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Pumlumon & Elan / 3 days / 44 miles (71km)

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Waun Claerddu lakes partial pan > Pan

Date: 05 Jun 2004
Start / Finish: Llangurig. Roadside parking, also a free car park.
Maps: Explorers 213 Aberystwyth & Cwm Rheidol and 214 Llanidloes & Newtown.

Day 1The Severn Way & Pumlumon15 miles / 3100 feet (24.2km / 944m)
Day 2Cefn Croes & Pen y Garn15 miles / 3050 feet (24.2km / 929m)
Day 3Waun Claerddu & Esgair Elan14 miles / 1540 feet (22.5km / 469m)

A circuit to investigate the eastern approach to Pumlumon and the northernmost reaches of the Elan Valley. We also wanted to forge a direct route to join the two areas via the isolated mountain of Pen y Garn.

Day 1 - The Severn Way & Pumlumon

The minor road NW ascends to houses where the footpath can be seen slanting up L beyond. Without a sign, we went R through a couple of gates immediately before the houses to join it. At the top of the hill, again unsigned, the footpath goes left over two farm gates lashed together and descends to a crossing point in a fence - just yellow plastic wrapped around the top of the wire and obscured by low bushes until the last moment. A track lies beyond and this leads past Henfaes farm and down to the lane at 891808. Along the lane NW past Glanbidno Isaf, a track follows the Afon Bidno and enters the Hafren forest, which has a surprisingly open aspect and the walking is pleasant. At 853859, the bridleway leaves the forest track NW on a rough path, but it is better to continue NE on the track, which is easier and leads to the wooded glade by the Nant Maesnant car park (public toilets). A waymarked circular walk to see Severn Break its Neck waterfall was a pleasant short diversion downstream.

The Severn at Hafren Forest visitor centre
The Severn at Hafren Forest visitor centre (05 Jun 2004__12:34:36)
Waterfall on the upper Severn
Waterfall on the upper Severn (05 Jun 2004__14:44:11)

The waymarked Severn Way (SW) now takes over through the forest, and it was unexpectedly attractive for this setting, with some small waterfalls and a generally open aspect. In the uppermost part of the forest, the SW deviates from the mapped line and takes a much better route close by the river to emerge from the forest at the mapped exit point. We collected water at a side stream in the forest. A damp path continues past the posts marking the source of the Severn to the ridge fence. A good walk along the three tops of the ridge to Pumlumon Fawr gave us our first pitch.

Llyn Llygad Rheidol
Llyn Llygad Rheidol (05 Jun 2004__17:50:14)

Day 2 - Cefn Croes & Pen y Garn

The night was cool enough to settle the mist in the valleys, which gave a fine view at dawn. The mist soon rose and engulfed the tops as we followed the fence S to meet a wide bulldozed track, which leads to the forest edge. A waymark indicates the footpath SW, which enters the forest boundary and soon leaves it at a stile. It becomes indistinct as it follows the edge and then descends to another stile before the final drop to the pub on the A44. Opposite, a surfaced byway parallels the A44 NE and a footpath branches R as a good track through Fagwr Fawr farm to climb E by the Nant Rhys. At the top the track peters out, but the walking is quite easy to the embankment at the S tip of the desolate but charming Llynnoedd Ieuan. A thin path continues SE to a stile, but then the going gets rough. A little further we arrived at the small waterfall by the precipitous tree-lined crags near Banc Chwarelmelyn.

Morning mist around Nant-y-moch reservoir from Pumlumon pitch
Morning mist around Nant-y-moch reservoir from Pumlumon pitch (06 Jun 2004__06:18:25)
Sea of early mist from Pumlumon pitch
Sea of early mist from Pumlumon pitch (06 Jun 2004__06:20:03)
Early morning light on Nant-y-moch reservoir and Drosgol from Pumlumon pitch
Early morning light on Nant-y-moch reservoir and Drosgol from Pumlumon pitch (06 Jun 2004__06:22:56)
Top of the fall and precipitous crags at Banc Chwarelmelyn
Top of the fall and precipitous crags at Banc Chwarelmelyn (06 Jun 2004__11:51:35)

The plan now was to head ENE above the crags to pick up a marked track that would take us around the head of the Nant Chwarelmelyn. The going here was dreadful, with large dense tussocks swathed in bilberry and after a tiring struggle we arrived at a double-height fence. Turning R along it, it soon reverted to single-height and was quite easy to cross, and we veered L over easy terrain to the marked hairpin bend in the track at 805811. This is a wide bulldozed track that turned out to be the access route to the new Cefn Croes windfarm, which is now under construction. It seems that walkers are expected here, as signs warn you to keep to the track edge and be alert for site traffic. Passing the half-finished bases, we could see the deep reinforced concrete structures that would support the windmills. It obviously looks scruffy at the moment, but it makes the walking very easy with good broad views, and one of our hunches turned out right - this track now joins up with another mapped track that ends at 809798, making it continuous all the way to Pen y Garn, where a stile is provided for access to the summit a short way above.

