The Big Black Mountains Challenge

The Big Black Mountains Challenge took place on Saturday 12th May 2018.

The Black Mountains are located towards the east of the Brecon Beacons National Park. It is an area that provides abundant opportunities for outdoor adventures, spectacular scenery and views that stretch as far as the eye can see.

Every year, the Longtown Mountain Rescue Team organises an event called the Big Black Mountains Challenge to raise money so they can continue their vital rescue work. This year I took part for the first time. As I have never participated in a walking challenge like this before, I chose the shortest route (Route C – 17kms).

The circular walk began at the ruins of Llanthony Priory, just north of Abergavenny near the village of Llanfihangel Crucorney. The site is now maintained by Cadw and is open to visitors all year round. It provided a unique starting point for the demanding route ahead.

Llanthony Priory

Immediately there was a long, steep ascent to reach checkpoint one at the top of the hill. The track then joined up with a section of the Offa’s Dyke Path and continued along the flat-topped ridge to reach the second checkpoint.

This marked the beginning of the lengthy descent towards the village of Capel-y-Ffin. The downward slope proved to be as much of a trial as the ascent, particularly as some sections were slippery following the heavy overnight rainfall. However, the views were magnificent along the Vale of Ewyas.

There was time for a brief pause at the third checkpoint at Capel-y-Ffin before the second significant climb of the day which took us out of the village and up to the ridge on the opposite side of the valley.

The close contour lines on the Ordnance Survey map reveal just how steep the path is as it zigzags its way upwards like a gash in the hillside.

This led us past the halfway mark towards the large pile of stones to reach checkpoint four and the ideal place to stop for lunch. Many people had the same idea and the atmosphere was pleasant as we watched the walkers passing through and having their cards stamped.

On a clear day like this, the view stretches for miles in all directions. The ridge continued for a few miles of flat, satisfying walking to reach the trig point at Bâl Mawr before we started the final descent of the day to return to the finish line at Llanthony Priory.

The trig point at Bâl Mawr

This challenge was excellent. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day taking in some of the best walking that the Black Mountains have to offer. I will definitely be exploring more of this area in the future.

There were benefits to completing this as part of an organised challenge. The atmosphere was superb with lots of encouragement along the way. There was the added incentive of receiving a certificate of completion as well as the knowledge that I had contributed to the fundraising efforts of one of our invaluable Mountain Rescue Teams.

For more information about the challenge, visit www.longtownmrt.org.uk/bbmc.html

This article first appeared in ‘Bwrdd’ – The Newsletter for Mensa Cymru, July 2018.