Note; I did actually write this back in July and have been meaning to post it since!
It’s Friday 16th June, I check the weather forecast for the weekend, like I usually do, and I’m presented with a beautifully hot, clear sky weekend. I have nothing else better to do. So what else is there? A wild camp of course! But where? Hmm.. (checks sunset positions for all ‘secret’ locations) … of course! The Black Mountain, a stunning range on the west side of the Brecon Beacons National Park.
I’ve been here multiple times and I must say, I’m very pleased with the images I’ve captured, yet there’s always more opportunity. I actually visited the same location on a wild camp back in April and spotted another composition that’ll be perfect for the weekend ahead.
Saturday arrives and Kesha’s all set to go!
We got there at about 2.30pm and the hike I had in mind was one I hadn’t done before, an image of the route is below. It starts at the Tafarn-y-Garreg pub just off the A4067. Just bear in mind you can’t park at the pub but there is a layby just next to it, no mention of no parking so I made use of that. Although to be honest, I’m sure if you buy a drink or some food after your hike then it’ll be fine.
We started the hike at about 3pm, crossing the road to a walking sign directly opposite the pub which leads you to a bridge. Cross this, and you’ll carry on walking keeping the brook to your right. You’ll soon get to a left turning up a grassy lane with fields either side, take this and it’s pretty simple from here. Just keep going up and up! There is actually an alternative route to this that looks simpler, less steep and takes in the glacial Llyn y Fan Fawr as well, although I haven’t done it, yet. I have heard though that this route is quite boggy so maybe best keep this to a dry day! I’m sure I’ll ‘report’ on this soon :).
Here’s a picture of the whole route in green, the red route is the other more boggy option.
It’s got to be said though, the first bit was a killer. I’m not kidding, 30 degrees bright sunshine at the bottom of the valley with no wind was horrible! It’s a little long but thankfully does sport some lovely views. Whilst climbing up, I met a lovely lady called Fiona, like me, she was on her own and we very quickly found it beneficial to keep chatting to each other to keep our mind off the strenuous hike ahead.
Once at the top of Fan Hir, you’ll enjoy a stunning view of the Brecon Beacons, with Pen-y-Fan in the mix too – a peak I always prefer looking at than being on! I’m no good with crowds of people. Plus you’ll be pleased to hear you now have some flat walking to do.
Keep following the trail and you’ll soon start descending, this is where you’ll reach the meeting point with the second route. You do have the option to head down to Llyn y Fan Fawr here too, which sits at the foot of Fan Brychiniog, the tallest peak of the range.
I won’t bore you with any more route finding, it’s pretty simple. Just keep to the trail and it’ll guide you! One of the ‘joys’ of this hike is the amount of ascending and descending you’ll do. From here you’ll need to do a further two big drops and back up, it’s quite knackering!
But once you reach Waun Lefrith, it’s definitely worth it. The view, looking back from where you came across, of Llyn y Fan Fach is beautiful and is actually the reason why I went.
This is where Fiona and I go our separate ways, with us finishing the hike at about 6.30pm, so 3 hours or 6 miles in total.
From here I needed to find a pitch for my tent. My joy for wild camping is because I get to wake up on location without needing to do any serious travelling, so the key was somewhere close to my sunrise composition! Not too hard, I found a nice flat spot just before you start descending down to Llyn y Fan Fach.
I won’t bore you too much with the next bits, food and water were my next priority. So I headed down to the lake, and started sorting out my 2 course meal of freeze dried pasta Bolognese and Soba noodles! Not forgetting Kesha’s serving of dog food + a pork pie!
Back up to the top just in time for sunset and here’s the my first ‘real’ image of the day of Kesha and me and our camping spot. It was an absolute joy sitting here and listening to nature basking in the warm summers sun, this is exactly the reason why I love wild camping – being surrounded in nature is an incredible feeling.
In to bed at a respectable 10pm, with the alarm set for 4.30am.
And so we awake to a stellar sunrise, completely clear at the horizon will mean guaranteed sun, with the odd bit of cloud to make things a little more interesting.
My composition takes in Llyn y Fan Fach and the Black Mountain range. What I love about this composition wasn’t just the pure ‘epicness’ of the lake at the foot of three mountains, but the technical leading line from right to left up to the scorching sun. Combine this with the stunning golden hour light and for me, this was a winner!
The resulting image was a combination of 3 shots, all taken to cover the shadows and highlights. I then combined these using Photoshop with a technique known as ‘Luminosity Masks’, essentially HDR but it allows more refined control over the dynamic range. My first time trying it, and whilst it took me a while, I did get the hang of it in the end!
In hindsight, I would have liked to have created a more interesting foreground. A tuft of grass doesn’t add much. But hey, that gives me reason to head back. What I’d love to see next time is a bit more cloud to make the sky and reflections in the lake more interesting.
Now I’m sure you were wondering what Kesha was doing as I frantically took my shots? Just chilling and taking in the view!
It only took me about 3 hours to get back to the Tafarn-y-Garreg pub, and as it was only 10am, I couldn’t treat myself to a well-deserved fry up. A shame, as I was very much looking for to it. Kesha and I couldn’t help but get in the brook at the bottom, that was very welcome!
An absolutely epic trip though – stay tuned for more!