When I first started out cycling and was ready to venture further than the immediate 5 mile radius from my house I was a little stumped on where to go and how to get there. There’s a lot of books out there detailing climbs, like Simon Warren’s popular 100 Greatest Cycling climbs, but unless you have immediate access to the book or books then finding out how to get there and what to look out for ain’t always the easiest to manage.
So, my plan is to periodically put down a description of where to go and what to look out for whilst navigating your way up some of the best climbs South Wales has to offer.
As I was there today and have spent many hours going over this mountain in both directions I thought I’d start out with The Black Mountain in the Brecon Beacons Nation Park.
The Southern Side
Depending on where you are coming from there’s two routes up and over the Black mountain, the south side which we’ll cover today and the northern side which is a post for another day mainly because I don’t have enough good quality photos to cover it in this post.
With the south side of the Black Mountain, there’s two main routes you can take to get to the start of the climb.
There’s the A474 from either Ammanford or Pontardawe or the A4068 if you are coming in from the Swansea Valleys way from the Gurnos/Ystalyfera/Ystradgunlais way.
If you are coming in from the A474 you will need to make a turn on to the A4069 in Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen just by the train tracks heading towards Lower Brynamman (I’ll get a photo of this next time!!!) Once you are on the A4069 you are essentially on the road that will take you over the Black Mountain. You’ll ride through Lower Brynamman, Brynamman then upper Brynamman.
For all you Strava-heads out there once you get to the rugby club in Brynamman, there is a segment that starts from the rugby club all the way to the top, so once you go past the rugby club which will be on your left, hammer down and off you go! Even if you aren’t gunning for the segment this is where the climbing starts and the ramp through Brynamman is a nice little wake up for the legs.
If you are coming in from the A4068 direction, your leg warmer comes up a little earlier with a steep ramp up towards Ystradowen….yeah….WAY more fun going down that one. Once you are on the A4068 just follow it all the way to Upper Brynamman and you along with any riders coming in form the A4069 will both meet at the same roundabout at which point the fun really begins.
You’re looking for this one….
If you were on the Gurnos/Ystalyfera direction you will need to turn right onto this road where as if you are coming up from Brynamman then its a slight left/straight on for you. Essentially, this is where the fun really begins, after you’ve ridden past the final few houses in Upper Brynamman then you’ll go over a cattle grid and see the sign welcoming you to the Brecon Beacons National Park and thats it, you’re officially on the Black Mountain.
I love this climb. The gradient never gets unmanageable even for the novice climber, you’ll make it to the top provided you pace yourself.
Don’t forget to take a look to the view to the right as you settle in to your rhythm.
The road winds right before swinging back to the left after about 1km and from there you can see almost the entirety of the road ahead of you.
As you move through the next few kilometres you start to get a feeling for the “grass desert” that people talk about in Wales. Granted this isn’t the biggest climb or section of open land in Wales but you move very quickly from an urban environment out into the quiet of the country. That said, the Black Mountain and the surrounding roads are popular with pretty much all types of road users so you will see cars and motorbikes but we all share the road everywhere else. Here is not different.
Even though we predominantly get a South West wind it always feels like there’s a headwind around here. Perhaps to do with the topography (check out the vocabulary, people!) and rise and fall in the hills, I don’t know, but it always feels like you’ll riding into the wind. So, unless you are solo then do your turn and be a human wind shield for a while!
Shouthout to Endura! Love your wind shell, guys!
The gradient averages 5.7% according to Veloviewer and only ever kicks up on a couple of the last corners but even then it never kicks above 10% so its really manageable.
The road stays very open all the way to the top, but there is one slight false summit you have to deal with where the road moves through a slight dog leg to the left after you’ve ridden about 4km from Brynamman so keep it steady as its around here the gradient tips up but if you get the chance to glance back the view has really opened up:
After the false summit there are a couple more corners before it levels off and you can find rest either in the lay-by on the left of the road or keep rolling and you’ll usually find an ice cream van in the first car park on the right or slightly further down the north side of the mountain where there’s a second car park.
Either way, you’re at the top of one of the most scenic climbs in South Wales. Take a moment to drink in that view!
A few shots from the descent down the northern side of the Mountain.