I checked my favourite long term weather forecasting site, booked the day off a week in advance and sat back to watch the rain coming in. Except it didn’t and on Friday morning, as Rufus and I arrived in the car park on the site of the old Torpantau railway station, it was the beginning of a glorious winter’s day. The temperature had hit -7.5c on the way here but the roads were clear and it was now only -3c. All around us, the hills of the Brecon Beacons were white with frost and snow.
At the foot of the path to Craig y Fan Ddu, the large waterfall was almost completely iced over and the river had a lid of ice that Rufus skated across. We didn’t stop long as the air was still cold and the best way to warm up was by getting moving again.
I always find the first part of the climb hard as the muscles warm up and get used to the work ahead. It was hard to spot the sheep against the white and poor Rufus was on the lead for a large part of the climb. It warmed up as the sun rose and we got higher, and my hat, gloves and fleece all came off on the way. We passed horses grazing on the upper slopes of the mountain and then suddenly we were through the sheep line and into the thick snow.
On the summit, the wind picked up a bit. We stopped to rest and I noticed that Rufus wasn’t wagging his tail. He was clearing enjoying though, as he barked for more snowballs to be thrown, drank and ate. Nevertheless, I kept an eye on him as we moved off just in case something was wrong.
I love walking along the ridge of Craig y Fan Ddu and Graig Fan Las – it’s airy and open and worth all the effort to get to. To my right is the steep drop to the Caerfanell river and the slopes of Waun Rydd opposite. Today, the views were magnificent all around and the sow gave everything a clean, crisp feel. The air was clear and I could see over to the Sugarloaf in the east and Bannau Brecheiniog in the west.
The temperature dropped as a breeze started blowing from the south, and I checked on the thermometer to see that it was down to -4.5c. But I was warm in four layers of clothes, and Rufus had his very efficient fur coat on.There was still no tail wagging, but he was moving well and there was no sign of discomfort.
Over to the west, I heard a plane flying low and an RAF Hercules popped into view, flying over the Neuadd reservoirs before climbing slightly and banking sharply over Pen y Fan. Then it was gone and the only sound was the faint booming of artillery on the ranges at Eppynt.
On Craig Cwarelli, the snow had drifted over the path and we had to take a different route over the grass away from the edge. Several times my feet broke through the frozen snow surface and I found myself in snow that spilled over my gaiters. Rufus was more fortunate with his weight spread over four paws. Even so, he fell through a couple of times and I had to pull him out of a drift at one point.
Ahead Corn Du, Pen y Fan and Fan y Big lined up. In the past I’ve done the full Beacons horseshoe but it wasn’t to be today. The day wasn’t long enough and I didn’t want to be out after dark, when the temperature would drop dramatically. But both Rufus and I were getting tired so it wasn’t an option anyway.
We dropped down onto the Gap road – the old pre-Roman track leaning through that part of the Brecon Beacons, and headed back towards the car. Even so, it was a long slog along rough and very icy ground. We made the car after about 6hrs on the go. Both of us were tired. Rufus flopped out on the back seat straight away and didn’t move for the whole journey home.
We checked online for the possible reason why Rufus wasn’t wagging his tail and found that it was due to him having had a lot of exercise over a short period of time. He slept on my lap for most of the evening and there was plenty of snoring and dreaming going on.