|**Please note that this site does not correspond to the prominent - presumably modern (see relevant image) - marker cairn crowning the tip of Mynydd Bychan's summit ridge at SO1968032030.... but to a less upstanding - but potentially much older - low 'mound' situated some way to the approx east**
A week characterised by a series of rather low cloud bases - anathema to those who tread lightly upon the hills 'neath massive skies - ends, appropriately enough for unpredictable South Wales, with the promise of a fine day. Consequently a snap decision is taken to introduce the Mam C to the upper reaches of the wondrous ridge of Y Grib, beyond Bwlch Bach a'r Grib.... and take it from there. Not a comprehensive plan, then, although it has to be said it is always good to turn a 'must do it one day' into 'let's do it today'. So, leaving the car near the farm of Blaneau Uchaf, the farmer, in hulking great cattle truck, acknowledging a self preservingly considerate bit of parking, we ascend the northern flank of the serpent's back to the aforementioned pass. Pausing to breathlessly take in the primeval sight of a crow - the top bird around these parts, bar none - make mince meat of what the Mam C reckons is a peregrine falcon against a western backdrop of Bronze Age cairn and the enigmatic Castell Dinas, the eyes are soon inexorably drawn across Cwm y Nant to the handsome crests of Mynydd Bychan and Y Das. The latter is cited by Coflein as possessing a round barrow, only identified as such during a CPAT upland survey during 2007.... the prominent, slender rock pile crowning the former apparently a modern 'marker cairn'. To be fair it looks to be 'in the wrong place' for a Bronze Age funerary cairn, the ridge seemingly too narrow at that point, or at least appearing so upon the map. Having said that there is undeniably 'something' about Mynydd Bychan, an intangible sense of mystique that nevertheless draws us in like one of James T Kirk's tractor beams... and this despite being completely unaware of TSC's miscellaneous post at the time. In short Mynydd Bychan simply looks the sort of place where one would choose to intern a Bronze Age VIP. The plan, such as it was, is duly revised to include a descent via the peak. Yeah, we'll worry about the gradient of descent when we get there....
The ascent of Y Grib to Pen-y-Manllwyn is exhilarating, the ridge narrow enough to see below to either side, but nowhere too exposed or technical for the average pilgrim. Upon arrival we abandon the lee of the summit ridge in order to seek solitude away from the route marching groups of punters, happy to accept the consequences of a biting arctic wind in lieu. The north-eastern flank of the mountain, subject to an icy blast which might even have made Jean-Claude Van Damme consider a jacket, is today a shimmering mass of sunlight upon icicle... the two primary sources of life on this planet interacting in a display of exquisite beauty upon such a brutal landscape. A delicious irony, perhaps?
Lunch... hey, picnic.... and a couple of hours fly by... as they seem to always do up here. All too soon we must head north where the ridge is populated by a series of indistinct 'stone features' previously interpreted - or so I understand - as evidence of prehistoric settlement, expertly positioned in the lee of the ridge overlooking Cwm y Nant, fresh water nearby. Although living at around the 2,500ft contour may seem pretty extreme to us nowadays, the 1:25K OS map does indeed cite a hut circle here.... which needless to say we do not manage to positively identify. Nevertheless it would appear Coflein are now more inclined toward a later 'post prehistoric' date for habitation. Whatever, it must have been a pretty dramatic place to live.
It is here that the walk takes on an altogether more serious aspect, the Mam C suddenly complaining of feeling faint and losing her sense of balance / co-ordination as we approach Mynydd Bychan. A touch of sunstroke, perhaps? Or overheating caused by not adjusting layers of clothing to changing circumstances quickly enough. What else could bring on such symptoms with such alacrity? Hopefully a short rest by the frozen tarn as I take some pictures of the truly exquisite scenery upon Mynydd Bychan will do the trick?
So, what of Mynydd Bychan's 'marker cairn'. Sad to report that the base certainly looks modern to me, far too insubstantial to claim any prehistoric origin. There is an interesting feature a little to the east, however, but since I recall quarrying was supposed to have taken place here in times past I'm not sure what it represents. Ha! According to Coflein, as related in TSC's post, this is actually the 'platform cairn'. So there you are... the mountain probably was the resting place of some Bronze Age dude after all. What's more there is another feature a short distance downhill to the west of the marker cairn which appeared a much more likely candidate without the power of hindsight, a disrupted cairn containing what - for all the world - looks to me like a shattered cist (ironically Coflein reckons this represent quarrying debris?). The overwhelming fiery orb of the low winter sun frustrates further photography so I return to the Mam C and find the rest has not had the desired effect.... far from it... and, to be frank, we are in trouble, the acute descent to Cwm y Nant, not a problem under normal circumstances, now a major obstacle with sundown just an hour away. Never underestimate the strength and sheer determination of a woman, however... at least one with such a concentration of natural life forces flowing through her being. Where she got the strength from I'll never know. But there you are. The descent is not elegant, but it gets the job done. Safely back at the car we pledge that we shall return to Mynydd Bychan one day, given the chance, and give this complex mountain the time it clearly deserves. Not to mention to pay the ancestors due respect for seeing us alright that day....
Several days later back in Essex I'm struck down by a severe bout of gastroenteritis seemingly coming out of nowhere. Most definitely not 'sunstroke', then. Case closed, m'lud. Needless to say I shudder to think what I would have made of such a daunting challenge.... feeling like that on top of Mynydd Bychan. Hey, always wanted a ride in a helicopter... but not like that.
Posted by GLADMAN
11th March 2013ce
Edited 13th March 2013ce