As the highest mountain in South Wales, and being within easy reach of a large population base, Pen y Fan is quite popular with walkers. As a result, there has been a serious path erosion problem here which has necessitated the building of flagged paths.
At least this makes navigation on the walk up to Pen y Fan easy enough! The sandstone used for the footpath is also reassuringly grippy and doesn’t polish into a lethal smooth surface such as some of the Snowdonia paths.
This is the route we took on a Welsh 3 Peak challenge as the most convenient.
1 – You can park opposite the misleadingly named Storey Arms, which hasn’t served a pint to weary travellers for nearly a century on the summit of the A470. This is easily reached via Brecon in the north or Merthyr in the south.
2 – The path leads off to the left of the Storey Arms, clearly signposted, and sets off on a steady uphill for a good km or so past a forestry plantation.
3 – The path eventually relents, but then commits a cardinal sin as you have to descend and lose a good chunk of your ascent. However it doesn’t really matter, as the whole walk involves so little ascent as to need these sort of diversions to make it worth while.
4 – It descends to cross the Blaen Taf Fawr, where you have to ford the stream. It was wet when we crossed and the weather for the last few weeks had also been exceptionally wet, and it barely wet my boots. There are stepping stones of sorts for those of a more sensitive deposition.
5 – Beyond the ford, the path reascends again, continuing on a steady pull. You’ll either love or hate it, as it’s manufactured path all the way!
6 – Sooner, rather than later, you’ll arrive at the Craig Cwm Llwch ridge where the path turns right and steepens for the final 130m up to Corn Du. There’s a welcome bit of rock just below the summit, a welcome break from the path, and soft peat on the summit! It’s clear how easily eroded these hills are by the erosion on the summits.
7 – The path sets off along the flat summit of Corn Du from which it drops steeply for a short distance before reascending the final stretch to Pen y Fan. There’s apparently a wonderful view, but mist prevented us from seeing a thing. Instead, I noiced the fossilised ripples that can be seen not far from the summit, reminding us of the origin of these hills. Being only a quarter past six, we almost had the summit to ourselves but still saw a handful of people about! Descent is straightforward enough, though if you’ve got enough time then it would be criminal not to climb a few more summits. Unfortunately, the Storey Arms doesn’t lend itself well to anything but out and backs, wtih the only circuit being far too short for a full day’s outing.