Saturday was one of those days of great British early spring weather; drizzly rain, fog, gale force winds, glorious sunshine, a warm breeze. It had it all. But, as British as I am the weather was not the main event and that is not what I’m going to write about today.
Pen y fan. The tallest point in south Britain and the pinnacle of the Brecon Beacons. During the four years I lived in Cardiff I never made the short journey to take on Pen y Fan, but recently it feels as though half of my friends still in Wales have climbed it. And so I made the plan to climb it, all 886m of it.
I roped in a few friends to join the walk; three weathered Brits and two Aussies took up the mantle. We took the path that started 400m south of the Storey Arms Outdoor Education Centre on the A470, because it was the part of the circular walk that was nearest the toilets!
The loop which takes in Pen Y Fan and its sister peak Corn Du is only about 5 miles, but obviously there is a lot of ascending. And the gradient was steep from the start. It was only a matter of minutes before my heart was pumping vigorously and my breathing because laboured. My predominant thought was “wow Lisa, you’re so unfit!”, but it was definitely the type of enjoyable exertion that I relish. The views looking out over the rest of the national park where stunning and were definitely a reward for the effort.
It didn’t take long for us to reach the altitude where we were above the cloud line. Visibility was reduced to 20m and even less as we climbed higher. We got to a plateau relatively near the peak and I replenished energy with a Babybel and some ice tea; the kind of mountain top snack dreams are made of!
As we pushed onto the peak, the conditions got more and more treacherous. The cross-wind was so strong it whipped every piece of exposed skin; at the top of Corn Du we saw a man lose his beanie hat to the wind; straight over the edge it went. To get the top there was some rock climbing to navigate which was a nice change from the strong trudge up the path.
Unfortunately, when we reached the summit it was still foggy, windy and not really pleasant at all. Which was ironic as that day Britain was due to be warmer than Greece and Morocco! We took some very windswept photos and tried to work out which way we exit the summit to complete the final half of the loop. Unfortunately, every route off the cliff top looked dangerous in the conditions we were in so we ended up walking back the way we had came as we knew the lie of the land. A minor deviation was made to enjoy a small snowball fight on one of the last remaining patches of snow; so much fun, but I blame the wind for my lack of accuracy!
We decided that when we broke the cloud line we would stop for lunch. This was a lot higher than it had been on the way up; the sun was doing its job and the clouds were clearing! We sat on a rocky outcrop looking out over the rolling hills, basking in the warm Welsh sunshine. Frustratingly, we could see the peak of Pen y Fan and knew that the people who were heading up now would get the spending views that we had been hoping for. Next time; next time I do the route I will do the whole loop and hopefully at a time where I can take in the view. Apparently you can see down to Devon on a really clear day; I think the view would be awe-inspiring.
At the bottom we sat by the Blaen Taf Fawr river, removed some layers and took in the view in the warm spring afternoon. I drank some of the water from the river; it was beautifully cold and fresh, if a little earthy.
It was a great walk with some good friends. I forget how much I love exploring the environment around me; I am so often focused on exploring the further afield that I forget what is close to home. I am making a promise to myself to enjoy more of what Britain has to offer. We are great after all.