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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When the sun beats down…

There is only one thing for the discerning dog about town to do. Get his chauffeur to drive him to the country so that he can take a relaxing dip in cool, fresh river water. So that’s what I did.

Rufus here. Dave’s preening himself for the airshow later this afternoon. I think he’s trying to decide which camera to take. Not which would be best for catching sharp pictures of the aircraft, but which one will look best hanging around his neck. He’s muttering about focal lengths and crop factors. If it keeps him happy, I don’t care. I’ve left him too it.

He’s missed out on exercise recently, using some excuse about having a bad paw. Well, he only has two paws and if one is sore, it can hinder him. But I didn’t believe him so I turned up to make sure he got out last night and this morning. It’s hot here. Very hot. So neither of us slept well last night. I know because every time I pushed my nose into his hand, he tickled my chin. So I got him out of bed at 6am and by 7am we were on our way to the source of the River Tawe. It’s one of my favourite bathing spots and this morning as the sun rapidly warmed the day, it was bliss. I managed to get Dave to throw stones for me to chase – he likes to feel involved. I spent a lot of time swimming and for once Dave didn’t stop and take loads of photographs. So I didn’t have to hurry him along.

We walked along the river for a bit before stopping by a large pool. I swam, Dave rested his foot and we both enjoyed. Then Dave saw a big dragon fly and that was it. I couldn’t attract his attention and he was off, chasing after it and trying to take photos. I suspect from some of the words he used that he didn’t get any photos. It was funny to watch him completely distracted, though.

We watched soldiers marching along into the hills. They looked a bit like Dave when he has his back pack, but they were bigger than him and they had guns.

It soon got too warm and I urged Dave to go back to the car. He gets overheated so quickly and then he starts to smell. It’s not pleasant, and always difficult to bring up the subject without upsetting him.

I’m glad he was able to get out again, though.

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Breconshire Mountain

Today was the last day of my holiday and after having completed chores and some gardening, I picked up Rufus and we set off for Llyn y Fan Fawr. The weather was quite hot with little breeze to cool us down, so I planned the route to follow the river for Rufus to be able to paddle most of the way to the lake. We took it easy and many stones were thrown and retrieved on the way.

At the lake, a cool breeze blew across the water. Rufus was waiting for me as I came up over the last hill up to his knees (if he had any) in the water. There followed barking, growling, flying stones and a few skimmed and bounced across the water. We walked around the edge of the lake, with Rufus spending most of the time in the water. Overhead, a pair of Red Kits wheeled. on the mountain I could see and hear people as they walked along the ridge. It was that quiet.

By the time we had completed the circuit, we were both feeling ok so I decided to climb up to the ridge. There was a cooling wind as we climbed but on top the wind died away until we reached the very end of the ridge. We sat there for a few minutes then Rufus and I had a play fight and he started to roll around in the grass. That’s usually a sign he’s getting hot, so we headed back down to the cooling water again.

Rufus was at the lake’s edge about 10 minutes before me, as usual. He splashed about for a while and then I told him we were off tot he car. I set off and when I looked back, there was just a head peering over the bank of the lake. He was very reluctant to leave his favourite spot.

We followed the river down and there was more swimming and splashing and barking and growling all the way. Rufus is intelligent and finds the places where there are stones that can be thrown, He then stands there and if I don’t show any interest, he’ll growl and then bark to attract my attention. He knows that if there are no stones on the bank, its not worth waiting.

Reluctantly, we both climbed into the car for the journey home.

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Dave and Rufus’ lads week day 6 – The lake below the small mountain

Llyn y Fan Fach (the lake below the small mountain) is one of my favourite locations. It’s hard to find – I used to get lost when trying to drive to it because all the lanes around look the same. Even today, as I was driving towards the mountains, I wasn’t sure I was on the right road until I got to the rough track that leads to the little car park. Llyn y Fan Fawr, it’s companion lake just over the far ridge, is easier to drive to although the walk across rough moorland is a little tougher.

We left the car park at about 8.30 and headed up a rough track to a trout farm and beyond it to a dam and a small rescue shelter. It’s a long and steady slog up to the dam, uphill all the way with no respite. Great training. By the time I got to the shelter, Rufus had gone inside to have a look around so I made my way over tot he dam and waited for him. Water fascinates and calls to Rufus, so it was only a matter of moments before he joined me and we had a happy 10 minutes splashing about in the lake. Llyn y Fan Fach is a glacial lake cupped by the mountains of Bannau Sir Gaer. Rufus barking at my lack of stone throwing skills echoed around the mountains and for several minutes, there were many Rufuses all requiring a stone to be thrown.

