Fan Brecheiniog, Fan Hir and Moel Feity

It was cold last night and so in the early hours I found myself sharing the bed with a larger-than-normal Cocker Spaniel. As a result, I was allowed a lie in until 6.30 before the call of the wild garden became too much for him and we had to go on patrol. Borders cleared, breakfast was served and then we set off for the mountains.

I was keen to push a little today and at the same time conscious that Rufus is not the young hound he once was. So I decided on the now familiar route up and down Moel Feity, on to Llyn y Fan Fawr and then up on the Fan Brecheiniog, with the option that if we were both feeling okay, we’d head back to Bwlch Giedd and then along Fan Hir for a while. This would add the all important time and extra ascent but we could turn back at any time should the need arise.

It was another golden morning but a cold wind from the East chilled the air and meant the gloves went on early. We skirted the horses once again and then struck off almost directly up the side of Moel Feity. By the time we’d reached the top, the sun had warmed us up and the breeze had disappeared. We climbed a little further than last time and when we started to drop into the valley between Feity and Brecheiniog, it was steeper than usual. Rufus determined the path as we descended and we wandered about at the whim of scents and aromas like a summer butterfly.

We found ourselves to the north of our normal path but all of this was good for the training and I heard no complaints from Rufus. We climbed over rough ground full of little ankle-turning ruts and pits and it was hard going as we climbed steadily towards the lake. In just under 70 minutes, we reached the lake shore and took our first break. In the distance through the still air I could hear two walkers chatting as they made their way up the path to the Bwlch as we would be shortly. Rufus’ barks as I threw stones for him to dredge and catch echoed around the lake.

We followed the lake shore south until we reached the path up the side of Fan Brecheiniog. It’s a short climb but steep and hard going. National Trust volunteers have constructed steps out of large stones and these do a lot to manage erosion but they can become slippery when they are wet or, like last week, frosty. They force walkers to take larger steps than perhaps they otherwise would too. You climb from the lake at 608m to the Bwlch around 100m higher in a little over 400m of walking. It looks hard and it is, but it’s over quickly. But then there’s another 80m climb ahead. Once that’s over, it’s a lovely airy walk along the edge of the mountain. It’s the 36th time I’ve climbed this mountain and I still love it as if it was the first time.

After we’d walked to the north end of the ridge we turned around and walked half way along the southern bit, Fan Hir. It has an even steeper drop to the moorland below and you get a fantastic feeling of being up in the clouds. Except today there were no clouds.

We made our way down to the lake where stones were thrown in the now traditional ‘throw stones for me or I’ll bark like the Hound of the Baskerville’ session. The walk back down to the car from the lake is rough and this bit of this route I don’t look forward to. It’s wet, riddled with pools and marsh, and crossed by numerous little streams and rivulets which just hinder progress.

Back at the car I was disappointed to find that we had only added an extra 12 minutes to last week’s four hours, despite adding just over 2km to the distance and 100m to the ascent. When I checked on the app that records my routes, it turns out that my average pace was considerably faster. I’ve always had problems pacing.

The sofa and the fire were most welcome when we got home.

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Cold and frosty morning

“Snuffle snuffle”

“It’s only 5.30, Rufus. At least another half hour.”

“Snuffle, snuffle”

“Just five more minutes, please?”

“Snuffle snuffle”

“I’m getting up, honest. It’s just taking a while.”

We were in the garden, checking out the activities of the fox at 6.15. At 6.30 we were breakfasting on toast and coffee. At 7, we were heading off for the hills.

I decided I wanted to try the same route as two weeks ago. It gave a decent ascent (521m) without being too strenuous on the knee. I’m building it’s strength back up slowly so it would be silly to try something too much too soon. We set off from the car at just after 8 heading towards Moel Feity before dropping down into a shallow valley and climbing back up to Llyn y Fan Fawr and then on to Fan Brecheiniog.

The weather was gorgeous, cold and clear. The sun was still golden, turning everything it touched a deep orange colour  A thick frost coated the grass and most of the bog and marsh we encountered last time was frozen solid. We skirted the horses on the lower slopes of Moel Feity before turning north and heading up the flank towards the bomber crash site. I wanted to see if my little cross was still there. It was.

The view from Moel Feity was crisp and clear. Clouds were beginning to form a white woolly cap on Pen y Fan to the East and the moon was still shining above Fan Brecheiniog. With a brief stop for a treat and a drink, we set off towards the lake, hidden by low hills at this point. There are few paths and I always make my own way, avoiding the obviously tricky drops and boggy patches. I didn’t have to worry about the water and mud today, but there were enough little dips to keep me concentrating. Rufus tracked me some 50m to the north; he had his own agenda and there were plenty of scents that had to be investigated that didn’t require my presence. Every now and then he would check to see if I was okay.

In no time we reached the shore of Llyn y Fan Fawr. It was calm and the sun reflecting off it was dazzling. There was a lot of heat from the sun and the reflection too, so we stopped for a few minutes for me to catch my breath and for Rufus to catch some stones. Then it was off around the top of the lake and onto the path the climbs steeply to Bwlch Giedd. The path was shaded from the sun, and there was a thick frost on the stones making them treacherous. Even Rufus, with four paw drive, slipped on a couple. I kept an eye on him as we climbed higher but he quickly got the hang of it and, as usual, was waiting patiently for me as I huffed and puffed my way to the top.

I’ve said it before but the ridge to Fan Brecheiniog is one of my favourite places to walk. There’s a combination of solitude, space and achievement there that I rarely feel elsewhere. As we walked along the ridge this morning, I felt it again and it was magnified by the beautiful weather. I met several people on the mountain and we all mentioned how fantastic the conditions were at some point. Rufus and I went on to Tro’r Fan Foel, the ancient and eroded burial cairn on the tip of the mountain that overlooks land that was once inhabited long ago. Then it was time to turn back.

The journey down was uneventful. A thin mist was forming on Fan Brecheiniog, just as it had done on Pen y Fan. Moisture in the wind blowing up the side of the mountain was condensing at the top and blowing across the gently sloping west side. It didn’t affect the walk and wasn’t wetting, but it did spoil the views to the west. By the time we got down to the lake again (avoiding ignominious slips on the frosty path), the top of the mountain was covered in cloud in an otherwise clear sky.

We had to cross several streams swollen by recent rain on the way back, and at each one, stones had to be thrown (or barking occurred). Nevertheless, we managed to get back to the car just over 4 hours and 11km after we started. An enjoyable day.

Snore

“Rufus, Rufus, we’re home.”

Dramatic sigh

“We have to get out of the car now.”

“Huff”

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