September 25th to 28th with Helen Menhinick of Bryn Walking and six participants with myself, ( firstname.lastname@example.org) as Assistant Leader.
This was a route I'd been thinking about over a number of years so Helen and I planned this event together, based at the excellent Beili Neuadd Bunkhouse just outside Rhayder in Mid Wales.
The Monk's Trod in Mid Wales traces a lonely route across 24 miles over remote hills and moorland from Strata Florida to Abbey Cwm Hir. The Monk's Trod was never transformed into a more solid track or road, so simply fell out of use and navigation skills are essential to safely follow the route these days. The map above is one example of the excellent interpretation panels at Strata Florida, and two monks are depicted walking towards the scenic Teifi Pools to the east.
Key equipment used by Alan: Rohan Designs Ventus Waterproof Jacket (3-layer Barricade) + Thule AllTrail 45L Rucksack + Meindle Tonale GTX Walking Boots
Key equipment used by Helen: Rohan Designs Vertex Waterproof Jacket (3-layer Barricade) + Deuter Air Comfort SL Futura Pro 34L Rucksack + Salomon Boots Quest Element.
I travelled from Cardiff to Rhayder via Brecon to pick up one of the participants before meeting Helen in Rhayder for the final short drive to the Beili Neuadd Bunkhouse. The main bunkhouse consisted of three bunkrooms, each of which were en-suite, a drying room and a fair sized kitchen and dining area. The remaining participants arrived by about 6pm ready for the traditional BBQ which are part of the Bryn Walking events. I'd purchased sirloin steaks on behalf of everyone and an enjoyable evening followed with steaks prepared to order which wasn't easy for seven steaks in order that we could all eat together.
Day 1: Strata Florida to Pont ar Elen - 17.4km
We drove in Helen's VW Transporter to Pont ar Elan to meet a hired 8 seater taxi for the one hour transfer across that area of Mid Wales to Strate Florida. The drive was mostly along single width roads passing the occasional isolated farms and through ancient oak woodlands. Arriving at Strata Florida we enjoyed a half-hour to explore the site, owned and managed by CADW.
A short drive eastwards took us to the start of our walk at the small parking area close to Tyncwm Farm and our minibus left to return to it's base. A group photo was taken and we started on The Monk's Trod soon after crossing a footbridge to a point where the Cambrian Way mid-point is reached and signed with a commemorative bench which looked new. The bridleway followed the Nant Egnant up to the dam at Llyn Egnant, one of the lonely Teifi Lakes.
After a short break we continued eastwards passing Bryn Llyn Egnant before crossing the remote and rough moorland to Claerwen Farm and just beyond we stopped for lunch. The weather during the morning had been mostly dry but this wasn't to last. Lunch was dry and sheltered but soon after we were battling against wind and rain.
Climbing the track over Esgair Gwar-y-Ty and Esgair Cywion to a 497m spot height the route then headed eastwards through the Claerwen National Nature Reserve to Llwn Cerrigllwydion Uchaf, for several kilometers, often in heavy rain, before arriving back at Pont ar Elan.
This was the longest day of our Monk's Trod route and quite chalenging due to the heavy rain experienced in the afternoon, After a short drive we were back at the cosy Beili Neuadd Bunkhouse.
Helen's Daily Log: "Most of the walk is a definite track but unfortunately due to some of it being a byway open to all traffic it is overused by motor vehicles and seriously rutted and flooded. I knew how and where to avoid the worst parts.
Our group were strong walkers and well equipped, so with the weather against us too, we battled through the day and across the remote moorland in the Monk’s foot steps to Pont ar Elan."
For further information about Strata Florida, please visit: cadw.gov.wales/visit/places-to-visit/strata-florida-abbey
CADW describes the site:
"The grand medieval abbey where generations of Welsh princes are buried. The abbey of Strata Florida – Latin for ‘Vale of Flowers’ – has stood on lush meadows beside the banks of the river Teifi since 1201.
It was established by white-robed Cistercian monks as part of a movement that spread like a tidal wave across the whole of western Europe in the early Middle Ages. Soon it became the most famous church in Wales after St David's – a place of pilgrimage and a linchpin of Welsh culture. There are unmistakable echoes of greatness among the ruins. The carved west doorway into the abbey offers an epic view down the nave to where the high altar once stood.
You can still see some of the incredible decorated tiles that would have covered the floors of the church. Griffins, birds and fleurs-de-lis surround the enigmatic ‘Man with the Mirror’. This 14th-century figure dressed in a doublet and close-fitting hood is reckoned to be a symbol of vanity. Strata Florida, or Ystrad Fflur as local people know it, is the final resting place for generations of medieval Welsh princes. The great poet Dafydd ap Gwilym is said to be buried under a yew in the churchyard. No wonder it’s been called ‘the Westminster Abbey of Wales’."
