Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Brecon Beacons, day 3

DSC09675 Because of a bad forecast for Wednesday’s weather, we decided to knock-off Pen-y-Fan et al. today. As the guidebooks variously listed our favoured walk as 6 or 7 miles, but were consistent on it as “strenuous”, we decided to get up and off as quickly as we could. Our plans were almost halted by the thick fog that had descended overnight, but by 8:30am this appeared to be in full retreat so we set off. As it happens, by the time we reached the altitude of our start point, the Lower Neuadd Reservoir, it had lifted entirely.


DSC09676 One of the attractions of our favoured route was that much of the heavy-lifting was scheduled for the outward leg of the hike. It didn’t disappoint. Almost immediately we scaled around 200 m, approximately half of the total. This took us up to a ridge that, bar one or two minor dips and crests, ultimately dropped us at the base of the final rise of Corn Du, peak 1 of the hike’s 3. Before we reached this though, we had a long march along the ridge that gave great views of all 3 peaks together with the valleys immediately adjacent to them. What it didn’t prepare us for, however, was the ferociousness of the midges that inhabited the peaks. Away from the peaks, there wasn’t a hint of insect life, but topside was a completely different story. So my usual dithering to take photographs was severely curtailed, no loss, I’m sure, for C. The views from all 3 tops were pretty impressive. The peaks are towards the northern edge of the Brecon Beacons, so the northward views extend pretty far. I took a panorama to try to capture this, but the midges proved quite a distraction, so we’ll have to see if that pans out. Pen-y-Fan was pretty easy to crest after dropping down from Corn Du, but reaching Cribyn was quite a struggle after a big drop before starting its ascent. Along the way we passed a crew of path-makers who were painstakingly building a path up the side of Pen-y-Fan. I don’t know how long this is going to take in total, but it must be most of this summer. Their handiwork was extremely welcome on the steep ascent to Cribyn though.

DSC09755 After topping Cribyn, and having a nice midge-free lunch on its sunny downward slope, it was downhill all the way. Our walk skipped Fan-y-big (the next peak in line), but after the precipitously stamina-draining rise to Cribyn, we’d have junked it ourselves even if the guidebook hadn’t. Certainly, Fan-y-big’s zigzagging ascent path wasn’t enticing to say the least. The downward path gave us good views of the route we’d taken – it all looked quite impressive, far more so than it probably should have! Hopefully the photographs I took will flatter our hiking credentials.

After returning to Bwlch, we had a couple of hours sitting around in the garden and doing the Gruniad crossword before we headed off to the Dragon Inn in the nearby town of Crickhowell for dinner. When we visited the Brecon Beacons last year we stayed at this inn and had an excellent dinner there. It didn’t disappoint this time either, although it couldn’t have been any less busy than last time: then (a Saturday) we were lucky to get a table, this time (a Tuesday) we were the inn’s only diners. Still, unlike last time, this did mean that our dinner wasn’t interrupted by the arrival of an ambulance and the departure of a fellow diner.

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