We were due some clear weather. At 5.30 am (when Rufus has to go, he has to go) it was cold and frosty out, but there was a hazy cloud in the sky. At 7am (when Dave has to go, he has to go) there was the promise of a nice sunrise in the sky but nothing more. We had decided to go to the mountains anyway. It couldn’t be worse than last week.
The temperature gauge in the car read -1C, I had a good idea it was below freezing as the windscreen was thick with frost. But a minute later it was clear thanks to the miracle that is heated glass. There was the prospect of ice on the single track road up to the parking spot near the river Tawe. I’d finally get to use one of the traction control settings for real. Alas, all the cie was confined to the sides of the road and the journey was clear all the way.
We set off in golden sunshine. Ahead, Fan Brecheiniog shone white against the blue sky. There was a thick, even frost over everything and because the grass is orangey yellow at the moment, the frost was pale yellow. It was lovely to walk and crunch through the grass as we slipped and skidded down to the river. There were icicles at the smaller waterfalls, where spray had soaked the grass. We crossed over, careful where the water had frozen on the banks, and set off on the trudge up to the lake. This was exactly the same route as I took last week, but the visibility was completely different. Ahead, the bulk of the mountain was always in sight. Behind, a haze shrouded all but the peaks of Fan Gyhirich, Corn Du and Pen y Fan. The sun was still low and dazzling, as was the frost.
All the deep marshy bog was frozen, which made progress much faster and in no time we were at the lake. Several other walkers converged on the lake from different directions. The Beacons long distance path climbs up and over Fan Brecheiniog, and there are several routes from where we started, depending on which bank of the river you follow. We stopped for some snacks and to throw stones into the still lake. Fan Brecheiniog and Fan Foel were perfectly reflected in the water.
Then it was onwards and upwards. Being able to see where we were going and where we’d come from made it much easier and as we climbed the views became more and more spectacular. Llyn y Fan Fawr took on a deep blue hue. The mountains between us and Pen y Fan – Fan Gyhirich, Fan Nedd, Fan Llia and Fan Fawr lined up in the haze. Rufus was off into the distance, and every now and then I got a disdained look as he checked to see if I was trying to keep up. Compare the photo of him on the path (below) with the one here taken last week. Eventually, he waited for me on an outcrop of rock, watching my slow progress.
Near the top, the ground was white as the frost was much thicker. I could make the path out, weaving its way up the final steep haul to the ridge. By the time I started on it, Rufus was away at the top. Finally, out of breath, I reached the ridgeline and from here it was fairly flat for around half a mile. It was gorgeous. This was worth all the huffing and puffing of the last hour, the tedium of the drive up here and even the early start. It reminded me why I love waking on the hills in the Brecon Beacons. A slight breeze was enough to require gloves, and I pulled the buff up around my ears and neck.
We walked on to the cairn at the end of the ridge and then on around and down slightly to the old burial cairn on Fan Foel. From here, the views north over the Usk reservoir were incredible. To the west, the long line of Bannau Brecheiniog stretched out away from us. Strangely, it was completely frost free. All too soon it was time to go back home and reluctantly we started back along the ridge. The sun was in my face now and it was getting warm again. At the bwlch before the final descent, I stopped and listened. It was silent. Then I became aware of faint sounds drifting over the air. Off to my left I could hear Rufus’s footfalls crunching the frost grass. A little over from that, I could hear faint bird calls. Somewhere ahead was what sounded like a steam train, extremely faint but there nonetheless. It was so peaceful.
At the lake, I chatted with a fellow photographer who was taking pictures of the reflections in the water, which was more mirror-like now. We moved on, away from him so that I could throw stones in the water for Rufus to catch and dredge without disturbing the reflections. Then we turned our backs on the lake and the mountain and made our way through the rapidly thawing bog and marsh to the car. By the time I’d pulled on to the road, Rufus was flat out in the back.