Corn Du, Pen Y Fan, Cribyn and Fan Y Big... The, not quite, Fan Dance!

Corn Du, Pen Y Fan, Cribyn and Fan Y Big... The, not quite, Fan Dance!

I suddenly found myself with a day off, I was off on a Friday! What on earth would I do with myself, some would say that self employed people never have a day off!? To be totally honest, I had work to do... Lots of work to do but I decided it was time I ticked it off the bucket list, it was time for Pen Y Fan!

I spent some time researching routes and found an 11 mile horse shoe route which I believe is pretty well known. It started at Taf Fechan Forest and went in a big loop over Corn Du, Pen Y Fan, Cribyn and Fan Y Big, this was the one! It sounded amazing but challenging enough to be exciting at the same time.

So I dropped the kids at school, jumped in the car and off I went, my expectation was that it would take around 4 hours. My plan was to arrive at the Taf Fechan Forest car park by around 11am, + 4 hours, back in the car for 15:00 / 15:30, which meant home by 17:30 / 18:00ish. This particular Friday would totally reinforced the saying, "A plan never survives contact with the enemy!"

The journey from Worcestershire to Merthyr was a good one really, not much traffic and a beautiful day. Problems started when I got near to the car park, the plan said Taf Fechan Forest Car Park, I didn't know that every fechan Car Park in Taf Fechan is called that! After searching, and searching, and searching, I finally located the correct Taf Fechan Forest Car Park and set off on my way to summit Pen Y Fan.

The first section of the walk takes you along a pretty good path, its relatively straight forward and easy to follow. At the end of this path you hop over a fence into a field, over the bridge, across the river (all good so far) and then the climb starts. I felt quite proud because as a seasoned walker I was able to power up this section and found myself passing groups which were clearly much younger than me. There is a steep section, almost a scramble to the top, turn right and a winding section of path eventually takes you to the first summit, Corn Du. Take in the views from here they are nothing short of stunning. You walk a little further along the ridge, drop down and then back up to the Pen Y Fan summit. I'd done it, another one ticked off the bucket list.

I continued along the horse shoe, stopping briefly for a bite to eat on the summit of Cribyn. I realised at this point that sheep are quite scary and aggressive when they are hungry and bored of their usual staple, they would much rather be eating my pork pie! Once I'd got bored of being stalked by hungry sheep I started the long descent down from the summit of Cribyn (sticks were used at this point to save my dodgy knees) from the bottom I looked up at Fan Y Big. I have to admit at this point I did debate taking the footpath back to the car but after having a word with myself I decided to go for it and bag the 4th peak of the day. It was a long hard slog to the top, energy levels depleted and I'd ran out of water but I made it. The main thing I noticed on Fan Y Big, apart from the majestic views, was the relative peace and calm. Corn Du was busy as was Pen Y Fan, Cribyn, not so much but on the summit of Fan Y Big there was not another soul! It was almost spooky, I stook around for a few minutes enjoying the silence and then I started the long trek back to the car, with no water, and no one around...

The lack of water began to show as my legs started to cramp up, it's only 11 miles but it's a tough 11 miles! I pressed on, I knew I had a bottle of squash in the car and could rehydrate. As I crossed over a small stream, then a style on to the last section of the walk, my left leg just locked up with cramp! I couldn't move it, the muscles were tensed tight and man it hurt! The sticks were out again and I got moving, I was back at the car around 20 - 30 minutes later and after a long slurp of the best squash in the world I started the car journey home.

Remember, earlier on I mentioned that I should be home by "17:30 / 18:00ish" this was the time I had told my wife. With the delay finding the car park at the start and the walk taking slightly longer than I thought (damn you lockdown!) I walked back in the house at 21:00! Never, ever underestimate the mountains people, plan, plan, plan and then plan some more.

If you’d like any tips or advice about walking and walking kit, then I’m here to help. I’m Rob Saunders and my ‘phone number is on the website. You can also email me at 

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