Sun, snow & sanity

December 29, 2013

The day dawned early and I went through a similar struggle with the contact lens, taking some forty minutes this time.  The result was I arrived at the car park at the head of Glyn Collwn to pick up Euan.  The road was slippery but we made it to the car park on the A470 just in time to get a space, kitted up and set off for our first summit, Corn Ddu.  The plan was to walk the length of the Beacon Ridge taking in all the major summits in a day.   The late start meant we were on the margins of time to complete, but we are both experienced walkers, carry torches and there were plenty of early exit routes so we stuck to the plan.  As it happened it worked out, although we probably only had twenty minutes at the end before the head torches would have been needed.

I felt really good on that initial climb, keeping up a good pace and not needing to rest or take a break.  Carrying 26kg less that the same time last year makes a big difference, and the new Paramo winter clothing worked brilliantly.  It was cold at the top and the wind was high.  There is an interesting step up from Bwylch Duwynt onto the ridge but otherwise the walking is straight forward.  The first summit down, it was a short walk to Pen-y-fan, the highest point of South Wales.   By now the delay in starting was paying off as the clouds cleared and we had blue skies and great views.  The northern faces of the Brecon Beacons look like vertically placed scallop shells and in these conditions the views were impressive.

The above picture just gives an impression of the place.  Mind you the header picture was taken a few minutes later which shows how changeable it was.  It was one of those winter days where the sun comes and goes adding to the mystery of the day.  There is something very special about being on the hills in any conditions, but with clear air and snow you are taken to another level.  Mind you I was regretting not bringing the new walking crampons that had been a Christmas present.  Conditions underfoot were icy to say the least and noticeably so as we descended Craig Cwm Sere.  From there it is a stiff pull up to Cribyn which had its own retrospective of the darkening northern face of Pen-y-fan.  I was now repeating a part of Neuadd Horseshoe walk that I had completed on the 6th meeting the Roman Road.  From there the final sharp ascent to Fan y Bîg brought me onto a path I had take around Cwm Oergwn on the 7th.  The ridge walk then had been clean and easy, now it was covered in snow and some the hardest walking followed the edge of the cwm before a sharp right (thank God for GPS devices) allowed us to take a clear track over Craig y Fan Ddu and thence to the car in the gathering dusk.

It is always a joy to walk with Euan as he knows when to be silent and when to talk, most have one or other capability but not both.  We swapped some old stories, but we also talked about the sheer joy of being connected to a physical mountain landscape and its criticality for our own identity.  We are not isolates, we are a part of out communities and critically out environment.  For me the mountains are critical and there is something special to the experience as the sun goes down, the chill starts to set in and you descend the final steps of a day that was more than just enjoyable.  Without the mountains, for me at least, there would be no sanity.

Full photo set for those interested, with the route map, here.  It includes one of me (the first in the set) taken by Euan on the summit of Pen-y-fan.  This final panorama (before we turned right) gives a sense of the line of the walk.

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