The path up onto Bannau Sir Gaer starts from the lake, and climbs steadily until it reaches the high point of Picws Du. We set off and the many sheep in our way parted as we moved. Once again, Rufus showed no interest in them and lead the way. We came upon the first of a series of cairns built to indicate the path and lead walkers away from the treacherous edge which was crumbing in places.

It was a grey old day but I could see Foel Fawr, another of our regular hills, in the distance to the west. To the east, as we reached the top of Picws Du, was Fan Brecheiniog. But that wasn’t for today. Later in my training schedule, I’ll be doing the two lakes in one circular walk.

It was windy at the top, and threatening rain, so we turned around and made our way down to the lake again. The steady downhill path was most welcome and we were down in no time. There was many more echoing barks and stones thrown before we set off past the trout farm and back to the car park. There was time for a paddle int he river and a few photos of the wagtails before the rain set in, and we left for home.

Our route.

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Dave and Rufus’ lads week day 3 – Black Rock

After yesterday’s marathon session on the Brecon Beacons, the plan for today was to take things a little easier. We decided to go up to the river and have a splash around in the sun, walking where we felt like at a nice, relaxed pace. And that’s what we did. We had a mini drama on the motorway – someone decided they wanted to be where my car was as I was overtaking and just pulled out but despite having to brake hard, we were ok. Rufus normally slides off the seat but he stayed put this time and we were soon on the A road heading north.

At the river, there was no one else around, although there were a lot of sheep. They tend to move out of the way so we just set off, following the river up towards Llyn y Fan Fawr. But long before we reached the lake, we turned off to skirt the hills along to the south. I followed a path made by countless sheep (Rufus followed a path of his own) and we slowly climbed up the hillside as we went. Before long we were on the crest of the hill and we had fine views down the valley, past the Cerrig Duon stone circle to Craig y Nos and beyond.

We came across a large stream dropping down to the River Tawe in the valley below. I’ve been thinking of camping some time this week, and this made a perfect spot to wild camp. There was flat ground and shelter. We stopped there for a while and Rufus was happy to chase the stones I threw for him. There was a lot of barking to keep me on my toes. Once again, Rufus seemed to understand what I was doing with the camera, and placed himself in front of the lens several times when he thought I wasn’t paying him enough attention.

We followed the river as it dropped down the side of the valley and so we were coming a cross a lot of waterfalls. We’d visited this same tributary before, but we had never climbed this high so the two high waterfalls were new to us. The sun was at a perfect angle to light the face of the rock and the only problem was that the light level was so high that a slow shutter speed was hard to get.

At the Cerrig Duon (it translates as ‘Black Rock’) stone circle, two minibus loads of people were gathered around the stones; some were holding hands, others standing on the stones. One person was balanced on a stone on one foot, hands held above their head. As much as I like to visit stone circles, I am not a stone hugger.

We threaded our was between little groups of sheep and managed to meet the Tawe. We walked and paddled back towards the car, passing more sheep and a small group of horses with foals, resting in the sun. Reluctantly, we climbed into the car for the journey home.

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I think we’ve been here before…

“It’s 4.30am – you do not need to go out right now, Rufus.”

“It’s 4.45am – you still don’t need to go out. When you’re home you don’t go out until 6.30am.”

“It’s 5am, Rufus. You can hold on for a bit.”

“It’s 5.10am. 5 minutes in the garden and then we go back to bed.”

There follows 5 minutes of snuffling, sniffing, exploring in the garden and three drops of wee. Three drops! Grrrr.

There follows another 90 minutes of snuggly warm bed.

After breakfast, we set off for Fan Brechieniog. I decided to follow the same path as last week, as it was interesting and challenging and provided plenty of ascent. The weather was colder – a north-easterly wind blew across the hilltops and chilled me right from the start. Gloves and hat went on straight away. Ahead, the north facing slopes of the mountains were white with snow.

Alas, underfoot it was boggy and marshy and soaking wet. No ice to make the going better. I had decided I wanted to push a bit today and the plan was always to climb Fan Brecheiniog. There was no hanging around on the top of Moel Feity and we bypassed the memorial stone to the crashed bomber crew as we went over the top of the hill and down to the valley between it and Llyn y Fan Fawr.

At the stream in the valley, Rufus found the carcass of a sheep. It had been dead for ages and was little more than a skeleton. Rufus saw a collection of bones but he came when I called him and managed to stay aroma-free. We headed up the sheep trail on the other side and turned to face Fan Foel – the pointy bit at the end of Fan Brecheiniog. We’d be up there soon. There was a long kilometre of slog across open moor with no paths to follow and I was grateful for the good visibility and my familiarity with this route.

