Pen-y-Fan…A Mini Epic

I love a good day in the mountains…but it turns out I might love a bad day even more!

On Tuesday we (Claire and I, an old friend from Essex where they don’t have mountains, so she came west for a few days) headed over to the Brecon Beacons for what should have been a relatively simple day out on the mountain. The route I’d planned was a quite demanding ascent up to an exposed (but wide and safe) ridgeline, with a short scramble to the summit of Pen-y-fan, the highest point in the Beacons.

Checking and double checking the route

Checking and double checking the route

The weather wasn’t great on the drive in to Wales, we both had enough kit to tackle a bit of rain without worrying but thankfully the walk started dry. We set off at a fair pace, climbing fast but soon walking in to the cloud cover, and losing all visibility. At one point Claire disappeared 20 feet ahead of me, the chances of admiring the views were nil!

Claire walks up in to the murky gloom.

Claire walks up in to the murky gloom.

I knew when we crested the ridge we were going to be exposed to some harsh conditions but I wasn’t expecting quite the wind we got!

We were battered all the way up to the summit. I’m considerably heavier than Claire and there were points when I was nearly blown over, so she did exceptionally well to still be on the mountain when we got to the top! Thankfully, the actual summit was a haven of calm as we were sheltered from the wind. Perfect lunch spot, and any crumbs were picked off by a brave little bird and even braver little mouse that were running around scavenging. Knowing what we were walking back down in to I could have sat up their watching the wildlife for hours (there were certainly no views to be enjoyed!) but after a brief stop we set off for the return leg, heading over Corn Du and virtually straight off the side on a near vertical drop down to the adjacent ridge.

Claire points out the view from the summit.

Claire points out the view from the summit.

At this point the weather took a turn for the worse! The wind had been almost comical in the way it threw us around, but when it was driving stinging rain sideways it wasn’t quite so funny! Somehow though we laughed our way through it and as soon as the opportunity arose to drop down off the ridge I took it. (never underestimate the value of navigation, it’s not just for getting home,  but getting home the best way and often not the way you planned!) Almost as soon as we lost height the rain eased and the wind disappeared, leaving us with a nice valley walk out alongside a rushing stream and Claire’s favourite outdoor feature, trees. (weirdo)

Somewhere up there was a mountain and a hell of a lot of wind!

Somewhere up there was a mountain and a hell of a lot of wind!

So only a short walk (7 miles) and done at a reasonable trot (under 4 hours) but thanks to the good old Welsh weather it was made quite an adventure!

Are you a mountain fan? Got a favourite? Any must do routes you can recommend?

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2 Responses to Pen-y-Fan…A Mini Epic

  1. Sarah says:

    I had a similar experience recently in Colorado-unplanned descent off a ridge to avoid upcoming low visibility and rain, barely made it down in time! Navigation is key 🙂

    • James Clay says:

      I imagine you had quite a bit more altitude out there though! Now following your blog, love the line “does epic shit”! I got given a t-shirt with that on recently (do epic shit) and now I feel like I need to earn it…epic shit is great! 🙂

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