The wrong turn and the wrong river

Breaking news: The Tour de France took a wrong turn! To find out more, read on.

An early start for Fan Nedd was the order of the day, so that we could take advantage of the cooler temperatures. Neither of us are fans of really hot weather, and for walking on the hills, the cooler the better. So we left the house before 8am heading up the Swansea Valley to turn off at Crai and make our way through the winding, narrow lanes up to the little car park at the foot of the hill. But at the turn off to the valley, a bright yellow sign proclaimed that Sarn Helen was closed, with no explanation. I was annoyed, as there were no signs on the main road and we’d driven for about 15 minutes before reaching the first sign. But I was also amused, as the concept of the main Roman road linking north and south Wales being closed was funny. You can imagine the conversation… “Sorry, Julius, it’s closed.”

So we turned around and drove back and by the time I’d reached the main road again, I’d decided to head for Llyn y Fan Fawr. Rufus relaxed in the back and although he’s comfy in there, I don’t like to drive for longer than I have to with him as it can’t be much fun. So after we’d passed several parking spots, helpfully blocked off by single cars, we found our favourite spot and set off.

It was a lovely morning with sun and blue sky and a few fluffy white clouds. The wind kept the temperature down and I wondered if I should have brought my gloves. But I soon warmed up. Rufus relished the open air and bounded off in all directions. We passed, at a respectful distance, several horses and two tiny foals as we made our way along the flanks of Moel Feity up towards the lake. Fan Brecheiniog was looking tempting and by the time we’d reached the lake, I’d decided to head on up. It was still relatively cool and Rufus was looking up for it.

We made slow but steady progress to the bwlch and then plodded up the final steep part to the ridge and the trig point. The views were spectacular in the clear morning air. I had an idea that we should head down into the bwlch and go in search of an aeroplane crash site I’d visited a few years ago. A deHaviland Vampire hit the side of the hill there, killing the pilot and destroying the plane. We set off across the moorland, much tot he annoyance of the birds who tried to distract us. But keeping one eye on the ground for nests and one eye on Rufus (in case he found a nest) we made it down to the little valley between Fan Brecheiniog and Fan Hir.

I remembered the wreckage as being on the side of a little river and so we walked along the bank; me up on the top so I could see ahead and Rufus in the water. After about 15 minutes, there was no wreckage in sight and I was beginning to doubt myself. We stopped at a little pool and while Rufus paddled and chased stones, I sat and ate a snack. It was a lovely little place, sheltered and dry and I made a mental note of it in case we come wild camping in this area.

It was beginning to warm up now so I decided that rather than go looking for the plane, we’d head back and return another day. We set off towards the foot of Fan Hir to make best use of the dry path there and as we reached it, I looked back to see the glinting metal of the plane further down the valley, on the bank of a different river. We’d followed the wrong river (checking the map later there were two parallel streams invisible from each other). It was too far to go to and beat the heat, so we set off for the lake instead.

 

150,000 stones later, we dropped down from the lake and followed the marshy, muddy ground back to the car, passing the two foals with their older relatives enjoying the sunshine. At the car, we were both glad to get in and cool off with the air conditioning.

When we got down to the main road, it was full of cyclists. Fortunately, they were all heading in the opposite direction to me and so they didn’t hold me up. I felt sorry for the motorists on their side of the road as there were groups of cyclists for the next five miles or so. I was convinced that I’d stumbled upon the Tour de France. Cyclists in multi coloured jerseys and with a multitude of different bikes struggled up the hills and freewheeled down again. I didn’t envy them at all. It turns out that this was the Wiggle Dragon Ride 2015 and many of the riders were competing over a 300 mile course. Rather them than me.

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Return of the sheep

A crisp and clear morning, the last day of the festive holiday and a hound that knows what he wants. All these meant only one thing; a morning on the hills.

