Back on track 2: Return of the sun

My training calls for back to back hikes. This weekend, it called for two four hour strolls. It called very loudly at 6am. But not loudly enough. After my first decent night’s sleep for ages, thanks to a lovely cool breeze coming through the windows, I was reluctant to get up. So in my head when I did surface at around 6.30am, I was late.

As I left the house, the weather was looking similar to yesterday and I guessed that I’d be walking under a sheet of grey cloud. Part of the reason for walking this weekend was to experience the heat and get used to keeping hydrated. Although hot conditions aren’t my favourite, I was looking forward to some strolling in the sunshine. I was heading for Fan Brecheiniog, an old favourite. But before I got to the turn off to the lane that leads to the start of the walk, I decided to try an new route. I parked opposite the Tafarn y Garreg and took the signposted footpath from there. It would mean a southerly climb up Fan Hir and then a nice brisk walk across the ridge to the short but steep slog to Fan Brecheiniog itself.

Immediately, I realised this was a lovely little route, following the banks of the River Tawe for several hundred yards before cutting through farmland and up onto the first part of the climb. The river was shaded by trees and the sun was shining and it would make an ideal picnic spot at some point. I’m fairly certain Rufus would approve of it’s paw cooling potential, too. (Once again, it was too hot for Rufus to make the long distance).

Climbing up the southern end of Fan Hir, the sun was shining brightly but a breeze kept the temperature from being too much. But it was steep and I could feel myself warming up. This was what I was (perversely) hoping for as I could check that my idea of hydration would work. Using the bladder and hose system is great because you don’t have to stop to drink. The theory goes that you are more likely to drink more often in that case. But it’s harder to judge how much you’ve had to drink, and how much is left in the bladder.

I reached the top of the steep part of the climb. Although I was still ascending, the slope was gentler and I sped up a little. I was consciously trying to keep a slow pace to get used to the one I’d be using on the trek. It’s still the part of hiking I find most difficult.

Before long, I’d reached the crest of the ridge and I turned north to continue along Fan Hir. The views all around were fantastic. To the south was Craig Y Nos and Waun Fignen Felin. The latter was once the site of a large lake and much evidence that prehistoric hunter-gatherers stayed in the area has been found in the form of weapons and bones of their prey. Nearby is a stone row, the Saeth Maen, which may have been a marker for travellers in the area. It’s also the site of more modern remains; several military aircraft have crashed there or thereabouts.

To the east, the dramatic near vertical face of Fan Hir dropped to the Cerrig Duon valley and the course of the Tawe. To the west, the rest of the Brecon Beacons natioanl park stretched as far as the eye can see. It’s a beautiful part of the country.

I was concentrating on the view to the north. This was the path I was taking. Underfoot lots of broken stones made the going a little harder than usual. Ahead, the seemingly endless series of little summits were crested, only to find another one ahead. But before long, I could see Fan Brechieniog in the distance. The sun was getting hot now and I was glad I’d plastered on the sun cream. I’m using a small tube of factor 50 at the moment. I didn’t notice when I bought it, but it’s for kids. So it smells of banana. Every now and again, I’d get a whiff of banana in the wind as I moved along.

The short climb to Fan Brecheiniog was tough but over quickly. Then I walked along my favourite mountain to the very northern end, where I sat and stared out at the gorgeous countryside, while eating a Snickers.

Then it was time to turn around and head back. The view south, which dominated now, was of a more industrialised landscape. There were at least three sets of wind farms in view. I could see the building where I work. The sea was crammed in between the horizon and the sky and the lush green of farmland contrasted with the grey and brown of the upland moors and rocky tops. I was walking into the wind and sun now. My hat kept the sun at bay but the wind flapped the brim and one part kept folding down over my left eye. It was annoying and ruined my depth perception, but it didn’t cause any problems.

The drop back down to the river was steeper than I remembered and I found it hard going on the knees. The path was dry and dusty which made it slippery, too. I sought grass and natural steps in the rocks to try and stop myself falling, and I managed to stay upright the whole time. As I descended, the wind died down and it became very hot in the sun. At the river, the shade was welcome and I stopped several times just to enjoy the view. I spotted a movement in the water and saw a duck trying to paddle along. The water level was low so it couldn’t float and was content with waddling between pools and spots of deeper water.

Back at the car, it was boiling and I was glad to get the back pack off and to gulp down more water.

My second hike of the weekend was just over 7.5 miles and it took 4 hours. I climbed around 700m in that time.

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