Wilderness Wales


Day 28 - Sgwd Einion Gam

Ystradfellte Falls, Brecon Beacons

Sgwd Einion Gam

Sgwd Einion Gam
The highest and most difficult to reach fall in the Ystradfellte area

On the expedition weekend I realised that I hadn't photographed all the main waterfalls in my local area, which seemed a logical thing to do during the course of the month. It would be nice to produce a collection of "October Waterfalls" pictures, twelve in all (ten at Ystradfellte, plus nearby Melincourt and Henrhyd).

I'd been waiting for some rain which never really materialised and for the colours to improve, which took longer than expected. Fortunately the weather was on the change and a rainy week was in prospect. I can't recall ever being so pleased to see rain forecast.

With only four days to go I still had five falls to photograph. Sgwd Einion Gam, the highest of the Ystradfellte falls, was the obvious first objective. It's the most difficult fall to reach because it requires five river crossings, so is best attempted when the river is low. With the rains starting it made sense to go there first, while it was still easily accessible.

On the way I also needed to photograph the Lower Ddwli Falls, which I'd missed on the first visit to the Nedd Fechan on Day 6 due to lack of daylight. I therefore opted to approach Einion Gam from the north rather than the south, so as to pass the other falls on the way. The possibility existed to re-photograph Sgwd Ddwli, Horseshoe Falls and Sgwd Gwladus while I was there, but Einion Gam was the main objective so I resisted the temptation to stop and made my way there first, in case it took longer than expected. I didn't even take any snaps along the way, mainly because of the rain.

Sure enough, making my way up the slippery dry riverbed of the gorge was a slow process, and taking the photographs took even longer. I spent over an hour photographing the fall from two different locations (getting close to the fall itself was quite tricky). Besides, this is such a cool place that I'm never in any hurry to leave. The riverbed was covered in fallen leaves, with many collected at the edge of pools, adding great interest to the foregrounds. A great time to photograph waterfalls.

This was the first time I'd used my "brolly-pod", an umbrella attached to a tripod, so that I could work carefully in the rain. Setting the two tripods up was very problematical though. Although easy enough on flat ground, positioning the brolly-pod close enough to cover the camera whilst not interfering with it was no easy task in the middle of a bouldery river. This consumed quite some time, but was well worth the effort for the convenience of being able to change lenses and film without the usual risk of getting them wet.

On my return I realised that I was running short of time, so I didn't have a chance to re-photograph the falls I'd done previously. With sunset now at 5pm, I had to make my way directly to the Lower Ddwli Falls. The "Five Pools" falls looked particularly good with all the fallen leaves, and I really wanted to stop to photograph it, but realised that I'd probably miss the light for Ddwli if I did, so reluctantly I gave it a miss, which was a pity. If it weren't for the faffing about with the brolly-pod in the rain I probably would have, but I had to stay focused on the main objectives. The Five Pools are not one of the main Ystradfellte falls.

From Horseshoe Falls I made my way up the wide flattish riverbed to the Lower Ddwli Falls. This is an extremely slippery approach on smooth rock, and requires great care. Fortunately there was a lot of moss around so I stepped on that where possible, but often the walking was agonisingly slow.

Once close to the falls I again had the hassle of setting up the tripods on a very slippery spot, while the light was visibly fading. By the time I was ready the shutter speed was already quite long and the resultant photographs had quite a strong blue cast. I was just in time though, any later and there wouldn't have been enough light.

I climbed the steep slippery muddy bank to regain the path above the falls and strolled back, satisfied at having achieved my objectives and using the brolly for rain protection. As Peter Clinch has often pointed out, using a brolly is quite a pleasing way of walking in the rain if there's no wind around.

As I passed the last small fall in very dark light, I noticed that the water appeared almost misty and ethereal. Not exactly, but quite similar to the long exposure effect in photographs. In such low light my eye was unable to see the detail clearly. As I arrived back at the car it was almost totally dark. Excellent timing. I really should bring a torch next time, just in case.