Plynlimon is the dominant hill, not just for its height but also its role as source of the Severn, Wye and Rheidol and hence perhaps as the most important watershed in all Wales. Three other Hewitts surround it. South are three isolated hills of which Drygarn Fawr is the highest, while south-east is a grouping of three hills above New Radnor.
Plynlimon and its satellites
I’d been keen to climb Plynlimon (2467ft) as part of my cross-Wales walk, and summitted on a wet day in October 2004. However this route – a slow climb from the south-west, before descending to Afon Hyddgen and eventually Machynlleth – was designed as a long (16-mile) traverse rather than a hill day, and so I took the opportunity provided by an LDWA group in April 2015 to pick up the other heights.
The circuit, mapped below, took us from beside the Nant-y-Moch reservoir, up to Y Garn (2244ft), over Plynlimon and the non-Hewitt Pumluon Fach to Pen Pumlumon Llygad-bychan (2385ft) and finally Pen Pumlumon Arwystli (2431ft). We made our way back above Cwm Gwerin and then dropping down to the Afon Hengwm.
This was a good round and it was nice to have someone else organising and navigating. We had a cold and blowy day but it did provide us with dry weather and plenty of visibility – so, about as far removed as could be from the cross-Wales day; in cloud, this route would be tough to stay on track.
I took my then teenage son Adrian to Llanwyrtyd Wells in October 2008, he to try out mountain bike trails, me to do a little walking. This gave me the chance to climb this interesting hill above Abergweysyn. We parked near Llannerch Yrfa, a little to the south of the Devil’s Staircase, a vicious little climb on a mountain road which Adrian was keen to try, before he set off on a stretch of the Lôn Las Cymru, a cross-Wales path for mountain bikers.
It was a cold day, with some early snow and a chilly east wind. I set off on a path rising through woods until coming to open ground. Drygarn Fawr is barely a couple of miles away across the tussocky moors, its top marked by two giant cairns. From here Plynlimon to the north and the Beacons southwards were in plain sight, all outlined in white against the deep blue of the sky.
I didn’t quite repeat my route back, finding a gate (or was it stile?) that led to a forestry track for a quick descent to the car. Here Adrian was waiting, having found the MTB track all but impassable for mud.
The other hills of mid-Wales await further exploration – none is technically difficult as long as you don’t mind rough moorland (never bothered me).