Day 2: Pont ar Elan to Beili Neuadd - 16.8km
After driving back to Pont ar Elan we climbed a faint path up to Sarn Geufron before following the minor road eastwards to the bridleway which led down to the ancient ford at Rhyd Garreg-lwyd and what looked like a collapsed clapper bridge. After crossing the Nant y Sarn we rested at the old farmstead of Lluest-pen-rhiw where the old stone field boundary was quite unlike anything I'd seen before.
Crossing Llofftyddgleision we descended through Coed Nannerth-fawr to cross the A470 into the Gilfach Farm Nature Reserve. The reserve is well managed by the Radnorshire Wildlife Trust and features excellent interpretation boards and stone carvings as we made our way up to the old farm which is now a simple Visitor Centre where the interpretation and old farm relics give an idea of what farming would have been like many years ago in such a remote valley where there are still signs of the old railway line which passed through the area.
Gilfach now has 4 environmental designations:
Scheduled Ancient Monument
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Special Protection Areas (SPA)
It was at the Visitor Centre where I fell on slippery slabs and days later my ribs where I landed are still sore. Apparently one of the group saw me fall and was heard to yell "He's down!"
We followed the Wye Valley Walk away from Gilfach Farm, after which the route back to Beili Neuadd was along quiet lanes and across fields.Between Cwmithig and Beili Neuadd the public footpath was obstructed but we climbed fences carefully and paid close attention to grazing cows which looked quite intimidating.
We spent the evening in the Crown Hotel in Rhayder where the offerings weren't to everyone's satisfaction and I wouldn't return there. After getting back to Beili Neuadd, Helen and I drove over to Abbey Cwmhir to position her VW Transporter where the walk would end tomorrow.
Helen's Daily Log: "Gilfach National NatureReserve is the highlight of the day. Somewhere I will never tire of – it truly has a very good feeling about it. Being able to look back from the Wye valley walk as we left Gilfach, and see where the Monk’s Trod comes down Moelfryn was quite spectacular and satisfying."
Day 3: Beili Neuadd Bunkhouse to Abbey Cwmhir - 10.8km
The first hour or so of the walk was along quiet country lanes, and only a short section off road. This is by no means the definitive Monk's route so we decided, at the highest point to stay high and take the path on the boundary of Cregiau NRW Forest, along the ridge of Camlo Hill to a bronze age cairn before gradually descending Rhiw Gam into the Cwm Hir valley. We thought this was just as likely to have been the route of the Monks. Reaching the boundary of the forest we stopped for lunch just before the road near Wenallt Barn.
After lunch we walked the final kilometer into Abbey Cwmhir to where the VW Transporter was parked at the village hall.
We met our local guide for a tour at 1.30pm and the tour was long and saw us visit the church, Abbey Cwmhir Hall and the ancient ruins of the old abbey. Back at Beili Neuadd Bunkhouse we packed, said our farewells and set off for home.
Helen's Daily Log: "On reaching Abbey Cwmhir we met Julian Lovell who gave us a tour of the church and abbey ruins. His knowledge of the history of Abbey Cwmhir was amazing and it made all the difference to hear it from someone who is passionate about their subject."
The Monk's Trod event by Helen Menhinick of Bryn Walking was meticulously planned and extremely enjoyable for me - many thanks Helen! And thank you to all the participants who took on every challenge whether it be boggy train, driving rain or barbed wire fences, and still were all smiling at the end of the event.
Helen, "....and thank you to all the participants who took on every challenge whether it be boggy terrain, driving rain or barbed wire fences, and still were all smiling at the end of the event."
Wikipidia writes: Cwmhir Abbey (Welsh: Abaty Cwm Hir), near Llandrindod Wells in Powys, is a Welsh Cistercian monastery founded in 1176 by Cadwallon ap Madog. A spurious tale was later recorded that the abbey was founded in 1143 by Meredudd ap Maelgwn at Ty-faenor, and then refounded at the present location near the village of Abbeycwmhir in 1176.
The Abbey Cwmhir Heritage Trust: For further information please visit: abbeycwmhir.org/
"Abbey Cwmhir Heritage Trust’s purpose is to advance the understanding of the Cistercian Monastery at Abbeycwmhir, Radnorshire by providing information, events, research opportunities and continued learning in order to reveal the importance of this site in Welsh history and culture.
We host a range of regular events such as talks and tours of the Abbey. We also have a major community heritage project ‘Demystifying the Abbey’. The project involves a range of aspects of Abbeycwmhir’s heritage such as collecting oral memories, desk research and field research into the sacred landscape within which Cwmhir Abbey sits and we are fortunate to have an extensive number of volunteers/researchers active in taking aspects of this project forward."