All the while Rufus was weaving across my path 50m ahead of me. He’d disappear into a dip and then reappear, checking to see if I was there before heading of to a new scent.  He crested the hill ahead and dipped from view and when I climbed up to it, the view across the lake was spectacular. It was a deep blue and small puffy clouds filled the equally blue sky above. On the right was the mountain. On the shore was Rufus, paw deep in cooling water.

We stopped for our first break and Rufus chased stones while I snacked. Then we made our way along the western shore to the point where the path leads up to the gap between Fan Brecheiniog and Fan Hir. Waiting at the path were a group of about 20 walkers and I decided to let then go first. They set off while Rufus was catching more stones and after I’d given them a few minutes, we went too. But they were slow and the stragglers had barely got above the lake. We passed the first three within a few minutes and caught up with the other just before the gap. They had stopped to rest and were blocking the path quite effectively. Rufus ignored them and pushed past and by the time I got to them they were shifting off the route.

We carried on up to Fan Brechiniog itself, taking it slowly. The wind was much colder now and snow lay in patches everywhere. At the trig point two people were sheltering against the wind and we left them to it. At Fan Foel, the views all around were fantastic and we took a detour to see Llyn y Fan Fach and the Bannau Brecheiniog in the distance. We were beginning to feel the cold now so it was time to head back. On the way, we passed the walking group at the shelter – once again blocking the path with ruck sacks and walking poles.

I used my walking pole to ease the strain on my knee, and it was much better so I felt like going on. Rufus seemed fine and the wind had died down at the gap, so we made our way up the opposite side to Fan Hir. We walked along for about 15 minutes until we got to the summit. Then we turned around to come back down to the lake.

At Llyn y Fan Fawr, we took another break and Rufus caught more stones in mid air. But it was time to go back to the car so off we set down the hill, passing the source of the Tawe and following little streams that would become the river further down. We were both tiring now and the pace slackened a bit. Rufus pulled quite far ahead, always checking now an again to see if I was ok. His head would suddenly pop up from behind a tuft of grass in the distance before dropping out of sight again. We met at the main river crossing and stayed together as we contoured around the side of Moel Feity.

Back home, two tired boys filled their bellies with food and sat in front of the fire, drifting off to sleep.

Today we walked 7.5 miles, climbed 559m, caught 15 stones and dredged another 7 from the lake,  and it took us just under 4 hours.

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Moel Feity

Early start this morning, in the glorious April sunshine, to the hills again. Rufus and I were up before dawn and out of the house as the sun rose so that we could make the most of the cool morning. We headed up to the source of the River Tawe, our starting point for Llyn Y Fan Fawr and Fan Brecheiniog. I still wasn’t sure about my knee – although it’s a lot better I’m not foolish enough to push to far too soon. So the back pack was only 15lbs and I was prepared to vary the route according to circumstances.

We started out on the side of Moel Feity and we climbed steadily up, past the Liberator,( 38753) crash site and on to the summit. It was easy walking and the view at the top was worthy of a few minutes contemplation. Then we headed over and down towards the valley between Moel Feity and Fan Brecheiniog. The sun was getting warm now but the downhill part was easy. I felt the familiar burning sensation in my knee and took it a bit slowly; Rufus, with no such issues, raced ahead to cool his paws in the stream.

Heading up the other side of the valley was ok. I took an indirect path, probably worn smooth by sheep, and made long zig zags up until the ground levelled out. We walked along rough  pathless moor until we finally crested a low hill to see Llyn y Fan Fawr stretching before us. Well, Rufus was there minutes before me and I looked out over a paddling, happy dog in the lake.

We walked around the lake shore and I was trying to decide whether to climb on to Fan Brecheiniog. Common sense got the better of me and I threw stones for Rufus to catch and dredge instead. Then it was time to head back to the car. We made a detour back up to Moel Feity again – this was meant to be a training walk after all – and we sat and watched the clouds go by in the sunshine.

Two tired boys made it back to the car after a little over three hours, and 5.5 miles. (The route)

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It looks like snow, it feels like snow…

And it most certainly was snow.

Rufus and I made our way to the Cerrig Duon valley and the start of the route up to Llyn y Fan Fawr and Fan Brechieniog. I could see the snow on the tops of the mountains around while we were driving up but the roads and fields were clear. No sooner had we turned off onto the narrow lane that winds along the valley, that the snow appeared on the road, trees, bushes and everywhere snow can get. It wasn’t a problem as the temperature was still above zero and the car carried on. Then, in the distance  I spotted another car stopped in the middle of the road. I could see it was stuck on a small hill section, and I stopped behind it, allowing enough room for it to back up if necessary. I spoke to the two guys in it, who were on their way to meet up with others for a walk in the hills. They didn’t know the area and I advised them not to go on if they were getting stuck on such a  small hill. I suggested they back up to the layby where I was, which they did, and their colleagues appeared in cars behind me so I felt okay to leave them and carry on.

