Fan Nedd

Early start this morning. If Rufus had had his way, we would have been out of the front door at 6am but I was feeling a little under the weather and welcomed the lie-in until 6.45. After breakfast, we set off to the foot of Fan Nedd. It’s a relatively small hill from the road but like several in the area, can be extended by using different routes up and around. Today we chose the short route.

I could see the mist covering the hill tops so I knew this was going to be damp. I wasn’t expecting the wind at the top, and the cold. I guess winters is not far off! We took it easy going up but Rufus soon tired of the slow pace and raced ahead. I trudged up the faint path as the visibility dropped and the wind picked up. One benefit of the mist is that you can’t see how far is left or how steep it is. I was surprised when the ground began to level off and looking up, I saw the cairn. Standing next to it was Rufus, making sure I was on my way.

We sheltered behind the cairn for a few minutes had had snacks, drinks and a couple of photos. Then it was off across the top of the hill to the true summit about 300m away. A trig point marks this and recently, Rufus has decided that cairns and trig points are really indicators that a treat is required. I’ve noticed how he rushes to them and then doubles back to make sure I’m walking as fast I he thinks I should.

We walked on a little further to another, smaller cairn (treat marker) before turning back for the car. The wind was blowing into my face now and I hadn’t realised how strong it was. And the fine drizzle I found easy to ignore on the way up now completed misted up my glasses. Nevertheless, I was easily able to identify the cairns and trig points by the big black Spaniel waiting patiently besides them.

The big test today, though, was the descent to the car. It’s short but steep, like the last mountain, and slippery underfoot. I started down a little apprehensive but soon got into the stride of it. Until I slipped and landed hard on my bad knee. But it was fine (and still is as I write). In fact the whole downhill bit was okay and added to my growing confidence in pushing my knee again.

It was far too soon to go home (according to Rufus) so after dropping the back pack off in the car, we walked down to Maen Llia, the standing stone at the head of the Llia valley, and the river beyond. Rufus urged me to follow him to the river by jogging back and forth along the path. I had stopped to take a few photos of the standing stone in the mist but I got the message and followed him down to the stream. Many stones later, we trudged back to the car, soaked by contentedly tired.

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Twin Peaks

Rain is no excuse for postponing training walks. Nor is it an excuse for not patrolling the garden at 5am. The rain was steady and the birds singing despite it this morning and even the sun was sheltering from the rain first thing. But I went back to bed for two hours and by the time we were ready to leave… it was still raining. A drizzle that threatened to stay all day.

We set off for Fan Llia in the drizzle, passing through patches of dry weather and even a hint of blue sky through the grey cloud. But by the time we were driving along the narrow lane that led to the forestry car park, the drizzle had turned to proper rain. But it was okay because Rufus likes the water and I was cocooned in waterproof clothing. So off we went.

The first part of the walk, up to the stile, is a gravel path and easy enough to negotiate. The stile itself is a nasty one for dogs as the top crossbar is a double strip of wood with a gap big enough to trap a paw between them. I was very careful with Rufus but he was fine getting over it. Then comes the marsh. We start off at the foot of Fan Llia and all the water running off the hill gathers here. There are several footpaths, all equally muddy and soft. But once beyond that, the going gets quite good with a choice of routes angling up the hill.

Today I had to weave between paths to avoid little groups of sheep, who all seemed intent on walking towards us in order to get away. Rufus was on the lead (he doesn’t chase sheep unless they run – it’s an instinct for him) and it took a little forward planning to get through. But soon we were past the sheep layer and we had the hill to ourselves. About this time, the drizzle finally stopped and very quickly the wind dried us both off, giving Rufus a lovely set of curls.

We climbed up onto the ridge of the hill and plodded steadily on for the cairn of stones that marks the summit. We reached it in about 45 minutes and stopped to get some shelter from the wind and to have a drink and snack break.

Then it was time to move on and we continued on our way along the line of the Llia valley northwards. By now, patches of blue sky were beginning to appear through the cloud cover, which still obscured the mountains a round us: We seemed to be in a little island of sun. We walked on towards Fan Dringarth, which we passed without really knowing we’d got there. The only feature of this secondary summit was a disused quarry, overgrown with grass and sheep. All around were familiar hill tops; Pen y Fan and Corn Du, Fan Fawr, Fan Nedd, Fan Gyhirich and, in the distance, Fan Brecheiniog and Moel Feity – our theatre last week.

We walked on along the ridge, enjoying the warmth now the sun was finally out. In the end, our progress was brought to a halt by a stone wall and fence, and beyond a steep drop the the valley below. After a brief stop, we set off back along the ridge again, heading towards low cloud and rain crossing our path. I guessed we’d get damp by the cairn; it was only a few minutes after we got there that a short but sharp shower blew in.

We survived, and the wind soon dried us off so that when we got to the car, we were both comfortable and ready for more. So we spent half an hour in the river, me throwing stones and Rufus catching them.

Back home, we both needed a shower and as I type, we both smell fresh and slightly damp.

This is our route – 11km, 368m climb, 3 hours.

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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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