopped for coffee and hatched a plan.
Growing up in mid-Wales, I spent a lot of time hiking with my Great Grandad. He loved to tell me old Welsh myths and legends, certain stories always stuck in my little 7-year-old head. I remembered the story of the ‘lady of the lake’ and that it was based in the Brecon Beacons, so after a bit of research, this inspired the destination for our adventure.
Llyn y Fan Fach (meaning “lake of the small beacon-hill”) is a small lake about 35 miles west of Crickhowell in the Western end of the Brecon Beacons. It’s a much quieter part of the national park and has a truly wild feel to it. You can read more about the legend of the lake, it is explained by the Gliffaes Hotel here.
Eventually, we had planned a 20km loop which takes in both glacial lakes which are known to offer up a haven for wildlife including red kites, kestrels and buzzards. We parked near Swn Yr Afon and from there you take the track up to Fan Hir. Heading up we passed a group of heavy loaded, sodden youngsters, most likely Duke of Edinburgh participants, who grunted forlornly; they looked a bit broken from the educational weather they must have had.
On this route you get a lot of the climbing done in the beginning, making your way up onto the ridge where you get some amazing views. You keep heading up till you reach the top of Fan Foel, this is the highest point in the county of Carmarthenshire, standing at 781m. The view from this easterly mountain ridge is impressive and on a good day, you can see the distinctive summit peaks of Pen y Fan and Corn Du as the centrepiece. We got glimpses of this view as the fast-moving clouds momentarily moved from them.
Later in the day, our pace sped up, we wanted to set up camp before getting totally drenched by the dark clouds starting to gather above us. Deep down we knew that wasn’t going to happen, we wanted to drop down towards the lake to get some protection from the wind but clouds were growing more menacing by the second. The inevitable drenching came, heads tucked down we battled on.
With a camp setup time rivalling an F1 tyre change we were soon tucked up in our sleeping bags waiting for our dinner to rehydrate. Howling winds and non-stop rain were the main themes through the night, and I don’t think any of us were very optimistic for the sunrise we’d hoped to catch. Despite this, we set an alarm for 5:30am but the thundering rain assured us we need not rush from our slumber.
We packed up and headed back to the cars to dry off and, as luck would have it, the clouds seemed to totally disappear and make way for the most warming rays of sunshine as we walked. By the time we reached the cars, we had all dried off completely.