The Route: The Sugar Loaf | Distance: 8km | Time: 2.5 Hours | Height gain: 580m
Max Altitude: 606m Start: SO268167 Finish: Same as start | Map: OS Explorer OL13 | Date: 08/04/2012
The Sugar Loaf is a tremendous name for a mountain. This particular mountain also looked tremendously adventurous all covered in snow as we drove towards The Brecon Beacons on our way to our campsite for the weekend. I was transfixed by it’s wintery appearance, unable to take my eyes off it as we drove on past it deeper and deeper into Wales. The form was perfect, conical, almost pyramidal, exactly how you would draw (given the chance) a perfect mountain.
Why it had never appeared on my radar before was beyond me. But it firmly was now and today finally we would have a crack at it.
The snow had unfortunately long since left us several days beforehand but with the shift in weather patterns we were gifted instead with an almost bluebird day. Blue cloudless skies, hardly any noticeable wind and the sound of skylarks to accompany us.
It was indeed a grand day to be out and about! In fact it was Easter Sunday and no better tonic could be had to my mind than an invigorating hike up an iconic Welsh Mountain!
We left the car and started the walk by headed out across open moorland and up the obvious track to the corner of a drystone wall. Handrailing along the wall we eventually dropped down into a deep valley ending up at the far corner of a wood. From here we descended a steep grassy path until we eventually met a stream cutting acrosss our way.
Keeping ahead to climb away from the stream we followed the obvious main path steeply up the hill and onto a distinct shoulder. We followed this to the crest until we were met with another wall. At this point turning back on ourselves we could see a good path heading directly up the ridge eastward.
With great views on both sides and a brisk chill in the air this made for very pleasant part of the hike. The track rose steadily but never too taxingly on this clear Sunday morning.
Soon the ridge began to narrow. Skylarks darted around us serenading with a morning chorus. As we progressed higher the bilberry and bracken gave way to swathes of heather and the whole feel of the mountain began to change.
We approached the final steep section which consisted of a jumbled mass of rocks which defines the western end of the summit. This offered some nice gentle scrambling and some lofty views. We could see across to the Grwyne Fawr Valley and beyond to The Black Mountains, the views were simply sublime! Weaving along the narrow summit path we soon came to the white trig point at the summit real.
Stopping to have a drink and enjoy the Welsh scenery we spent quite some time on this Easter Day sitting contemplating the countryside at the summit. Eventually though the rest of the world woke up and soon there were trails of people trudging up the more boring and obvious path directly to the summit ready to wreck the peace and tranquility we were enjoying. With heavy heart we lumped our rucksacks back on and started the laborious descent back down.
Approaching this Welsh classic from the west following the ridge along left to right produces a much better day out than taking the more direct routes to the summit and in addition to that you get the opportunity for a bit of pleasant scrambling at the western end of the ridge, something that all the day-trippers coming up the direct route would all have missed out on.
The Sugar Loaf is a great little mountain for a morning walk but it all feels like it’s over way too quickly and does I am afraid leave you wanting some more. In the afternoon as a result of the need for more we took another more leisurely walk around Gilwern Wharf and the Clydach Gorge investigating some of the industrial heritage of the area on the opposite side of the valley, the map for this can be found on my Social Hiking Profile page but no write up is due as it was more of an afternoon ramble than anything more serious.
Alas for this trip this was our last day in Wales but we vowed to be back again soon, ready to delve deeper into the delights of this much underestimated area which unfortunately always seems to be a bit in the shade of it’s loftier cousins like Snowdonia and the Lakes. But hey maybe, just maybe that’s to both it’s and our mutual advantage! I’m already looking forward to a return camping trip.