September 22nd on Mynydd Illtyd Common: I've been running my free Introduction to Mountain Navigation courses for many years now with probably over twenty free courses delivered to my social media contacts.
The objective is to provide tuition in the basik skills required for safe journeying across hill and mountainous terrain and have the participants increase their skills, kowledge and confidence. A final debriefing session allows action plans for further development to be considered.
1. Well paced course - very enjoyable
2. Inclusive - attended to all the questions/queries at a personal level
3. Confidence building
4. Excellent basic training in compass skills and map reading - feel much more confident - Good fun!
5. I think it's a very good course.
6. Very informative and will enable me to be more confident with map and compass
7. Clear teaching, bite-sized and easy to understand
PRE-EXPEDITION TRAINING FOR A GROUP OF 4 HEADED TO THE KASBAH DU TOUBKAL AND MT TOUBKAL (4167m) WITH DISCOVER LTD.Read Now
Saturday 22nd September - Assisted by Helen Menhinick of Bryn Walking I took a group of 4 out onto Mynydd Illtyd for a pre-expedition training day during which time we:
1. Had an initial briefing to review the itinerary that I'd prepared for them with Discover Ltd. and the fabulous Kasbah du Toubkal.
2. Enjoyed a 4hr walk on the common with frequent stops for question and answer sessions.
3. Enjoyed drinks back at the Visitor Centre and reviewed some items of clothing and equipment which had been brought for me to review.
4. Visited a local outdoor shop for a discounted shopping session.
September 1st - 19th 2023: This trek itinerary allows for ample acclimatisation In Leh (3500m) after arrival from the United Kingdom or the Middle East. Acclimatisation in Leh is essential due to flying into such a high altitude from Delhi.
Prior to departure from the United Kingdom, a series of pre-trek training days and walks will be offered and this will include high altitude awareness.
The approximate price for this trek will be £2500 (with a payment schedule to follow) excluding airfares but full details will be provided to those joining this trek. The normal end of trek bonus to the support crew will be approximately £100. These prices are based on international currency exchange rates effective September 2022. The airfare from the UK to Leh will be approximately £1000 with a change of aircraft in Delhi but this might require an overnight transit stop at an airport hotel close to Delhi Airport. Helen Menhinick recently travelled to/from Leh using Vistara Airlines in Premium Economy and thought it was a nice way to travel although Alan's previous trips were with KLM and Jet Airways.
Participants can opt to extend their trip with a tw0-night trip into the Nubra Valley on the ancient Silk Road or visit the Taj Mahal near Delhi after departure from Leh.
Further details of this trek can be obtained from either Alan Ward (IML + Group Technical Adviser) or Helen Menhinick (ML + Group Manager): email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org www.brynwalking.co.uk
After arrival in Leh we will be met by our local partners and transferred to our hotel for three nights pre-expedition and two nights post-expedition at the Hotel Osmalia which was recently inspected by Helen Menhinick and found to be very good. The location is just a short walk into Leh and the Hotel Omasila is a family-friendly hotel that brings the best of Leh to your doorstep. Single room supplements are available on request.
Guest rooms offer amenities such as a flat screen TV, and guests can go online with free internet access offered by the hotel. The Hotel Omasila features room service, to help make your stay more enjoyable. The property also boasts an on-site restaurant.
While staying at the Hotel Omasila, visitors can check out Monastery Circuit (0.5 mi) and Sankar Monastery (0.5 mi), some of Leh's top attractions. Leh has plenty of restaurants so when you’re here, be sure to check out popular spots like the Crossroad Restaurant and Tingmo at Thongsal, which are serving up some great dishes. Should time allow, Shanti Stupa and the large Prayer Wheel are some popular attractions that are within walking distance.
September 2nd/3rd/4th: Acclimatisation in Leh will see visits to important sites in and around Leh:
September 5th: Leh to Rumtse (3 hrs drive)
From Leh, the drive to Rumtse is an exciting one, with views of the mighty Indus Valley and many monasteries on the way which it is hoped can be visited. Visits to the ancient monasteries of Thikse, Stakna and Hemis are potential sites to be visited. Overnight camping there.
September 6th: Rumtse to Kyamar 4600m (4 hrs trekking)
Day one is easily manageable: we have a short walk on a rather flat terrain to aid acclimatization. We will camp overnight at lush Kyamar, near a spring.
September 7th: Kyamar to Tisaling (6 to 7 hrs trekking)
We should be fully energized today with proper breakfast for a challenging day ahead. We begin with gradual ascent towards our first pass of Kyamar La (4900 m), which gives a spectacular view of the Changthang range with its colorful rife of mountain. After the pass, we steadily descend towards the base of the next pass. Here we might come across nomads with their herds of sheep, goats and yaks. After a short rest, we set out for Mandalchan La (4950 m). From this pass it’s an easy descend to the camping site at the pastureland of Tisaling.
