Fan Dance (Brecon Beacons endurance walk) walk

SAS fitness exercise. Storey Arms over Pen y Fan to Torpantau, and back again, against the clock, with a full pack


This is a list of previous times this walk has been done by the club (since Jan 2010). For more recent events (since April 2015), full details are shown.

Date Option Post # Weather
Tue, 09-May-23 Tuesday Walk - Brecon Beacons ridge out-and-back to Torpantau Heritage Railway (The Fan Dance) [New Walk] [Brecon Trip] 2 overcast or sunny with a few showers
Length: 21.8 km (13.6 mi)
Ascent/Descent: 1061m
Net Walking Time: ca. 7 hours
Toughness: 8 out of 10
This is an out-and-back walk, you can return at any point you like and make the walk as short as you like.
Take the 08.41 Bus T4 from Brecon Interchange Stand 1, direction Merthyr Tydfil (for Cardiff). Bus calls Llanfaes, St David’s Church and arrives Glyn Tarell/Storey Arms at 08.56.
Return buses: xx.34 every 2 hours to 15.34, then 17.44 (arrives Brecon, Bulwark 18.00 if on time) and 19.41. A taxi won’t cost the earth.
[Note: if you are intending to depart from Brecon today by Public Transport, the last bus to Abergavenny leaves at 18.15, so the 17.44 from Storey Arms leaves you just 15 mins to retrieve any luggage you may have. After that, there is still the 18.25 T6 though, which connects to the last train to Paddington at both Neath and Swansea.]

This is an out-and-back walk initially up the highest mountain in South Britain and then descending steeply down the slope of the Beacons Ridge, skirting Cribyn and Fan y Big halfway up, to follow an Old Roman Road and forest tracks to the heritage railway station at Torpantau. And then you walk back the way you came.

The route mirrors the famous SAS and British Army Endurance Exercise of ‘The Fan Dance’ which soldiers conduct in full gear, with a weapon to hand and carrying additional 30 kg of luggage plus water. And they do it against the clock. Occasionally a soldier dies during this exercise. Read more about it on the webpage.

If you time it well (and have the time), you can take the steam train from Torpantau along the Pontsticill Reservoirs to Pant and back and then finish the walk. Book here, for your ride on the Brecon Mountain Railway. Pant Station has a tea room, Pontsticill Station a café, Torpantau has neither.

Lunch: Picnic lunch.
Tea: Kiosks in the car park at Storey Arms.
For walk directions, map, height profile and gpx/kml files click here. T=swc.285
Alternative Walk for today:
SWC 306 Brecon Circular via Y Gaer, Battle and Pen y Crug with its very short options.
  • 09-May-23

    With more departures, the runners going sightseeing in Hay-on-Wye, and one other resting their knees, we were just 2 walkers today. Up and over the tops and down to Torpantau Heritage Railway station for 12.10, which was unfortunately between trains (departs 11.40, arrives 13.25). All we saw of it was its steam column from distance long after leaving the place. Back at the Storey Arms bus stop at 16.20, which was unfortunately between buses. We tried to hitch-hike while also trying to get a taxi. A taxi it was, then dinner at The George and then the 18.15 bus.

    Weather: low clouds at the start up onto we were over and half down Pen y Fan, then lifting, then sunshine. Drizzle then rain started halfway through our break at the railway station. Not for long though, then it was mainly sunny with another couple of short showers late on. In all: overcast or sunny with a few showers

    Seen: wild ponies with very young foals and young clean shaven soldiers with large backpacks (but no rifle) going up the route when we finished, ie on a warmup for The Dance!

    As a route: fine if not a classic such as Black Mountain, but probably a bit more special if combined with the steam train journey up and down the Pontsticill Reservoir?