Garreg Las, a long ridge of shattered rock thrusting northwards from the otherwise predominately grassy uplands of Y Mynydd Du (The Black Mountain), sits in sulky isolation a little south-west of its higher - not to mention far more popular - peers. To be honest it's not really a 'peak' as such, the 2,076ft summit 'merely' the highest point of a chaotic, broken table of limestone overlooking Cwm Sawdde Fechan to the east. There are no dramatic mountain lakes here to inspire legend - as just 'up the road' - no soaring cliff lines to entice more than the occasional walker.... just an uncompromisingly brutal landscape combining with utter silence to generate a feeling as near as dammit to complete isolation as you'll probably experience in all the Welsh mountains.
Yeah, that is 'the Garreg Las experience' today, the ideal spot to practice whatever amateur philosophy takes your fancy with minimal risk of some group of route marching muppets spoiling the ambience. However there is evidence that this high ridge was not always so marginalised within human society.... two great big stony piles of it, no less! For it was here that the Bronze Age peoples of the area erected two massive cairns which, although much mutilated internally - as you would probably expect - still overwhelm the senses of receptive upland travellers with their dramatic profiles.
It is truly hard to come to terms with the fact that people used to actively select such uncompromising locations as this to lay their important dead to rest.... but there's no getting away from it, an example upon Fan Foel to the east having been excavated before suffering the same fate as these two beauties, revealing a stone cist bearing grave goods. So, far from being at 'the back end of nowhere', as it is - gloriously so - today, Garreg Las clearly occupied a prominent position in the Bronze Age psyche. My, times have changed. Tell me about it.
The twin cairns which still stand here - the Carnau'r Garreg Las - do not quite measure up (in terms of physical stature) to those found upon the extreme western flanks of Y Mynydd Du; however they are still very substantial indeed, their haunting profile, suddenly materialising upon the final approach from the north-west, enough to cause me to involuntarily chuck my trekking poles half way across the mountain... or at least it seemed that far going to collect them again. The southern is arguably the more substantial of the pair, although both are soon placed very much in perspective (as are The Mam C and I) by a violently changeable sky dispensing hail and sunbursts in quick succession. To view towering cloud formations hovering overhead (like the alien mother ships of... er... more fertile imaginations) when perched upon an ancient Bronze Age cairn is to be completely overwhelmed by the immensity of existence. Or something like that... steady on, old chap. The look on the Mam C's face tells me she feels the same. No need for words.
Approaching Garreg Las from the neighbouring summits of Y Mynydd Du requires suitably substantial walks, it has to be said. However an expedition of somewhat lesser magnitude can be enjoyed by leaving the A4069 at Pont Newydd to the north-west. Take the minor road heading south-east and park at the crossroads leading to Ty-brych farm to the right, a rough track continuing straight ahead. Follow the (tarmac) road downhill, past the farm, and it becomes a muddy bridleway descending to, then crossing, a cascading water course (the Nant Ffynnon-wen, I think). The track continues, climbing now, to the south-east to begin to ascend the open hillside. Carn y Gigfran, another Bronze Age cairn, crowns the left hand extremity of the ridge rising above and beyond. You can do worse that head for the col to the right of Carreg Yr Ogof, the great Garreg Las cairns lying unseen over the rocky crest further along to the right. The ascent, over grass until the final shattered, rocky pavement is attained, is a bit of a drag. But worth the effort? As Harry Hill says... there's only one way to find out...
These two magnificent cairns are located at the 2,076ft summit of Garreg Las, western outlier of Mynydd Du [Black Mountain]. Note the peak is sometimes also called Twyn Swnd by locals.
This long ridge of shattered rock is perhaps best approached via Cwm Sawdde Fechan, although longer routes starting from the A4069 to the west and extensions from the main Mynydd Du massif itself are possible. Whichever way you choose you won't need me to remind you these are serious hill walks and should be treated as such.
The rewards upon reaching the cairns go without saying... although I'll try. Firstly the views...north lies the fertile Dyffryn Tywi, whilst to the east, the barren landscape of the major peaks of Mynydd Du is one of great beauty in sunlight - and of glowering hostility in poor weather. In short, this is no place to be when the mists come down, unless you know what you're doing.
Then, of course, there are the cairns themselves. Two very substantial examples indeed, which appear much less disturbed than similar examples throughout South Wales and beyond, no doubt due to the isolated nature of Garreg Las lying well away from main hillwalking routes.
As a result the traveller is almost guaranteed solitude here, a rarity in today's world and just the ticket if losing yourself in timeless melodrama for a few hours is your thang.