I woke this morning to find a hairy Spaniel lying next to me, belly up and paws outstretched. It’s not what I’m used to. I’m sure Rufus isn’t used to waking up next to me either. We got over our initial embarassament and it wasn’t mentioned again.
The weather forecast, for sunshine and clear skies, was accurate and so we made an early start for the Storey Arms and the path to Corn Du and Pen y Fan. I have’t climbed to Pen y Fan for over a year. It was one of the last training days I had before the trek. I see from my geeky notes that I’ve climbed it 41 times before.
We set off on the Storey Arms path towards Corn Du. This one was a favourite when I was training because it challenged mentally as well as physically. The first climb to the top of Y Gyrn is followed by a drop down to a stream, which further down the valley becomes the Taf. Then, it seems, you have to do the whole climb all over again. (Actually, the drop and re-climb is only around 55m but it is very disheartening to lose those hard earned centimetres.) The whole climb is visible from just above the stream and it’s clear that it gets significantly steeper towards the end.
On the way down to the stream we met a walker who had been camping below Corn Du the previous night. Yesterday, we saw snow on Corn Du and he confirmed that yesterday, there had been a fall of about 3 inches, but it melted during the night. It had been warm where he camped, which was a small lake in Cwm Llwch.
When we got to the stream, Rufus dived in up to his tummy. He was clearly relieved to cool down a little as the sun had started to warm him up. By the time we left, he was soaked and the river had lost some of the pebbles from its bed.
The drag up to the ridge was long and it felt endless. But suddenly we were at the point where our path meest the one from Pen Milan. Over a hundred years ago, a little boy was lost on the mountains and died in atrocious weather near here. Little Tommy Jones’ body was found just down the ridge and a memorial stone commemorates the incident. It’s a sad place and when the weather is misty and rough, it’s a sobering reminder of how dangerous this place can be.
We set off up the steepest bit of the climb. I plodded along slowly; Rufus bounded back and forth. The last bit is particularly hard going and I put my head down and got on with it. I looked up just before cresting the summit to find the silhouette of Rufus looking down to see why I was taking so long. Corn Du was windy and cold but it was great to have finally got there.
After a short break, we set off for nearby Pen y Fan, 13m higher but a greater cimb as we had to drop down to the saddle between the two peaks. It’s not far, but it’s enough when you’ve spent an hour climbing. The top of Pen y Fan was deserted, the way we like it. We had breakfast on its southern edge, watching little dots become people as they made their way slowly up from Cribyn. Pen y Fan and Corn Du are outcrops of sandstone and on the flat rocks that make up their summits you can see ripples in the stones. They were once part of a beach and the ripples are the same as those seen on modern beaches where the tide sweeps in and out.
Next on our agenda was a walk along Craig Gwaun Taf. The ridge stretches away to the south from the slope of Corn Du. It reaches down to the reservoirs in the Gwaun Taf valley and is part of the route of the Beacons Horseshoe. We walked along it for just over a mile and took a break at a large cairn before heading back.
It was time to head home and we made our way quickly down the tourist path to Pont ar Daf. It’s an easy path, well made and maintained but very busy and I prefer not to use it if possible. But I had promised Rufus a treat in the form of a bathe in the river Taf (the same river that he had paddled in on the way up). He had shown no interest in any sheep on the walk but I put him on the lead when we were approaching some ponies, as they had very young foals with them and several ponies were pregnant. One of the foals was tiny, and still a little unsteady on its feet. Rufus showed no interest and neither did the ponies, so I let him off the lead again.
As soon as he saw the water, Rufus was off, leaving me behind. By the time I was nearing the river, Rufus had been in and had come back to meet me. He paddled and I threw stones for him to catch and all the while we watched a bunch of students making some kind of video just down river from us. I expect some of their footage has the insistent barking of Rufus as yet again I wasn’t quick enough, or I threw the stones in the wrong place.
We got back to the car exhausted but happy. Rufus was soon asleep on the back seat and i didn’t hear a peep out of him until we got home.