This time last year (expect more of that phrase in the coming weeks) I was into the last phase of training for my trek. One of my favourite routes was up and over Moel Feity before dropping down to the source of the River Tawe. From there, I would climb back up to Llyn y Fan Fawr and on to Fan Brecheiniog. This morning I decided to take the same route, although we would stop short of Fan Brecheiniog itself.

We set off from the car and immediately, my boots were soaked. Yesterday’s rain was still lying on the ground in great puddles, small streams and marsh. We splashed our way around and up the side of Moel Feity, spiralling along sheep paths in the cold wind until we reached the flat top. The wind blew even stronger and colder but it was great to be on a familiar hilltop again.

We crossed westward to the memorial to the crashed US Navy Liberator and spent a few moments tidying up before heading on towards Llyn y Fan Fawr. The top of Moel Feity has a number of tracks, some made by quad bikes, some made by sheep. But we decided to make out own to avoid the worst of the water. But it was an impossible task, so eventually I just accepted that I’d get wet. Rufus loves the water anyway and it never bothers him. He criss crossed my path, checking out the scents and aromas.

We dropped off the hill and down to the young River Tawe, which was flowing healthily this morning. Then it was another climb up to the lake through even more boggy ground until we crested a small mound to find the clear blue water ahead. Rufus was off like a shot and headed straight to the spot we used to stop and rest at during the training last year. The lake was full after the rain and it was only just possible to sit on the rocks.

Little waves covered the surface of the water and as eddy’s of wind spun off the steep side of Fan Brecheiniog, they created moving patterns on the surface of the water. The sun shone on the lake and high above us I could hear the echo of two walkers shouting to each other as they traversed the ridge to Fan Foel.

We spent a short time taking in the view and enjoying the solitude before reluctantly leaving for the dry comfort of the car.

The route down was easier, but wetter, if that was possible. Every tuft of grass seemed to conceal a small pool. As we passed through patches of reeds, I could only tell where Rufus was by the splash of this paws in the water. We crossed the Tawe a little further down the hill and although it was only 18 inches or so wide, it was deep and flowing fast even here. On the opposite bank there were several paths visible in the distance on the side of Moel Fiety. I knew from experience that each contoured around the hill at different heights. But which one to take?

Ultimately, it wouldn’t matter as they all led to the general vicinity of the car. Of course, I picked the only one that faded out after a hundred yards and turned into a marsh. The last mile was splashed and squelched, although Rufus seemed to avoid the worst of it.

We popped over a small ridge to find several wild horses sheltering from the wind. Both Rufus, I and the horses were surprised and for a few moments  we stood and stared at each other. The horses remained calm, Rufus came back to me to see what I wanted him to do and we walked past them with little disturbance.

With the car in sight, we came across a small flock of sheep. Their winter coats made them look much larger than normal and they all looked up as one to see what we were. I put Rufus on the lead and we slowly walked past. When I turned to look at them again, they were all following us. It was an odd thing to see as sheep usually head in the opposite direction to us. But for about a minute, they were content to tag along, almost within touching distance. At any moment, I expected a lunge from them as they sought to steal Rufus’ treats.

But we managed to escape their evil clutches, and got to the car in one piece.

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Moel Feity

We had a lie in this morning. Rufus didn’t shove his nose in my face until 6.30. I let him out in the garden and he ran around like a possessed hound after some scent from the night before. I was half tempted to go back to bed, but it was such a gorgeous morning that it seemed a shame to waste it.

Breakfast over, we set out for the hills. Moel Feity has featured here many times before. Today, under a cloudless blue sky, we set off up the slope towards the summit. I was hoping to visit the WW2 crash site of the US PB4Y that I’ve been to a few times. I wanted to see that it had survived the winter storms.

There was a cold wind blowing but the effort of climbing the hill warmed me up. Rufus was slow to start with, working the cobwebs out from his limbs. We’ve been a bit sedentary recently and he hasn’t been well. But once he’d warmed up, he was off and there was no stopping him. Every pool, every puddle and even some that hadn’t seen water for a week were investigated and paddled in.

