In our mission to explore every corner of the world on a paddle board we are introducing Jonathan Kivell. Jonathan paddled 6 lakes in one day at the magnificent Brecon Beacons National Park in South of Wales. His mission? Showing the world that adventure starts at the moment you step over your doorstep! Read his story and get inspired to explore Mother Nature close to where you live!
My name is Jonathan Kivell and I am no stranger to conventional SUP expeditions. I am a Water Skills Academy SUP Trainer responsible for coach education and introducing people to safe SUP. Over the years I have led various trips/multi day expeditions to a variety of countries paddling in different environments including coastal, river/white water and open water locations.
The aim of my trip was to prove that you don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to have an adventure its all on your doorstep, you just have to get out and explore!!
This trip which I am going to describe is located only 20 minutes from my home. The plan was a SUP and hike day in the Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales (Google maps
). I decided on a 21-mile route taking in Pen Y Fan which sits at 883 metres above sea level, the highest mountain in Southern Britain and paddle the 6 lakes that surround the peak in the east and western valleys.
This mini adventure could easily be broken down into as a multi-day trip, with a perfect wild camping option at the midpoint (Llyn Cwm Llwch
My gear: Duna 11.6 inflatable paddle board
The plan was to carry all our kit and equipment needed for a safe mountain day, including paddling kit. The kit list we decided on to be safe and self-sufficient in the mountains included: first aid kit, emergency shelter, spare clothes( a complete change of clothes and light weight soft shell jacket, woolly hat), food and drink( we carried energy bars, trail mix, energy drinks & water bottle with filter system to enable us to take water from the streams), map and compass, GPS system, light weight stove to have the ability to boil water.
Our choice of paddling equipment was the Jobe inflatable Duna 11,6 touring board
. The Duna 11.6 is perfect for the SUP & Hike days, once inflated the Duna is lightweight and rigid. The board lends itself well to touring as it is easy to manoeuvre and glides effortlessly over the water even when fully loaded. The board also allows you to store and carry all your equipment whilst on the move with 2 onboard cargo areas for equipment. The Duna also comes with a good-sized rucksack which is big enough to carry your paddle equipment with enough room for the additional equipment required for the trip.
My paddle choice for this trip was the Jobe Carbon Pro 3-piece paddle
. I would highly recommend this paddle, its strong and light and the Carbon paddle gives ultimate performance and allows easy storage and portability perfect for any expedition or SUP & hike adventure.
Prior to undertaking this challenge, I carefully planned an ideal weather window ensuring that we had the best possible conditions for the day as conditions in the mountains are extremely changeable (I always get my forecast from 3 different weather sources to ensure I get a clear understanding of the weather and the prevailing conditions). We planned to have an early start to hopefully catch the amazing mountain sunrise. On February 27th at 0600 myself and my paddling buddy Justin arrived at Pontsticill lake ready to start our SUP & Hike Brecon Beacons Challenge.
The weather was perfect, clear skies with no wind which meant perfect glassy conditions on the lake ideal for gliding effortlessly across the open water. The temperatures were quite low with the car thermometer reading a chilly -1 C. We had the sun rising in the east over the National Park casting a perfect silhouette of the mountains onto the water, truly spectacular!!
We had the sun rising in the east over the National Park casting a perfect silhouette of the mountains onto the water, truly spectacular!!
As we paddled across the first lake the Jobe Duna’s cut through the water perfectly, making easy progress to the far side of Pentwyn Lake. This is an amazing stretch of water with clear sight of the challenge ahead with Pen Y Fan dominating the sky line. On reaching the northern bank of the lake we quickly deflated our boards and packed them into the rucksacks ready for the hike to the highest point in Southern Britain. The Duna
paddle board is very easy to deflate, extremely compact which makes for a quick repack.
The hike from the lakes to the summit is breath-taking, moving from pine forestry and meandering streams to open glacial valleys leading to the summit. This climb is the steepest ascent of the day climbing from 250 to 886 metres. The Duna
is lightweight weighing in at approx. 8.5 kg this allowed us to keep the total weight of all equipment below 20kg, giving us a comfortable hike to summit enjoying the dramatic scenery.
When we reached the summit, which is at 886m we were treated to 360-degree panoramic views of the Brecon Beacons Nation Park, with the first glimpse of the 3rd lake, Llyn Cwm Llwch. The lake is tucked beneath the highest peak and is the best-preserved glacial lake in South Wales and sits right at the head of Cwm Llwch valley at 500m.
The hike down to Llyn Cwm Llwch takes about 1.5 hours. On route we took in the traverse of Corn Ddu (850 metres) which adds in an extra adrenaline thrill traversing across the steep north face with sheer vertical drops to your left-hand side as you make the journey below the summit (not for the faint hearted).
When we arrived at the lake we were treated to spectacular views of the mountains above. The lake sits in a glacial bowl which forms a natural amphitheatre creating a real secluded and atmospheric paddle under the striking Pen Y Fan summit. This was a great spot for a lunch break and gave us time to soak up the mountain views before heading off towards the next lake.
The climb from the lake back to the ridge is about 300m and then its all downhill to the next set of lakes. The views down the valley are spectacular with Fan Fawr (715 metres) looming in front of you as you head toward the road splitting Pen Y Fan and Fan Fawr.
When reaching the road and the base of Fan Fawr we stayed low traversing the base heading south, down the valley walking on a mixture of open moor land and forestry.
The next set of lakes, Beacons, Cantref and Llyn-On are separated by forestry roads and offered us a welcome break from walking, allowing us to glide effortlessly on our boards on silky smooth waters while enjoying the perfect mountain scenery and wildlife that inhabits this area. Typically, in this area you can catch a glimpse of Otters (usually early morning) and a host of birds of prey such Red Kites, Buzzards, Kestrels and Perigone Falcons.
The finishing point for this journey was on the southern end of Llyn-On lake, we arrived there at about 16.30 after approximately 9 hours of SUP and Hike which included, 21 miles and 883 m of ascent and 6 lakes with approximately 15km of paddling.
Imagine Gliding effortlessly on our boards on silky smooth waters while enjoying the perfect mountain scenery and wildlife that inhabits this area.
This trip is an excellent mini adventure (it’s a tough challenge in 1-day) in the stunning Brecon Beacons National Park allowing you to experience the tranquillity of the mountain lakes and the sheer beauty and magic of the mountains.
Thank you Jonathan for your great story! Did he inspire you to do the same? Let us know!