4 hours

A day off these days means a day of hard work. This fortnight, I have to get in at least three 4 hour walks but I intend do fit in as many as I can. So, with Rufus comfortable on the back seat, we set off for Llyn y Fan Fach. It’s a long drive and we were bored by the time we reached the lanes leading to the car park. I hate driving along the single track roads but fortunately, we encountered nothing more than a couple of bold finches before we finally bounced and splashed our way down the track to the car park.

It didn’t take long to get set and head off and we weren’t bothered by the sheep, who scattered out of our way long before we reached them. One hid below the path but Rufus found her. She ran and in a display of self control Rufus just trotted back onto the path and ignored her.

By the time we reached the lake, the visibility had dropped and we were walking in the clouds. After a brief stop for stones and paddling, we set off along what looked like the right path up the side of the mountain. Although I was carrying 13kg today, it didn’t feel too bad. I guess the gym and other training I’m doing is paying off. As we climbed, the visibility dropped, but so did the temperature so the humidity we’d started in disappeared and it felt comfortable. There was a strong wind blowing over the lip of the drop down to the lake.

The climb was fairly constant – ideal for training – and continued until we reached the cairn at Picws Du. We stopped there for snacks and a rest before heading back down. Rufus was happy – we were heading back tot he lake and more paddling opportunities. On the way we passed a lone walker who remarked that we were fools to be on a mountain in these conditions and we both laughed. Later, we passed a group of Duke of Edinburgh award candidates, loaded down with all the gear and up for any challenge.

As we dropped down the clouds lifted and there was a hint of blue sky. At the lake, it was warm and clear and we spent 10 minutes or so splashing about. Then, with a promise to Rufus of a visit to the river, we walked down the track and back to the car.

After dropping the pack off, I took Rufus back up to the river and while he paddled and swam after the stones I threw him, I took some photos of the waterfalls. Tired, we called it a day and drove back down the track. At the end, where it becomes a road again, I was stopped by a farmer who asked if I would wait while her sheep were brought down the lane. To have gone on would have meant getting blocked and disturbing the sheep. So I waited, and we chatted. They were moving their sheep from pastures several miles away to the farm near the lake and this flock were new ewes and lambs, so they didn’t know where they were going. Once the sheep had passed, she thanked me and I drove on. Not 10 minutes later, I was stopped by another farmer, this time herding cows across the road. Again we waited a few minutes and then were able to carry on.

We were glad to get home, to eat and to finally be able to put our feet up. Rufus was flat out asleep on my lap as soon as I’d finished dinner and stayed there for a couple of hours, snoring, dreaming and then squirming to make himself more comfy.

Today we did 11km and climbed more than 600m in around 4 hours.

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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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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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Llyn y Fan Fach

Llyn y Fan Fach means ‘Small lake beneath the hilltop’. Hundreds of years ago, the story goes, a shepherd fell in love with a fairy from beneath the waters of the lake. They married against all odds but he had to promise that he wouldn’t strike her more than three times., Of course, he did and she disappeared beneath the water again, leaving the shepherd to bring up his three sons on his own. The sons became the first of the famous Physicians of Myddfai.

I love this little lake but I’m not so keen on the approach through narrow lanes, then narrower lanes and finally a rough farm track with huge potholes and large protruding rocks. The one good thing is that very few people will come across the little car park by accident and the area will remain unspoilt. Walking up the path, past the fish farm, it was quite noticeable and very welcome that there was a complete lack of litter.

At the dam, we sat and had coffee while Rufus scampered about, dipping his paws in the water despite it being very cold. Last time we were all here, it was blowing a gale and we turned back from the top of Picws Du as icy sleet was blowing in our faces. We ended up taking refuge in the rescue shelter by the dam. This time the weather was much kinder.

After a short break, we carried on up until we reached the top of the mountain. By now the ground was white with frost and the wind had turned decidedly sharp and bitter. The sun was going down to our right but the views from the top were magnificent., The air was clear and the visibility went on for miles.

Then it was time to go and we made short work of the descent. A quick coffee at the dam and before long we were back at the car. The track was just as rough going in the opposite direction.

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