Sugar Loaf 2007
Gateway to the Black Mountains, in the Brecon Beacons National Park.
This was to be Josie's first proper walk up a mountain - the last one she went up was Cadair Idris, and I carried her up that (and damaged my knee, but never mind that now). The target is the Sugar Loaf, on the southern edge of the Black Mountains, in the eastern side of the Brecon Beacons National Park. She took a digital camera with her, to keep her own memories, and quite a few of the pictures were of admirable quality, and are included in this gallery.
The Sugar Loaf is well known and very popular, for its obviously volcanic appearance. Sadly it is not a volcano, and it is only shaped that way due to the small millstone grit caprock that kept the top from being eroded during the ice age. Still, like most local children, we grew up being told that it was a long extinct volcano, and for Josie's enjoyment, this tradition was continued, in the same way as tradition says that a man in a red coat likes to visit near the end of December.
The mountain itself is 596 metres high (nearly twice the qualifying height for a mountain in Britain), and the cars are parked at 340 metres. A relatively easy walk then gets progressively steeper leads up to the trig point, and it is easily enough for a 5 year old. Supposedly the mountain also has a Welsh name of Mynydd Pen-y-Fâl (literally 'the mountain that is the top of the crushed stuff' - don't ask me), but none of the people who live in this part of Wales care, since they all speak English, and call it by its normal name; Sugar Loaf.
These are some of the most important mountains in Wales from a caving perspective. Pwll Du and Gilwern Hill (and a little bit of The Blorenge) house Ogof Draenen, Wales' longest cave. Llanelly Hill and Clydach Gorge house many caves, including Llanelly Quarry Pot. Mynydd Llangatwg houses Ogof Craig A Ffynnon, Ogof Daren Cilau, Agen Allwedd, and Eglwys Faen, together they are longer than Ogof Draenen (but not yet connected), and like Draenen, they have some truly stunning formations. Mynydd Llangynidr has the long but small, muddy caves of Ogof Carno and Ogof Cynnes.
- The Blorenge is one of my favourite mountains, and it has a superb concave face. However, it is annoyingly difficult to photograph, as the sun is always behind it, except in the very early morning and late evening during summer.
- Better picture borrowed from the abergavenny.co.uk site (hope you don't mind).
- The walk starts by following the Mynydd Llanwenarth ridge, slowly around the main peak.
- At the end of the ridge, the path swings right and begins to climb. Josie's idea of running up to the top was quickly forgotten, as the real climb began. The temperature in Abergavenny was 6°C with a wind chill factor taking it down to 2°C. We were now at four times the altitude of Abergavenny, and the temperature was proportionately lower, and the wind noticeably stronger. So yes, it was cold.
- Looking down to Abergavenny from the end of the Llanwenarth ridge.
- Sitting at the Sugar Loaf summit trig point; the top of the volcano.
- Battling the wind on top of the trig point.
- The reward is the view of the rest of the Black Mountains, disappearing into the distance. From left to right, near to far; The first ridge: Table Mountain (451 metres) and Pen Cerrig-calch (701 metres), Pen Allt-mawr (719 metres), Mynydd Llysiau (662 metres). The second ridge: Crug Mawr (550 metres), Waun Fach (811 metres). The third ridge: Twyn y Gaer (427 metres), Bâl-Mawr (607 metres), Rhos Dirion (713 metres). A short ridge between the third and fourth ridges: Twmpa (aka. Lord Hereford's Knob 690 metres). The fourth ridge: Hatterrall Hill (531 metres), Black Mountain on the Offa's Dyke path and Wales/England border (703 metres, the highest point southern England), Hay Bluff (677 metres).
- The Skirrid (486 metres), the outlier of the Black Mountains. It has a distinctive summit, with a large landslide (towards the camera) where a part of the summit has split off and slid downslope, creating a secondary summit.
- The landslide on the Skirrid, as seen from Abergavenny.
- Sheltering from the wind to eat lunch, accompanied by everybody else doing the same thing.
- Temperatures were dropping too quickly, so we got out the Baked Bean - a multi-person shelter, supposedly for upto 12 people. It gets very warm in there compared with outside, almost comfortable room temperature.
- Peter inside the baked bean.
- Josie inside the baked bean.
- Me and Becci inside the baked bean.
- The wind began to pick up, and we put on our warm coats again before packing away the baked bean. There was a strange silence, the summit was deserted, and it was snowing! The icing sugar on the Sugar Loaf.
- As quickly as it had arived, the clouds were blown away.
- Sun streamers lighting up Gilwern Hill and the Usk valley.
- Looking down on a ridge of the Sugar Loaf, over Crickhowell (where I went to school - if you care), towards the main Brecon Beacons.
- The snow covered peak of Pen y Fan (886 metres), the tallest of the Brecon Beacons, and the tallest mountain in South Wales, and by extension, the tallest in South Britain.
- Starting down the crags from the summit.
- Peter boulder surfing.
- And portering the luggage.
- Picturing pictures.
- The oldies; me, Becci, Nicola, Peter.
- The volcano was this big. Success, having walked up and down, without being carried.
- The photographer.
- The wind holding the gloves to my head.
- The Sugar Loaf through Josie's lens.
- The Sugar Loaf winter colours.
- The walk completed, we were bidden farewell.