It didn’t take us long to get to the top, but once again I’d missed the crash site. It’s marked by a low white stone and a few scraps of wreckage and it’s hard to see in the undulating terrain. I wasn’t too worried; we’d run across it on the way back. Instead, I kept going north over the flatter top of the hill until I could see the green belt of farmland beyond the hills. Rufus managed to find a large pool and I managed to find the only stone for miles around that was suitable for Rufus to chase into the water. Seconds later, he was investigating the depth and found it was up to his tummy.

We set off back down the hill and very quickly came across the memorial stone. I tidied up a couple of the rocks on the cairn and set the cross I’d left back up again. The first time I came up this hill, I came across a second cairn, made from more bits of wreckage. I came across it again today, about 50 yards down the hill. There is a lot of small pieces of aluminium, including quite a bit that seems to have melted. I picked up a bit that had been moved uphill, and this appeared to have signs of charring on it. I tidied this pile up as well and then we carried on down the hillside towards the river.

Rufus, with his gift of sensing water from great distances, was already way ahead of me and waiting at the river bank. When I stopped to take some photos of the waterfalls, I was reminded of my obligation to throw stones by the traditional bark and whine. Many stones later, we climbed into the car and it turned out to be my turn to drive again. Rufus flopped out ont he back seat and didn’t wake until we pulled up outside the house.

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600 hours

600 hours to go to my trek. 25 sleeps!

It was important to get a walk in today, regardless of the weather. Fortunately, it wasn’t too bad and equally fortunately, Rufus was keen to come along .

Keen to come along? I was warm and cosy in my home, hangin’ with me bro’s in front of the fire. There was the delicious smell of home made soup in the kitchen and I was fairly confident that with a little application of puppy dog eyes, I’d get some. Then he turned up and one slip, just one wag of the tail, sealed my fate. Before I knew it I was in the back of the car listening to the wind howling outside.

We drove to the foot of Moel Feity. The plan was to go straight to the top and then drop down to the river, climb back to the top again and head back to the car. Plenty of ascent in a compact walk so that if the predicted storms did turn up, we wouldn’t be far from the car.

He pretty much dragged me out of the car. I would have been happy to wait in the relative warmth for him to come back, but oh no! I had to go. Once I was out and braced for the cold, it wasn’t too bad. There were plenty of things to investigate and, of course, I had to keep an eye on him to make sure he didn’t wander off.

We spiralled our way up the side of the mountain. By the time we got to the top, the wind was blowing. All around, the tops of the higher hills were shrouded in mist and the drizzly rain there threatened to drop down and envelope us, too. It was dark as well. We’d started out later today, so it was getting nearer to sunset than we’re normally used to.

When I faced into the wind, my ears flapped backwards and made me look slick and streamlined.

We meandered around the top of the hill for a bit, seeking the highest points, before we made our way down to the river. Once there, I threw stones for Rufus and he carefully retrieved each one from the water. We were sheltered from the wind in the little river cutting but eventually we had to leave. The wind had picked up quite a bit and as we climbed back up the side of Moel Feity, it was blowing from just behind. It helped push me up but before long the direction changed again and it was trying to blow me off course. It made the going harder.

Don’t listen to him – he’s trying to make it sound hard. I ran up the hill, jogged back down, ran around him several times, headed off to a particularly interesting scent and back again while he was huffing and puffing his way up.

At the top, we turned to face the wind again, and headed across the featureless moorland before dropping back down towards the car. On the way, I passed a strange looking ring of stones, low in the grass. It looked like a hollowed out barrow; it was too small to be a sheep fold or a permanent shelter. At the southern end was a larger upright stone. It didn’t look ancient so I’m guessing it was a small temporary shelter of some kind.

It was just a bunch of stones. No big deal.