Another track leads down to join the first, which zigzags down below a small plantation to 792759. There is no way through directly S to the hairpin bend in the lane, so we took the track SW to the forest edge and the unsigned footpath SE, which involved crossing a fence and some awkward boggy areas, to arrive at the lane. Walking around the hairpin bend, the lane descends to Cwmystwyth.

The Cwmystwyth valley
The Cwmystwyth valley (06 Jun 2004__17:13:59)

Turning L, a narrow lane descends R to cross the Afon Ystwyth by a waterfall. A short way beyond on the L, we took the L footpath (actually waymarked!) that contours into a wood and slants upwards to the top edge. The footpath now climbs very steeply following waymarks, then contours SE up the valley of Nant Milwyn. At the head of the cwm, we crossed a fence to the river by some falls and collected water. Climbing a little further, we found a quite good pitch.

Day 3 - Waun Claerddu & Esgair Elan

The morning was misted out even at this modest height, which was really bad news. We were expecting good conditions later, but the area to the S is a featureless navigation nightmare, with small single-ring contours everywhere and much boggy ground to be avoided. The first objective was Waun Claerddu, a Marilyn with a trig point (593m) that is not the highest point - the summit is 594m and lies to the NE with an ancient cairn, according to the map. Setting off on compass bearings, we maintained a course SW, passing or traversing many small hillocks and deceiving boundary stones that look just like trig points through the mist. Finally the sun broke through and once we had assessed our position, we had been pretty accurate for this terrain, but there was one more deception in store. Climbing a short way to the obvious ancient cairn just above us, it turned out to be a circular windshelter with the white trig point inside it and invisible from below!. Walking NE to the now obvious true summit, the cairn was small and topped with white quartz and we could see the lakes below.

Trawsallt from Waun Claerddu
Trawsallt from Waun Claerddu (07 Jun 2004__10:14:11)

Heading SE the walking is easy to the S end of Llyn Fyrddon Fach, whose beauty is concealed until the last moment where it suddenly delights the eye. In contrast to Llynnoedd Ieuan, whose charm lay in its desolation, this was a warmer and more picturesque lake, with several pairs of Canada geese and goslings and even a small flock of black-headed gulls on a small promontory. Climbing to the ridge of Esgair Garregnawllyn, one of the very rare paths of this area appears, though little more than a sheeptrod and doesn't last long, which gives a grand view of this lake and the larger Llyn Fyrddon Fawr (see partial panorama). The smaller Llyn Du to the S can also be seen. As on all our visits to the Elan Valley, the area was totally deserted.

Llyn Fyrddon Fach
Llyn Fyrddon Fach (07 Jun 2004__10:35:22)
Llyn Fyrddon Fach
Llyn Fyrddon Fach (07 Jun 2004__10:49:38)
Llyn Fyrddon Fawr
Llyn Fyrddon Fawr (07 Jun 2004__11:14:34)

Lying NNE is the small but conspicuous Domen Milwyn, the only really distinctive feature in the area with steep sides and topped by a prominent cairn. Weaving our way through the hummocky terrain, we encountered a sheep roundup, with two men on horseback, two on bikes and a team of dogs. Passing to the R of Domen Milwyn, we descended to cross a fence at the driest point we could find, then threaded our way NNE to 815732. This is a good spot to survey the land ahead. Just ahead is another crossing fence, which kinks around the base of a small cliff to the R. Beyond the fence is the flat boggy expanse of the Afon Elan riverhead. The route curves round on the L of this wet plain, traversing the shallow rises of Banc yr Wyn and Banc yr Wyn Isaf to gain the Esgair Elan ridge. There are broad views from here and there is a clear line, but the soft sphagnum becomes tiring after a while as the ridge is basically a 2-mile long wet sponge. Descending the nose at the NE end, a path leads to the road by a small car park.

Head of the Afon Elan
Head of the Afon Elan (07 Jun 2004__13:17:28)

A signed bridleway leaves the road and curves NE uphill to cross the Nant Rhydyfelin and enters the forest at a gate. The grassy ride is not the mapped line and arrives at a forest road T-junction with no waymarks. Here we go again!. This is the simple way:- turn R at the T-junction and follow the forest road, ignoring any side tracks, until it swings L to descend to the lowest point, where there is a wide clearing on the L (not on the map, this is at 876774). Along the L side of the clearing there is an unsigned rough vehicle track - this is the more south-easterly of the 2 bridleways marked on the map (we never found the other one). Climbing over a small tied-up bridlegate, the thin path contours the hillside and greatly improves further on, arriving at a farm gate. A good track continues to the lane S of Llangurig.