A night in the Black Mountain

Hello world
I have been longing for a two wheeled night out in the mountains since quite some time, so when opportunity knocked to have a long weekend off I was ready before I even realized it.
It wasn’t supposed to be anything epic, just a sneak peak of off-road bike touring currently known as bikepacking…

I’ve chosen the Welsh Black Mountain range (Welsh: Y Mynydd Du) as it was the closest to where I lived. Apart from that, their rather gentle and lowly peaks made perfect sense for my first outing on a bike.
I’d tried to talk a friend into joining me but to no avail… his loss I guess. So there I was, alone with my plans and big hopes for fair weather.
All my gear and food was ready the day before departure which ment a lazy morning and relaxed drive to my starting point where I would assemble my belongings into a touring machine. Off I went!
       The first climb in the direction of  Castel y Geifr (Sheep Castle) made me realize how quickly my body forgot about the 600km cycle along the Welsh coast I did no longer than 1.5 months earlier. That was mostly on paved roads, using thin tires but now I’m runnig almost 3 times the rubber and negotiating around clumps of grass, stones and omnipresent sheep sh*t. Anyhow, from now on all kinds of animal poo were ment to be my steady companions, gaily clinging onto my tire’s tread and riding my buffalo as bling baggage.
Luckly after this short climb I get to a very pleasant path where I can enjoy the fruits of my recent labor.
Happiness is found in the saddle.
My euphoria didn’t last long because after crossing Afon Giedd creek my trail vanishes into moorland. Welsh paths are characterized by the fact that they like to disappear just like that *snap* leaving the weary traveler to the mercy of marsh and moorlands. Just sometimes, as suddenly as they disappeared, they pop up 50 meters to the right or left… but not this time. So there I was pushing my bike through  ‘Carnau Nant-Menyn’ until I reach ‘Carreg Yr Ogof’ where I take my 5 o’clock tea and biscuits at 4 pm sharp. What counts is the hard packed trail ahead of me and a beautiful view as a reward for valiant pushing. The buffalo – as if grateful for helping him at the moorland – lets me lead him along the singletrack. My last downhill from Garn Fawr leads me to  Llanddeusant where I bear right onto the Beacons Way.
Nothing beats a hot tea with a view.
It’s not the one I was enjoying while having my tea, but stunning nonetheless!

The second part of my trip led me on top of the Bannau Sir Gaer cauldrons shown above. The beginning was inviting with easy made progress on tarmac and dirt roads, but just behind a creek an evil climb was awaiting me, together with my beloved clumps of grass, rocks and (ofcourse!) sheep poo. I manage the first couple hundred meters but as soon as wet and soft grass replaces hard packed trail I give up – this stuff is hard to pedal on when level, there’s no chance of tackling it uphill. We’re back where we started, Buffalo taking a brake and me pushing… two kilometers ahead and 300 meters up. Shed sweat pays for an incredible ride and most of the cauldron top ridges I can enjoy on top of my saddle. Gorgeous views spilling around me are intensified by the setting sun throwing lazy spells at the hillsides.

“For every moment of truth, for every moment of beauty…”
On my way to the highest peak of the Black Mountain range, the  ‘Fan Brycheiniog’ (802 m), the air gets filled with evening fog, adding to the surroundings’ enchantment. It is then that I encounter two (wild?) horses timidly joining me at safe distance for a couple hundred meters – a very pleasant change from all the sheep I’ve encountered on my way.
After summiting I have to bring myself and my bike down a steep trail, definitely unsuitable for cyclists, to my designated camping spot at the banks of  Llyn y Fan Fawr. On my way down I go pass a tent and wonder what they might think of the strange clatter and gravely noises my bike and I were emitting on our rough walk downhill – sounds rather unusual for such space-time continuum.
Three’s company, four’s a crowd
It turns out that my camping ground is heavily flooded, so I make my way up a small headland that shyly    juts into the llyn. The place isn’t shaded from wind, but the only dry land available –  Jest trochę odsłonięty, ale za to suchy – beggars can’t be choosers, right? right! Looking at my starlit bedchamber I feel like the richest beggar in the world. Although my mash potatoes for supper, having left my spices at home (mea culpa!), didn’t taste royal at all. My meths stove struggled getting my water hot with all the wind blasting around my tent but in the end I was able to enjoy some tasty semolina together with the bland mash. Having filled my tummy I fell asleep to the sounds of wind unsettling the air around me and Norman Davies whispering the stories of the God’s Playground into my ears.
My bedchamber for the night.
      The camping ground wasn’t far away from where I left the other day and in the morning I only had to cover 2 km downhill through wet hillsides being quite happy to be sitting on top of my bike which ment keeping my feet dry. It’s funny how in Wales you can be at the same time not far away from civilization and in pure, desolate and beautiful wilderness. After reaching the tarmac road I’d have to cover just a couple of kms mostly downhill to get the parking where I’d find my way home.

An easy way back to civilazation..
 A couple more shots, Les Stroud couldn’t do better ;)



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