The Route: Tor y Foel Distance: 4km | Time: 1.50 Hours | Height gain: 276m | Max Altitude: 565m Start: SO109187 Finish: Same as start | Map: OS Explorer OL13 | Date: 05/04/2012
We arrived in Wales to find that the previous day had been a white out and subsequently the hills were cloaked in snow down to around the 300m mark! The early spring conditions we had hoped for were more akin to full on winter conditions and so plans had to be slightly altered to accommodate the unseasonal ground underfoot.
Having just driven the four hours up from London and already having pitched the tent at the campsite in Pencelli we decided we could sneak in a cheeky afternoon hike as the conditions were just begging us to get out in amongst them.
Tor y Foel is a mere 10 minutes drive from the campsite and can be accessed at the end of a minor road that leads to the top of a farm drive. There’s room for a few cars here and an obvious path leads away to start the climb up her steep grassy slopes.
After a few eager paces upward we veered off and to our right taking one of the feint sheep tracks leading across the southern flanks of the hill. The path steeply traversed the hillside with a drystone wall as our constant companion below and to our right. Skylarks gave us an accompanying soundtrack as we stomped across the snow covered face of the hill.
After a while we entered a flatter area carpeted in thin bracken, from here we bore left and picked up the main path running up the eastern ridge of the mountain.
The views were magnificent with the Usk valley down below us with it’s mighty river meandering along the valley floor. Further still in the distance we could see the Black Mountains which on this occasion would have been more aptly named the white mountains for all the snow covering their peaks. To our south could be seen the wilder and sparser slopes of Mynydd Llangynidr.
After a small trudge up the slippery and snow covered path we could make out the small summit of Tor y Foel. The mountains summit is not the main attraction but it’s the views from it instead that take the breath away. An uninterrupted 360 degree panorama of the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains is just reward for your slog up.
Waun Rhydd shone across the valley towering above the Talybont Reservoir which glistened below. There is no shelter atop Tor y Foel and the cold wind of the last remnants of winter bit hard into our bones. It was not a time to outstay our welcome with such unsettled weather patterns abounding, so we dropped down the obvious path back down the steep slopes which still offered us great views over the head of the Caerfanell Valley.
Eventually we arrived back from where we had begun at the start of the farm lane. The views had been magnificent, the hike a good warm up for greater and longer days to come, and the snowy conditions added a bit of adventure to the whole outing. All in all a great little afternoon hike to acquaint ourselves with the area. If you are a newbie or just want an enjoyable work-out for a couple of hours this is a perfect little hike. And of course if you are in the Pencelli area the village pub is a cracking way to round the day off, and that’s where we headed for the evening.