The highest peak in southern Britain is the apex of a dramatic ridge with irresistible appeal for outdoor challenge lovers
Any summit that can strike fear into the hearts and minds of Britain’s Special Forces demands serious respect. Pen y Fan gives its name to the notorious Fan Dance, one of the toughest marches faced by soldiers bidding for SAS selection. It’s a fitness and navigation test that involves hiking 23km in under four hours while carrying a 55lb bergen, as well as food, drink and a 5lb rifle.
Thankfully, you don’t have to carry such a burden or race against the clock to have a cracking weekend on Pen y Fan, at 866m the highest peak in the Brecon Beacons. It’s part of a twin-peaked ridge with Corn Du, while neighbouring Cribyn provides spellbinding views back to Pen y Fan.
Clear paths make navigation easier, even in such a wild environment, although low cloud can render visibility poor. For an awesome hike, follow the horseshoe route from Taf Fechan car park (grid ref: SO038169) north to Corn Du and Pen y Fan before looping back via Cribyn and Fan y Big. It’s a magnificent nine-mile circuit.
Mountain bike here
One of the finest routes in the Brecon Beacons takes in the pass between Cribyn and Fan Y Big called The Gap (Bwlch ar y Fan). It’s the centre piece of a fabulous loop that starts and finishes in Talybont-on-Usk and heads clockwise via Talybont Reservoir and National Cycle Route 8, to The Gap, and back via Llanfrynach.
The Fell Running Association rates the Pen y Fan race as AS (short but brutal). It’s just 5.8km but climbs 588m, and the £800 prize for breaking the 30-minute course record reveals just how tough it is.
You’ll need Ordnance Survey Explorer 12 or Landranger 160 to navigate your way through these mountains.
There are cheap sleeps available at the YHA Danywenallt National Park Study Centre near Talybont-on-Usk, with beds from £13 per night, yha.org.uk. Stepping up, the Tai’r Bull Country Inn in Libanus offers a double room B&B for £75 per night, plus pub grub to fuel your missions, tairbull.com