This article was published in The Great Outdoors Magazine.
Steve Hynd takes a scrambling route up a Cambrian classic
Pumlumon Fawr (Plynlimon in English) sits at 752 metres above sea level and is the highest point in the Cambrian Mountains in Mid-Wales. W.A Poucher described the ascent saying: “There is absolutely nothing to relieve the monotony of the landscape on this route: no trees to break the skyline, no colourful flowers to carpet the wayside, no birds to charm both ear and eye, just the green and brown of grass and bog.” The Welsh Peaks (1962) by W.A. Poucher.
I assure you, this doesn’t have to be the case. Pumlumon Fawr is best approached from the north and I don’t just mean driving from the A44 and parking by the Nant-y-moch reservoir (GR: SN775880). To get the most out of this mountain you need to leave your car by the lake ‘Glaslyn’ and prepare yourself for the long haul.
From Glaslyn I left the Glyndwˆ r’s Way and followed the main stone track to the lakes of Glaslyn and then onto Bugeilyn, taking in the incredible views over the valleys to the west. As I approached Bugeilyn I saw the remains of an old house formerly known as ‘The Lodge’ that shows signs of the lives that used to exist in this now barren landscape.
I followed the track round from Bugeilyn, and on my left I was met by the wide valley of Afon Hengwm which leads down towards the Nant-y-Moch reservoir, the site of Owain Glyndwˆ r’s battle against the Flemish. This valley led me down towards the foot of Pumlumon Fawr that sat in the distance. Making my way down the boggy Afon Hengwm was a challenging experience – any suggestion of a footpath soon disappeared. (As with much of the walking in the Cambrian Mountains, wearing a pair of gaiters pays off.) I followed the river down to a series of spectacular waterfalls by the footbridge.
Crossing the footbridge I continued on a marked footpath diagonally up to Llyn Llygad that sits just below Pumlumon Fawr itself. As I looked up from the lake, I could easily pick out routes up the rocky hillside. There are a number of different options for scrambling that vary from a grassy hillside through to technical scrambling and climbing. As a rule of thumb, stick to the extreme right or extreme left for easier routes. Once up I had little more to do than to stroll to the summit and to take in the panoramic views of the plateau that stretches out below. This alternative ascent of Pumlumon Fawr offers waterfalls, ruins, hidden valleys, and scrambles. It is spliced between forestry tracks, footpaths and cross-country sections. Where else can you get all of this with little chance of seeing another soul for the entire walk?
550 meters/ 1800 feet
Glaslyn, Machynlleth (GR:
1:25,000 Explorer Map Sheet 213 (Aberystwyth & Cwm Rheidol)
Train to Machynlleth
Machynlleth Tourist Information Centre (01654 702401)
- From Glaslyn head S towards Bugeilyn on the main track. From Bugeilyn follow the bridleway SW that takes you into Afon Hengwm – footpath ends but follow stream until a footbridge (GR: SN784891) short of Nant-y-Moch reservoir.
- Cross footbridge and follow footpath to Llyn Llygad. At Llyn Llygad leave footpath and head to the right of the main rock formation and then make the final ascent of Pumlumon Fawr. Return by the same route.