We parked up off road and headed down to the river. Everywhere was white. Powdery snow lay up to 6″ in depth but it wasn’t particularly cold so I wasn’t too worried about Rufus, with his short haircut. He was happy, bounding along in the snow and finding new smells all the time. We were the first to have made our way along the route so all the smells were fresh. I could see small tracks in the fresh snow which looked as if they were made by little rodents. Rufus was almost overwhelmed by the choice of aromas.

As we climbed towards the lake, so the visibility dropped as we entered a layer of mist. The temperature dropped too, and the depth of snow increased. Once again, I had that sense of being lost while still knowing where I was (in my mind). I was wary of the last time I thought I knew where I was but I had GPS tracking on and after checking to make sure it was working, we carried on.

The lake loomed as a slightly darker strip above the snow and to the right, a huge shape faded into view. Some one had made a large snowman, more akin to the giant statues on Easter Island. It was roughly human shaped and the snow that made it was criss crossed with grass. By now, Rufus was sinking up to his belly at times and although my original plan was to quickly get to the top of Fan Brecheiniog, it was looking less sensible to try and do so. The path leading up was completely hidden by snow and even though I knew where it should have been, the mist and snow were disorientating. Added to that, there was a cold wind blowing and Rufus was pretty much swimming on the snow it parts. My right knee has been playing up a little and coming down would be no fun with that and all the other hazards. So the decision to turn around was easy.

I’ve never been afraid to turn back, despite being goal driven on the mountains. I would rather get to the top of something, or reach a certain distance, as it gives me incentive and makes me feel good. But I am aware of when to turn back and the goal doesn’t get in the way of that. It’s a very useful bit of safety kit that is worth more than an extra fleece.

Rufus was happy to turn back and he bounced off back down the hill. We followed our own footprints until we left the mist. I threw snowballs for him to chase, which was well appreciated if the barking was anything to go by.  Then we headed onto the slopes of Moel Feity to get a little more exercise out of the day. I’d added 2kg to the back pack today, so I was walking with the same weight as on the Everest Base Camp trek, 7kg (about 15lbs). It felt good. Over the next few weeks I’ll add more – my aim is to be carrying about 10kg regularly, and 15kg on flat long distances.

We were both tired from the hard going through the deep snow, which seemed to hide dips and tufts of grass, so getting back to the car was welcome. Back home, Rufus fell asleep on my lap and there was much snoring and dreaming for the next 90 minutes or so.

Today we did 3.6 miles in 2 hours.

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The wind was cold. That meant the house was cold and when Rufus first tried to persuade me to go out in the garden, at about 5am, I was too cold to even consider it. So he waited until 6am and then used a mixture of charm, insistence, determination and a sloppy tongue to get me to do his bidding. It was, as I suspected, cold out, too. I went straight back to bed and didn’t get up until 7.30.

After breakfast and a haircut (for me), we drove northwards to the start of the path to Llyn y Fan Fawr. It was still cold – the temperature gauge on the car said -1C. But the exercise soon warmed me up and Rufus was wearing his winter coat of thick fur that means he is impervious to the cold. We walked along the flank of Moel Feity, heading towards the mass of Fan Brecheiniog. Climbing this was not our goal today as I’d been having a touch of asthma over the last few days and was feeling a little breathless.

When we reached the river, there was a frozen waterfall and much to Rufus’ dismay, I stopped to take a few photos. We were soon off again, though, and made out way up the final hill and across the boggy marsh. One good thing about these low temperatures is that boggy marshes freeze solid and make the going much easier. The shore of the lake was covered in a thick layer of ice, which Rufus stress tested by walking on it.

We walked around the shore of the lake. Opposite, I could see three large frozen waterfalls on the side of Fan Brechieniog and I wanted to photograph them. I didn’t tell Rufus, of course, or we may never have made it there. Rufus continued to walk on the ice on the lake while I stayed clear. It cracked and creaked and at one point he fell through but the water isn’t deep at the edge so he just made a little splash and looked a little surprised. We stopped for a break and I threw stones for him to chase. He slipped and slid on the ice and fell through again, but he was happy that stones had been thrown.

