Tarquin's cycling pages

08 February 2004 - Descent from Heaven - Crug Mawr from Crickhowell

WhereDescent from Heaven - Crug Mawr from Crickhowell
(Brecon Beacons and South Wales)
Date08 February 2004
Duration4 hours
Distance14 miles (~23 km)
WeatherCold and sunny
Trail conditionsVery wet (is this a path or a river?) and muddy in places
Chris Poole 31 GT LTS 2000 (CP)
Mark 'Tarquin' Wilton-Jones 23 GT LTS 2000 (TWJ)

Trip report

Description by Chris Poole

This ride followed the route (No. 15) described in 'The Brecon Beacons National Park & the Black Mountains (mountain bike guide)'.

The pictures of this ride really cannot do justice to the quality of the downhill sections which make all 700m of climbing worthwhile.

See pictureHaving left the pay & display car park in Crickhowell, the cold was soon forgotten with a sharp little climb on the road in view of The Blorenge and Gilwern Hill.

See pictureSee pictureA short swoop downhill into Llangenny preceeded a nasty little 1 in 5 climb rewarded by panoramic views of The Blorenge, Gilwern Hill and Mynydd Llangatwg shortly followed by Mynydd Llangynidr and the Brecon Beacons. The two tallest peaks in South Wales, Pen y Fan and Corn Du are visible in the Beacons.

See pictureOnly slightly lost, Tarquin prepares to frighten the natives in his urban terror-wear, and suspicious facial hair.

See picturePlenty of time to appreciate (from L to R) Table Mountain, Pen Cerrig-calch, and Crug Mawr - the day's real challenge.

See pictureSee pictureHaving turned left off the road, a superb rocky downhill section was followed by the first technical challenge of the day. Right, where did I put those tyre levers? Oh dear. The relief is palpable as we discover that a brass key fob does the job. Thanks are due to the children of my boss, Frank.

Three days of heavy rain had turned the next 1 KM section of wooded track into a stream. We were having far too much fun to stop and take any photos.

See pictureSee pictureWith soggy pants and broad grins we rejoined the road, following it as far as Partrishow Church before making our way offroad again for the climb up Crug Mawr.

See pictureRiders have two climbing choices, either a steep stony track through forestry (just below the tree line) or the moorland path. Both are unrideable so why make life harder than needs be? Don't forget to turn round and enjoy the view of Cwm Ffrwd with Hatterrall Hill in the background.

See pictureWith burning calves we got back on the bikes, before realising with more than a little panic the left-hand rear pivot bolt of Tarquin's LTS had worked loose rendering the bike unusable. This is a common fault of the LTS design, and even with threadlock, is one part of the bike that should be checked for tightness before every ride.

See pictureSee pictureDespite rutted muddy terrain, Tarquin found the bolt some 100 yards from the point of realisation using a combination of extraordinary luck and incredible good fortune. Without the corresponding nut, the bolt was retained with a section of inner tube from the earlier puncture (every cloud etc.), much to the amusement of Charles Bailey's family (a fellow Brynmawr Caving Club member; isn't it a small world?).

See pictureSee pictureEngage a low gear, apply some brute force and you can pedal to the summit of Crug Mawr. Catching our breath was no hardship with unobstructed views of (facing north) Waun Fach (the tallest mountain in the Black Mountains, and 3rd tallest in South Wales) and looking south from L to R; Skirrid, the Sugar Loaf and The Blorenge (just).

There are no pictures of the next section, some of the best natural downhill riding in Wales, which says a lot about its quality - I defy anyone, having invested so much in the climb, to break it with photography (we really must invest in a helmet cam). This is a spiritual experience. (A full 45MB video can be downloaded from mtb-Wales.com, but you will need to register first - they took almost exactly the same route as us, up to the first gate).

See pictureAfter wide grassy moorland the descent falls below the tree line (visible in the first panorama) onto rocky farm track. Our 36mph maximum on-road preceded an idyllic stony riverside blast and a superb final climb - learn to love lactic acid!

Leaving Llanbedr we coasted back to Crickhowell with firmly etched memories of Crug Mawr's descent from heaven.

[Ed. we also leave with memories of Chris' GT LTS 2000 (CP), which was stolen from the back of Frank's car the next day]

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