At the car, we were both still feeling energetic, so we drove a little way down the road and stopped so that we could climb up to the standing stone above the road. It’s a short but steep climb and I wanted to get some more ascent in today in case tomorrow proves to be too stormy. Rufus cleared the stile with a little help from me and we started off up the hill.

A little help from him? Unasked for, I must say! The balancing act on the top of the stile was just that! An act! And a good one!

We reached the standing stone in no time despite deep, boggy mud underfoot. Still feeling good, we set off to climb to the top of the hill. The wind was now almost as strong as it had been last week and it was getting harder and harder to battle against it. Great training!

I was as slick in the wind as ever.

At the top, visibility wasn’t good but I could just make out Crai reservoir in the distance. Down below, beyond the standing stone, was my car. It was quicker going down and after negotiating the stile…

…in some style, I should add! Style… ha ha!…

… we got back to the car still dry. I dropped Rufus off just as the proper rain started.

It was great to get back to me homies who were keeping my bed nice and warm.

This was the route we did today.

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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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PB4Y 38753

Last year, Rufus and I visited the site of a crashed Lancaster on Garn Las. Today, Remembrance Sunday, we decided to visit another site we had discovered on our travels. On 24 August 1944, a US Navy Liberator bomber was on night exercise when it hit the top of Moel Feity. All the crew were killed. The crew were Lts Byrnes and Hobson Jr, Ens Manelski, ARM Shipe and AMMs Holt Jr and Keister. If any of their relatives are reading this, you should know that there are a number of poppies laid here during the year; people continue to remember. The weather may sometimes scatter them but the sacrifice these men made is not forgotten.

The site is remote. It’s not visible from the road or from any of the sheep tracks that skirt the top of the hill. The first time I went looking for the site was in heavy rain, and both Rufus and I got drenched without coming anywhere near it. The first time we found it, it was almost by accident. This time I had an idea where to look but I started to doubt my own direction sense. However, just as I was about to turn back to try and find it on the next hillock, the white stone appeared on the horizon.

It’s a beautiful setting on a fine morning, as it was this morning. It’s a poignant place, too because you can see how close the plane was to missing the top of the hill. I replaced the wreath on the little cairn, placed my own poppy, on a wooden cross, and stood for a few minutes. Rufus, as usual, was well behaved and didn’t complain as he usually does when I stop walking for any length of time.

Then it was on to the lake. The weather was wonderful this morning and although there was a cold wind now and again, the sun was strong and warm. Underfoot was a different matter, however, as all the recent rain had clearly collected on the route I was taking. Many times my boots disappeared completely under water and only the recent waterproofing I applied kept my feet dry. I tried to push the pace up the hillside towards the lake to try out my knee. Before long, Rufus, who had run ahead as usual, appeared on the crest of the hill to see where I was. He alternated between looking off into the distance and looking at me. That usually means he’s seen something he wants to go to but he knows I’ll probably tell him no. As I crested the hill, I saw that he was staring longingly at the lake. He’s learnt some hand signals while we’ve been walking, and when I waved him on, he shot off to the water’s edge.

We sat in the  heat of the sun at the lake shore and snacked. Rufus cooled his paws, I took photos and marveled at the weather. We set off around the edge of the lake and on towards the path up to Fan Brecheiniog. At 11am, I stood for a few minutes as part of the 2 minute silence. Rufus, unsure what was going on, reminded me that it was time to go and at 11.02, we went. It took us 21 minutes to climb from the lake to the ridge of Fan Brecheiniog. It always looks harder than it is and I’ve learnt to ignore my first impressions and just estimate the time it will take. It helps tackle the steep parts.

On top, we bumped into several walkers and dogs taking advantage of the lovely weather.  We made our way along the ridge with magnificent views in all directions. This is one of my favourite places in the Brecon Beacons. In the distance, the trophy summits of Pen y Fan and Corn Du stuck out on the horizon and I still get a buzz getting to the top of Pen y Fan. But for me, the empty, isolated ridge of Fan Brecheiniog is so much better .

