Ascent of Cribyn on 2015-08-01

Climber: Marcus Lostracco

Date:Saturday, August 1, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Elevation:2608 ft / 794 m

Ascent Trip Report

Today I set off with the intention of reaching BRECON, starting in CARDIFF, by way of the TAFF TRAIL.

I was going to be stuck without a car for the weekend, and with a dead-set focus on peakbagging, I decided I would have to undertake this journey on foot. The Taff Trail is part of the National Cycle Network of trails designed for cycling and connecting the country via bike trails - amazing concept. All the routes are numbered, and the Taff Trail is route #8 - about 90% paved and some of it passes on major roads as well. It's also suitable for "walkers" - a term which I feel like I don't want to associate with but is widely used to describe hikers here in the UK.

I set off from the Marriott in Cardiff at 7am - that's 2 hours later than I originally planned due to alarm failure (I didn't set it!). Unphased, I was determined to achieve my goal (I had no other choice but to make it, really). I set off at a decent 10 minute mile pace, something I felt I could maintain for hours. The trail leading out of Cardiff is very nice - this is where the Taff river is the widest. I made it to Pontypridd in 2.5 hours, no problem, felt fine. I stopped in for a meat pie for some fuel and then continued on towards Merthyr Tydfil. The section towards Merthyr felt long for me, I had to stop and adjust my toes on my left foot and eventually wrapped my left ring toe - it has an issue with crossing underneath my left middle toe, which leads to serious blister trouble. I came up with a pretty good system involving a spacer, moleskin, and regular bandages. Feet health is super important when undertaking long treks on foot. I arrived in Merthyr in 5.5 hours from starting the journey - I had managed to maintain a running pace nearly the entire time from Cardiff, however I felt very tired at this point - general fatigue. I took a long break here, having some ice cream, a coffee, and a sandwich (in that order). After over an hour of sitting around, I was ready again to complete the journey.

The section from Merthyr to Brecon is the most scenic of the route, but first, exiting Merthyr was a bit annoying. The trail is badly marked in this area and you're going through a not-so-nice part of town. I found the trail again which finally got off the main road and ended up on a nice wooded alley. The trail is really flat at this time and I was able to run/walk most of it. I reached the Pontsticill Reservoir at about 7.5 hours. This section along the reservoir is really nice, and I enjoyed getting the first views of the Brecon Beacons beckoning in the approach. The clouds seemed to be settling in around the Beacons and it looked like I was heading for some wet weather. On this road I passed a tea house, which I had to stop at to re-energize... I was about 8.5 hours in at this point. I had afternoon tea which included a small sandwich, a scone, a slice of cake, and of course, a nice little pot of tea. I felt pretty good after this break and carried on along the trail. I couldn't help but think while I was having the tea that this wasn't very rugged, to be taking a posh tea break along the way... oh well, I was enjoying it!

After this, you enter the real Brecon Beacons. I was excited because I knew I was close. It began to get really misty and wet so I threw on my waterproof jacket. I continued, headstrong, towards my destination. However, at some point the trail made a crazy sharp 300 degree turn, to which I thought was a mistake. I ignored this weird turn and continued straight, since the trail was still going fine and it was heading in the direction of Brecon. I had at this point gone off the trail. I would find out later that the Taff trail goes all the way around the Beacons (designed for cyclists). Going the way I went meant there would be some open-country walking, and that it would be less distance than the overall Taff Trail route. I was ok with both of those. I reached a reservoir (Upper Neuadd Reservoir), and this is where the trail I was on ran dry. I knew I had to continue North and get over the Beacons and that Brecon would be just on the opposite side. Seeing a conceivable path the the cwm ahead that was below the clouds, I made a gun for it. This was an open country approach through thickets of grass, which makes for slow progress. However, geared with my walking poles, I was able to get up to the cwm in no time at all. I could see Brecon not too far down, and felt overjoyed, and even got some more energy from this sight. I then decided that I couldn't go all this distance and pass right by a peak and not even bag it! So I made the (arduous) ascent up to the summit of Cribyn. From here, I descended down Crybin's formation towards Brecon, eventually finding a paved road which took my straight into the town. I decided to run this road section, since I knew how close I was... I made it to downtown Brecon in just about 13 hours total time. I was really happy to have accomplished this trek... the longest distance I've ever covered, and it was fairly unsupported. I rewarded myself with a celebratory pint and then made my way to my B&B for the night.

One thing that I learned during this experience is that distances are achievable by foot - people just choose the convenience of driving to travel places. A drive from Cardiff to Brecon would have taken about an hour. But this drive would have missed all the experiences that are to be enjoyed during the course of the journey. I feel now that my eyes have opened up to the idea that if there are roads or a trail or anything connecting two places... it is achievable on foot.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
Ascent Statistics
    Distance:50 mi / 80.5 km
    Route:Taff Trail from Cardiff to Brecon
    Time:12 Hours 0 Minutes
Descent Statistics

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