It was a steep climb to the three frozen waterfalls but it was worth the effort as they were spectacular. The ice reached all the way to the ground and formed a skeletal cave under which some water still fell. The patterns and shapes of ice formed by splashes and spray around the waterfalls were odd and alien. Rufus struggles ont he steep slippery ground and I realised I would too. Sure enough, I slipped on ice hidden under the grass. Rufus used his four paw drive to great effect. I held on, slid, skidded, stopped and scrambled my way down tot he lake side, where Rufus was now waiting for me on a little island.

It was snowing intermittently and I noticed that little balls of ice had formed on Rufus’ paws. I checked him over and they weren’t on his pads so he was able to walk ok. But I couldn’t remove them as they were frozen solid to his fur. The fur on the tips of his ears and belly was also frozen solid but he didn’t seem to notice. But it was time to turn back and so we skirted the rest of the lake and started back down the slope. Well, I did. Rufus wasn’t with me and when I looked back, it was clear by the way he was stood on the edge of the lake that he expected me to throw more stones for him. 10 minutes later, honour satisfied, we were on our way back down the slope to the car.

By the time we reached it, the temperature was down to -2C. It was definitely time to head home.

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Llia, there and everywhere

4.30am garden patrol. Rufus did the checking. All clear, weather good.

I climbed back into the luke warm bed and had a think about where to go this morning. When I woke again to the damp nose of a cocker spaniel eager to get going, I’d had one of those strange, quickie dreams – this one was about climbing Kilimanjaro. While a last minute flight for both of us to Tanzania was out of the question, it put me in the mood for a hill.

Fan Llia is a long ridge rising from the Llia valley running roughly north to south. On the opposite side of the valley is Fan Nedd and Fan Gyhirich. Nestled at the northern end of the valley, near the summit of the road, is Maen Llia, an ancient standing stone that seems to mark the route ahead, as it is aligned with it’s longest edge pointing down the valley. The climb from the car park is relentless but not steep. Unfortunately, the going at the bottom of the hill is very damp, with lots of little trickles of streams flowing down and creating small but awkward ditched to cross. Once you get above a certain level, the ground is much firmer underfoot and so I always try and climb quickly at the start, which makes the route a little tougher than it needs to be.

Rufus and I left the car park at about 8.45am. Two young people (I think one might have been male but it was hard to tell with the hair cut) were in a parked car at the far end. They were trying to look as if nothing was happening, which made it seem as if I’d disturbed them. We left quickly. We didn’t want to spoil their fun. Whatever they were up to it only lasted another 10 minutes, as I heard the signature roar of the boy (or girl) racer tearing off up the road.

We got above the marsh quite quickly and then it was a reasonably rapid march to the ridge and on to the stone cairn. The clouds were beginning to clear as we reached the first stop. In the distances, remnants of mist were trapped in the dips of the surrounding valleys. The cairn isn’t at the highest point of Fan Llia so we set of uphill once more, passing the summit a few minutes later. All around me were my favourite mountains. To my left, Fan Nedd, Fan Gyhirich and beyond them, Fan Brecheiniog and Fan Foel. To my right was Fan Fawr and poking out from its shoulder, Corn Du and Pen y Fan. The sun came out and blue sky dominated the heavens. Even the chill wind stopped.

We walked on for another mile or so, passing ponies and horses grazing on the mountainside. I hadn’t decided where to go from here so we stopped again and had a think. I’ve  wanted to go around to Fan Fawr from here but this would double the distance and time, so we deicided instead to head down to Sarn Helen, the old Roman road through the valley. The drop down was tough underfoot – there were lots more of the little streams and the lower we got, the deeper their ditches became. Finally we dropped on to the road, which was rough and rutted by the streams. But it was easier going than the hillside. It undulated and twisted as it climbed up to enter the valley again, and at points I could see some kind of man made intervention to try and smooth out the surface. I doubt is dated back to Roam times, but this road served as the only route through the valley for many centuries after the Romans left and it was more likely to date back only a few hundred years.

Just before the old road met the new road (which follows the line of the old road for most of the valley), we left and kept to the bank of the River Llia so that we would be in the right place to cross the stile and get back tot he car park. But that was several miles and many stones would have to be thrown into the river before we got back.

Rufus ranged far and wide as we went back, but always popped his head up to make sure I was okay every now and then. He scrambled up and over the stile and then we were back in the car park. But it was far too early to head home, so I dumped the back pack in the boot, grabbed a tripod and we went off to follow the river south for a while. I got some nice infrared shots of the river and Rufus chased sticks I’d thrown for him.

Back home, my coffee went down well and as I’m typing this, there is the just a hint of snoring coming from the sofa on which is a tired dog.

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