So the night before, John Haines suggested the Pysgotwr up near Llandovery. This has been on the cards for a while now but we’ve always been a bit reluctant going there because of how far out in the sticks it is, the hour+ shuttle and knowing next to nothing about it other than some of Chris Sladdens description;
“The first three kilometres will be a flat scrape at suitable levels to do the gorge ie. a low flood level is probably the best level for the gorge.
Though rumours abound, much of this wild chasm is probably still to be paddled. Between Craig Pysgotwr and Cribyn Du there are many hard falls and combinations of drops.”
I picked up James Buck from Neath and we headed over, getting closer we noticed the tops were covered in snow. Brrr. The snow came right down to Junction Pool where the get out was so the get on was probably going to be loaded with a thick layer. We figured the shuttle was going to be a no go because of the snow and the walk wasn’t too bad at just under 6 kilometers, also we could miss out the first 3km of flat scrape, so we geared up and went for it. First of we drove as far as possible in John’s perky Diatachi van until we hit a farm and wasn’t allowed to continue. The farmer pointed us in the right direction and let us cross his land to start our hike.
Despite the body obliterating hard work of carrying our boats and gear up Cefn Cnwcheithinog, the walk was more than worth it. The scenery was spectacular and it improved the higher we went, partially looking North towards Foel Fraith.
We were greeted by this arctic tundra view at the top. This was about an hour into the hike but it felt a much longer. The ground was iced up so it was easy dragging the boats behind. The furthest point you can see in the photo is half way along the top, it is also where the trig point is at 434 meters.
What a wonderful sight, the river!! The hill started to slope to a more gradual incline and what better way to get to a river other than snowboating. The walk took just under two hours but it didn’t matter, the walk made the adventure a little bit more special and far more rewarding.
After falling down the hill and a short break, we were all keen for getting on the river. There was just enough flow to float down into the gorge, ideal for our first time. Straight away we were greeted by a succession of horizon line after horizon line with drops and slides of all shapes and sizes. This carried on for the next two kilometers through dramatic landscape and tight mini gorges.
We dropped around 300 foot of height over two kilometers. It felt a lot more giving how often we came up to a drop, slide or rapid. We portaged three drops in total, first having a fence washed in it but could go with more water that leaded into a tight, tall and twisty fall that looked doable to James but considering how far out in the middle of nowhere we were, he gave it a miss. The second was another squeeze but with enough flow, could go. The last was manky slot in the open valley on the last stretch back the the van. Everything else was smooth but would have been better with more flows. Once we were out of the gorge and back into the big open valley, we were greeted by 2km of scrapey grade 2 rapids with the odd grade 4 thrown in for good measure. The whole trip took us 5 hours car to car but I would like to go back in the summer with better flows and warmer weather and take a bit more time.
There’s a gauge just down river of the wooden bridge (red circle on the OS map above). We ran this on a 4.9 but I think it would be better on a 6, maybe 6.5. We gave it a grade 4 (5 which we portaged) at our level but if it were higher, it could be a spicy grade 5. The water mark told us this would probably be a horror show in big big flows.
This was a fantastic experience and highly recommended. It involves a lot of hard work but without a doubt one of the best, if not the best adventures out there in Wales. Don’t forget your packed lunch!