Weekly Route - Pen Y Fan

The Brecon Beacons may be compact, but this circular route up the highest peak in south Wales makes for a great wild mountain day particularly in winter.

Posted: 5 June 2006
by Dave Mycroft

Walking Route: Pen y Fan Brecon Beacons

Taf Fechan > Tor Glas > Pen y Fan > Corn Du > Taf Fecha

Distance: 9.1 miles (13.6 km)

Height Gain: 2306ft (703 m)

Overview: A circular route up South Wales' highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Maps: Ordnance Survey: Expl OL12/ LR 160

Strenuousness: 2
Technicality: 1
Photo Grade: 3

Start Point: SO 037 169

A circular route up South Wales' highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons National Park. At 2906 ft Pen y Fan shouldn't be underestimated; it wouldn't be out of place in Snowdonia and despite the relatively gentle angle of ascent and descent it's a proper mountain day. In winter, in particular, it makes a fine escape to true wild country despite the number of people you're likely to meet along the way.

Cribyn and Pen y Fan in the snow - Simon Chaplin from his OM album

Section 1 - Taf Fechan to Bwlch Ar y Fan

Distance: 2.8 miles (4.5km)

Height Gain: 838ft (255m)

From the car park follow the road north west for three quarters of a mile to the point where it splits into two paths. Take the right hand branch at the junction, following the course of the old Roman road alongside Taf fechan Forest.

Leave the woods behind as you slowly ascend Tor Glas on the signposted path to Bwlch Ar y Fan. Down to your left lie the Neuadd Reservoirs while ahead the col between Fan y Big and Cribyn beckons.

From Bwlch Ar y Fan there's the option of a short 350 ft ascent off to the right to the summit of Fan y Big for those wanting to add a little extra to the walk. Bwlch Ar y Fan marks a major crossroads in the paths with routes heading off in all directions.

Section 2 - Bwlch Ar y Fan to Pen y Fan

Distance: 1.6 miles (2.5km)

Height Gain: 1298ft (396m)

From the crossroads at Bwlch Ar y Fan turn west, making sure to take the higher of the two paths. Follow the path along the edge of the cliffs as you ascend Cwm Cynwyn to the summit of Cribyn.

Cribyn's shapely ridge - Darrewn Salvage from his OM album

From here move west down to the col before climbing again on the ascent to the summit of Pen y Fan. The 600ft climb takes you up Craig Cwm Sere to the summit, from where you get extensive views north to Brecon and the Usk valley. To the south east you get views back down the valley to your starting point.

Section 3 - Pen y Fan to Taf Fechan

Distance: 4.7 miles (7.6km)

Height Gain: 170ft (52m)

It's a long leg back to the start-point from the top of Pen y Fan, beginning with a short descent to a col then a climb to the top of Corn Du. From here descend again to Bwlch Duwynt, another major crossroads. From the Bwlch turn south east along the edge of Craig Gwaun Taf.

Pen y Fan under snow again - Hamish Fenton from his OM album

The crags here give way to those of Craig Fan-ddu as you slowly descend towards the reservoirs. As you pass the end of the crags you eventually reach a cairn at SO 019 182 where a stream heads down to the reservoirs below.

Turn left at the cairn on a steep path alongside the stream to reach the end of the lower Neuadd Reservoir. Go through the gate but instead of following the dam turn right into the woods and alongside Taf Fechan. The wide forest track now leads you back to the road and your start point.

Route Map

Previous article
Weekly Route - CMD Arete, Ben Nevis
Next article
Weekly Route - Anglezarke

Discuss this story

Since moving to the southwest i have never enjoyed hill walking as before i first set about pen y fan.Ive been to the lakes & scotland but i always come back to the brecon beacons to enjoy pen y fan.

Posted: 18/06/2006 at 17:08

Can't blame you Barry, my favourite mountain too!!

Posted: 18/06/2006 at 18:25

Well, its ok, but better than the Lakes and Scotland? ;-))

Posted: 18/06/2006 at 19:07

See more comments...
Talkback: Weekly Route - Pen Y Fan

Sign up to our weekly newsletter
Sign up to our twitter feed