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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I’m on holiday. Not your run of the mill Bank holiday plus one day stuff. This is real holiday material. Two whole weeks (yes, two). This means several things:

  1. The weather will get worse and we will have the worst May 8th to May 18th on record, followed by the warmest, sunniest June known to man.
  2. I have no excuses not to do the jobs around the house and in the garden that need doing but can be effectively put off by chanting ‘I’m tired from work’ or ‘I need daylight to do that’.

So, in order to deal with 1 and put off 2, I spent the day on the hills (to take advantages of the sunny and warm morning). Rufus and I set off from the car at about 10.30, heading first to the River Tawe (more like a stream with dreams  at this point, so close to its source) and we followed it up to Llyn y Fan Fawr. As mentioned in several other posts, this is out favourite body of water and Rufus knows when we’re getting close. He disappears at that point, and several minutes later I arrive to find him ankle deep in the cooling water waiting for me to throw him a stone. Ahh, if only it was just the one!

No difference today. He was grateful for the chance to cool off as the sun was warmer than I expected. There was enough of a breeze to keep my temperature down to a comfortable level, but Rufus does twice the distance I do with his running around and coming back to check on me/see if I’ll give him a treat (I like to think the former but the truth is probably the latter). So he needs more cooling down.

After a snack break, we trudged up the slope on the side of Fan Brecheiniog, scattering sheep before us as we went. Rufus was great and didn’t chase them Probably because he was wisely saving his energy for the rest of the hike. As we climbed, the breeze died away and for a few minutes it was a lovely summer’s day. The views east to Fan Gyhyrich, Fan Nedd, Corn Du and Pen y Fan were splendid, with the peaks all in sunshine. We’ve done all of those several times and one of the things I like about Fan Brecheiniog is that once at the top, I can look east and west to see mountains and hills I’ve walked. It gives a sense of scale and place that can’t be experienced from looking at a map.

On top of the mountain, the wind picked up and despite the sun I had to put my gloves on as my fingers were getting very cold. We walked along the ridge line, fabulous views either side, until we got to the cairn at the pointy bit of Fan Brecheiniog. We took another water and snack break and Rufus and I indulged in some play fighting. I couldn’t believe that after the climb, he was still able to race off and then charge at me at full pelt, jinking at the last minute and turning to ‘attack’. I love watching him play like this as it’s obvious he’s really enjoying himself. Of course, so am I!

We went on a bit further as I wanted to take some photos of the Neolithic cairn on the top of Fan Foel. If your read my Nant Tarw blog (and if you didn’t, leave your apology and excuse in the comments box below) you’ll know that this is part of a complex set of monuments that make up a ritual landscape. But this cairn, at over 2,500 feet, is by far the most magnificent. It overlooks the whole valley and from here you could spot every other monument when they were complete. It must have been a fantastic experience to see this valley. Whoever was buried in this cairn must have had status.

We headed south from the cairn and instead of going back down to the lake (despite all the protests Rufus could muster) we went on to Fan Hir. A short detour but I was enjoying being on the mountain so much I wanted to make the most of the weather. I sat on a rock and drank in the views of hills and woods and ridges and streams while Rufus had a good look around.

Finally, we went back down to the lake. Rufus was there before me as usual and I spent ages throwing stones for him. Today, he wanted to catch them so he was leaping up out of the water, soaking me every time he kicked his front paws out to gain height. Suddenly it was time to go back tot he car. Darker clouds were coming in from the south west. Last time we were here, we got drenched, so I decided to to make for the car. By the time we climbed in, we were both tired but happy. It’s good to be back on top again. I’ve missed it.

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