September 8th: Tisaling to Ponganabu 4600m (6 hrs trekking)
By now, we are well acclimatized to conquer our third pass, the Shibuk La (5000 m), an about 2-hour journey. From the top of the pass, we have an incredible view of the surrounding mountains and of our next destination, Tsokar Lake. With a breathtaking view to ease our exhaustion, we head down towards the valley accompanied by the shrill whistles of the shy and active marmots, which is characteristic of this harsh region. It’s approximately a 4 hrs walk to the Tsokar Basin, and our camp for the night will be the windy Pongunabu.
September 9th: Ponganagu to Nuruchan 4700 m (6 hrs trekking)
Today is an easy day, and we follow a dusty jeep road towards Tsokar Lake. Along the
salty shores of the lake, we have a rare impeccable opportunity to see some of the endangered migratory birds of the world. From here we carry on along the trail to the right of the lake, keeping to a barren land until Nuruchan, where we will be welcomed by a grassy land with streams nearby.
September 10th: Nuruchan to Gyamar Barma 5100m (4 hrs trekking)
Today also it’s an easy day ahead with a small pass. We will cross the icy cold stream in Nuruchan before gradually ascending Horlam Kongka La (4900 m). From the pass, we will have a view of the turquoise blue Tsokar. From the pass we will walk down to the valley and then follow the valley up until to the camp Rachungkaru (Tibetan Nomads group) with their flock of yaks, sheep and pashmina goats.
September 11th: Gyamar Barma to Gyama 5200 m (5 to 6 hrs)
Today is going to be a hard day with two passes to go Gyama camp. After the breakfast we will continue to the ascend of Kyamayuru La (5410 m) which is our first pass; this pass is challenging in nature, but the magnificent view from the top makes it well worth all our strenuous efforts. , now we head to our next pass, Kartse La (5300 m). Ascending slowly in the thin air of the plateau, we will eventually reach the pass. The trail leads gradually down to the lush green valley of the Gyama, where we spend our night. Due to the campsite’s high altitude, bad weather can make night temperature freezing, and night will be supper windy.
September 12th: Gyamar to Korzok Phu 4500 m (6 to 7 hrs trekking)
Today, we gradually ascend towards the highest and final pass on the trek. Following the narrow valley until the Yalung Nyaulung La (5440 m), we will see some of the rare flowers and herbs of the Himalayan region. The fragrances will astonish you! To our right we can view snowcapped mountains and from the top of the pass we will also have a view of the lake Tsomoriri, surrounded by snowcapped mountains such as Mentok kangri and on other side Chamser and Lungser peaks. We descend steeply for a couple of hours to the Korzok Phu, the summer pasture of the Korzok people. Overnight and meals in camp.
September 13th: Karzok Phu to Base Camp (5 to 6 hrs trekking)
After breakfast we slowly but steadily ascend towards the Base Camp of Mentok Kangri at 5330mts, approximately 5hrs trek. Rest of the day is spent making final preparations for the summit day.
September 14th: Summit day for Mentok Kangri for those opting to climb to the summit with our local climbing guides
We will start around 3:00 AM in the morning. For the initial stage of the summit day, we don’t need to use crampons. Slowly and gradually and closer to the summit there will be enough snow from there onwards, we will put on crampons, its most likely that ropes are not need but this entirely depends on our climbing guide and the situation there as you will have with you all important equipment. Approaching the summit, it will become more physically demanding, but once you are at the summit the joy will be unforgettable, with breath-taking views in all directions.
September 15th: Spare summit day
September 16th: Base Camp to Korzok (Tsomoriri Lake)
Early morning, we will have breakfast and finally pack and break camp and descend down towards Korzok to explore the area.
September 17th: Korzok to Leh (7 hrs drive)
We drive back to Leh along the gorges of the mighty Indus with all these good memories in mind, leaving behind the beautiful Lake Tsomoriri. Overnight hotel in Leh with a farewell dinner.
September 18th: At leisure in Leh or depart for a 3-day visit into the Nubra Valley
September 19th: Fly from Leh to the UK
September 12th: I was at Blandford Camp, home of the Royal Corps of Signals to deliver REC (Rescue Emergency Care) certificated High Altitude First Aid training to 9 Gurkha soldiers soon to be departing to Nepal and the Annapurna Circuit. The highest point during the trek is the cold and bleak Thorung La (5416m) in the Damodar Himal, north of the Annapurna Himal. The Annapurna Circuit was my first trek in Nepal and I have fond memories of that initial trek in the Himalayas.
This was the fifth such course I've delivered to the Royal Corps of Signals in the UK.
Following on from retirement, more time will be available for hill and mountain walking on a personal basis with friends.