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Black Mountains Blast : Article  Page 1
This is a confusing tale of two rides a fortnight apart, the second to find a legal version of the route. The first ride was hotter than Melinda Messenger's underwear, the second wasn't.... This is not a ride for wingers or the faint hearted. It's long and at times dangerous. The climbs are steeper than I normally like but it is all worth it in the end for the ultimate 'Grand Day Out'

Brecon First climb

We met our guide Rob and Alan (of Afan fame) at the Pandy Inn, then drove in convoy the five miles to the car park in the Grwyne fawr Valley. The sun was already high in the sky and we took our lazy time getting ready. I carried all the essentials of life as a mountain bike writer, GPS, Dictaphone, bandages, fig rolls.... When we finally set off I was chomping at the bit but the first climb sorted that out, as it goes straight up from the car park (Shades of Coed y Brenin). The climb slackens after a few hundred yards and looking back the view is really something, see the photo above. 

Rob Moor Climbing

The route goes high along the right side of this steep and narrow valley and after 2 miles you reach the East side of the formidable Grwyne fawr Valley reservoir dam. It continues in a straight line North Westward and follows the right bank of the reservoir with it's impressive granite flank, then climbs up a short pitch on to the moor proper. This is where the going gets tougher as the track splits in to multiple narrow rocky/earth lanes (does it do this on all moors?) some of which are well difficult. We found the leftmost track the easiest, but we're still talking tricky and they'll play hell with your pedalling rhythm, as the lane you're in ends with frustrating regularity and everyone else's lane looks a much better bet..

About half a mile after the reservoir the tricky tracks go one trickier by turning in to stream beds. I was well up for following the course of one which did in fact turn out to be a stream, DUH! Actually the trail goes across the by now shrunken-to-a-dip end of the valley and up the left bank on a barely ride-able rock bed. This time the right hand lane is the easiest (is there some kind of rule here?) but unless you're feeling strong, it'll probably beat you and turn in to a push job. As you crest this short pitch the trail has reached it's plateau and stretches out across the bleak moor top going always in the same direction. We followed the dips and gullies the half a mile or so to the gentle down-slope at the top of Death Valley.

Print Text! the whole article in text only form.



Rob Overtake


Like, I know I'm being melodramatic here but it was two weeks later now and the scene was way different. The rain and mist were blowing across the valley from right to left, an eerie light played across the scene from the mist shrouded east and we wished it would stop playing and get on with the job properly. Somewhere way off a man cried out in pain, no, wait a minute, it was just a sheep. The mist cleared a little and suddenly the sun broke through and revealed a perilous trail running round the side of the mountain/cliff. The lads looked at me in a pleading whiny sort of way and Mat spoke for all of us, the sensible words 'we're not going down there are we?' I decided to consult the map but somewhere deep down I knew this scary trail was indeed part of my carefully planned route. We flew the map in the wind like a kite without strings (Outdoor Leisure 13, the number seemed appropriate) Tom stood with the map against his back and I double checked that the sane looking dashed line on the map, was the insane one we could see.

Yes that's definitely it I commanded, feeling like a field promoted officer enthusiastically recommending we go over the top. Amazingly the lads agreed, not so sensible after all I realised. What's more they raced off ahead and soon found that the trail was a lot wider than it had looked from across the valley. Not a lot safer though and the top 200 yards was really impossible, being composed of slippery broken stone slabs and loose rocks. However a bit further down things improve a little and the surface changes, to possible slippery broken stone slabs and loose rocks. So we fools jumped merrily (HA!) on our trusty gravity sleds and threw caution to the wind, there was plenty of this anyway. Rocks of all shapes and sizes are the flavour of this perilous plummet, oh and drop off's and a couple of hair pin bends. The right hand line can be ridden and is a bit smoother but the sheer drop to your side may put you off balance and test your parachute, you did bring a parachute? Excellent. A final straight run spreads out on to a grass field and we were filled with elation inspired by our unbroken and un-blood-stained bodies.> Page 2

3 pictures round the bend.

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Where is The Grwyne Fawr Valley?   Camping in the Brecon Beacons
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