I’ve just returned from a couple of days walking in the Brecon Beacons in Wales. I was blown away almost literally by a gust of wind whilst attempting to climb Pen y Fan.
It meteorological terms we are now in summer but it does not feel like it. It is blowing a gale and we are setting off to climb Pen y Fan from Pont ar Daf. At 886 metres, Pen y Fan is the highest mountain in Southern Britain. It would be quite a challenge.
It is a popular route and we did not expect any problems but we had not anticipated the conditions.
Our guide book said ‘After leaving the car park we go down some cobbled stones and jump between some stepping stones to cross a shallow stream’ Not today. After almost 36 hours of rain the stream was 30 feet across and a couple of feet deep. Fortunately there is now a footbridge.
After about 20 minutes walking we had gained a couple of hundred metres in height but we had disappeared into the mist. We followed the broad and well maintained path towards the distinctive table topped summit of Corn Du. Not that we could see it. The rain was now coming horizontally backed by the gale force wind. It was on our backs and practically blew us up the mountain. After almost an hour we reached Bwlch Duwynt where the path divides. We should have branched left to head for the summit of Corn Du.
The conditions were horrendous, we could barely stand upright. We also knew that on the summit ridge there were 200 metre near vertical drops on the north side. Unable to see more than 25 metres in the mist we did the sensible thing – we turned back.
The way down was dreadful with the stinging rain hitting us full in the face and getting inside my hood. We were passed by a group of soldiers on exercise but they had been jogging to catch us up.
400 metres from the car we came out of the mist and just before we reached the car there was a brief shaft of sunlight, it did not last long.
We sat in the car to eat our lunch where at least we were dry. The car was being buffeted by the wind. We had to find something to do for the afternoon. The Taff Trail went alongside a nearby reservoir.Perhaps we could try that.
The weather was improving and there was even a bit of blue sky although it was still very windy. We followed a faint path through some very wet areas. We could not get down to the waters edge as we were kept well away by a wire fence. We only had occasional glimpses of the water but there was a small island with a clump of trees. it reminded me of Spirit Island on Maligne Lake in Canada.
We had crossed several streams coming down off the mountain but eventually came to one that we could not cross. It was just too wide, deep and fast flowing. For the second time today we had been forced to turn back.
On the way back to the car I spotted a little pink flower. I did not recognise it and wanted a photograph. I had to kneel down to get close to it which was not a good idea as it was in a bog.
I think it is a Lousewort. They are semi parasitic plants, the foliage produces carbohydrates but they absorb water and mineral salts from host plants by attaching themselves to their roots.
I had wet knees but I had my photo.
Conditions continued to improve and at last we could see the table topped summit of Corn Du on the horizon. At the car park we saw several people setting out on the walk. There was still sufficient hours of daylight to attempt it but by now I had ran out of energy. We strolled for just a few hundred metres to visit a waterfall.
It had been a frustrating and disappointing day.
On the way back to Brecon we called in at the National Park visitors centre. Here we learned that the wind speed on the top had been 50 mph gusting to 60 mph.
The temperature was 8 degrees with the wind chill factor making it feel much colder. We had made the right decision.
After checking in at our B&B we went out for a pint. At the Wellington Hotel we tried the Rev James Original Bitter, brewed by Brains . ABV 4.5% it is rich and well balanced with a mellow malty flavour. The hotel also had a good menu and we returned there in the evening. I ordered Welsh Faggots, served with mashed potatoes, mushy peas and onion gravy. Very tasty. Of course I needed some more Rev James bitter to wash it down.
It’s only 10 pm but I am exhausted. Time for bed.