Golden Valley Study Group
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11th May 2014 - The Sugar Loaf, Abergavenny - Leader: Alan Picton

Despite an unpromising forecast, the group who assembled at Vowchurch Station seemed determined to give it a go. We arrived at the National Trust car park between Fforest Coal Pit and Bettws to be greeted by moderately heavy rain and gusty winds, but everybody donned appropriate rain gear and off we set.

The Sugar Loaf (Mynydd Pen-y-Fâl in Welsh) is the southernmost peak in the Black Mountains and rises to 1955ft. The rock is sedimentary, mostly Old Red Sandstone from the Early Devonian period, approximately 420 million to 360 million years ago.

For the first two kilometres we pressed on in the face of quite a high wind and squally showers, but the visibility to the south and east was good, and we could see Bryn Arw and the Skirrid to our east, and Twyn y Gaer and Hatterrall Hill further north. As we climbed higher we could see Partrishow Hill nearby, and in the somewhat murky interior of the mountains to our north, Bal Bach and Bal Mawr, and to the north west Pen Cerrig-calch, about 5 miles distant, visible under heavy cloud.

As we approached Sugar Loaf ,which rose quite steeply in front of us, we paused to review our options. Having braved the elements thus far, the group was determined not to be thwarted. After a short steepish section ,the main path veers off to the right around the north flank of the mountain and then back in a 'U' shape to the summit at a more gradual gradient, bypassing some rocky outcrops. The first section was unpleasant as the wind was straight in our face, and when we hit the ridge before turning upwards to the trig point,an almost gale force wind met us. We all made the top where we sheltered behind the trig point to savour our moment of triumph. The weather had eased enough for us to make out Pen-y-Gadair Fawr in the mid distance to our north, Grosmont and Garway Hills to the east, Abergavenny and the Blorenge to the south, but to the west a mass of cloud obscured the Beacons themselves.

We had our photo taken by a helpful windswept walker for the record then dropped out of the wind below the ridge where it felt 10 degrees warmer. Here we were joined for a few moments by a handsome male wheatear complete with distinctive black eye patch, before we set off down the steep slope in the direction we had come, taking a circuitous route back to the car park.
Click for our Flickr site to see the picture of the band of walkers at the summit.

Alan Picton, May 2014.