Starting from Pont Ar Daf, the walk up into the central Beacons is known locally as the tourist route. At the base in the car park, it is staffed by volunteer rangers. A quick route to access the main peaks of the central Beacons. A good steady walk and you can be on the lower slopes of Corn Du in 45 minutes or so. I have used it many times over the years and would encourage any new walker to the Brecon Beacons National Park to complete it at some point.
The view of Cribyn from Pen Y Fan is probably the most photographed mountain view in Southern Britain. It is a classic scene and I understand why so many want to photograph this angle after walking up Pen Y Fan from Pont ar Daf.
However, there are many alternate ways to ascend the peaks of the central Beacons. One of my favourites is the Cefyn Cyff ridge route. It’s a bit of a lung buster at the start and doesn’t really get any easier. A sharp 200m ascent takes you quickly to 530m, with a gentle break and then a further steepish rise to Fan Y Bigs summit at 720 metres. This is some way short of the heights of the main peaks of Pen Y Fan, Corn Du and Cribyn. Nevertheless, it offers some of the best and perhaps least photographed compositions or angles across to the “big” peaks.
This is not a unique route, nor is it an angle that has never been photographed before. In fact, a good friend, Martin Rees who is one of the fantastic volunteers for the National Trust at Pont ar Daf took a very similar photograph in the summer about ten years ago. So I am not suggesting this is in any way a Brecon Beacons first, it isn’t.
This winter, whilst kicking my microspikes in the ice on the path down, I bumped into a female walker who was heading up. With a huge icy cold beaming smile, she shared just how pleased she was after choosing this route. It offered in her words “such an amazing view towards the main peaks of the Beacons”. She couldn’t understand why it was so quiet. It was her first visit to the Brecon Beacons! It isn’t a navigation nightmare, the path is mostly well defined and open, there is little exposure.
Hunting out new compositions within the park, something a little different can be so rewarding. The parks focus years ago was on the waterfalls area and Pen Y Fan and it has in some ways manifested its own problem. That policy has changed now and you won’t see the park promoting Pen y Fan or waterfall country.
Personally the reward is so much greater when working out a new angle or walking an unexplored path, instead of copying or “bagging” a similar scene. Pen Y Fan is a mountain that demands attention. The central Brecon Beacons peaks are visible from most areas of the park. It is therefore difficult to switch your mindset to an alternate view, angle, or dare I say it “composition” but do try.
Photograph for yourself, 100% a view I endorse. If you enjoy heading up a path with 4000 others to get to the top of a mountain and wait in line to have your photograph taken with 50 others, then go for it. But, the Brecon Beacons has so much more to offer, buy a map, explore a little. I promise you will not be disappointed, in fact, the more you explore, the bigger the smile gets!
For good reason, Explore, Discover, Uncover is my business tagline.