We walked out to the burial cairn on Fan Foel before reluctantly turning around and heading back. I’m still getting used to the walking pole and so coming down was slower than I would have liked. But it was definitely easier on the knees. At the bottom, Rufus was waiting for me at the lake shore and there were a few stones thrown and caught before we splashed and slurped our way across the boggy marsh and down to the river.

We skirted the side of Moel Feity, avoided horses and foals, splashed through fast flowing streams, got muddy and finally reached the car a little less that four hours after we’d left.

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4½ hours

Having taken it easy all week, it was time to get back out on to the hills. Housemaid’s Knee or no, I have to get back on track with the training as the weeks are counting down fast. It’s around 8 weeks to the start of my attempt to climb Kilimanjaro. Check out my just giving page and add a little to the total for Cancer Research.

Yesterday, Rufus and I went for a stroll down by the river. I wanted to give my knee a try out before tackling a long distance hike, so we headed off to the river and Moel Feity – a small hill just to the north of it. We’ve done Moel Feity before, as apart of the Three Summits walk we did a while back. This time, it was my goal and we took out time getting there.  I haven’t seen Rufus for a while and he was obviously happy to be out and about. He kept stopping to wait for me on the track as we walked along. At the top of the hill, we had a play fight and a snack. And then another play fight.

We headed down the slope and as soon as Rufus spotted the river, he was off. Every now and then I saw a little black dot bounding through the tufts of grass or sheep bolting in either direction. But Rufus was intent only on getting to the water and sheep were not on his radar. By the time I joined him,  he was ankle deep in the stream, waiting patiently for me to start throwing stones in. The next 30 minutes or so was taken up with slowly making our way along the river, dredging or catching stones. Then, reluctantly, we had to turn away from the river to head back to the car.

Today, Rufus didn’t join me as the longer distances put a lot of strain on his paws. He tends to go at 110% all the time and is not the best at pacing, a bit like me!

At this stage I’m meant to be doing between 5 and 6 hours of walking, with plenty of ascent and descent and all the gear. As you may gather from the title, I didn’t quite get there.  But it wasn’t from lack of trying. One of my problems in the past has been going off too fast (typical bloke) so part of the training has been trying to get into the habit of maintaining a realistic pace that lets me walk without having to take too many breaks. So I got the pace right today, but the route was just too short. It was the same route as two weeks ago as I wanted to make sure my knee was okay and I knew I could turn back at any time.  But I had the option of an extra stretch at the end which I thought might do the trick.  It wasn’t enough, and the path dropped steeply after that which would have put too much strain on the knee.

I started out in the dry but by the time I’d climbed to the ridge, I could see the rain clouds coming in from the west. I watched one dark one closing, the rain visible beneath it, and all I could do was wait for the inevitable soaking. Which was cold and wet and uncomfortable. But it was over quickly and I carried on under blue sky and drying hot sun. It rained several more times during the outward part of the hike but the sun quickly dried me off again. Sitting on the edge of the hill at Fan Foel, I watched a heavy storm make it’s way towards Sennybridge to the north. I tucked in to my corned beef pasty in the sunshine.

I could see more clouds forming in the west and they looked as if they were heading for me so I turned around and headed back along the ridge. Sure enough, I’d just dropped down in the cwm between Fan Brechioniog and Fan Hir, the heavy rain started. I was a little concerned that it might be a thunder storm as the cloud was dark and the rain drops large. Then I started to get pelted with hail stones. They stung my face and hands and I turned my back to them. I waited for a few minutes for the storm to pass and was rewarded by seeing the line of hail sweep over me, I watched the storm cross the valley and over the next hill. I was drenched, but the sun and wind dried me off as I started on the final part of the walk.

The down hill part was the bit the doctor said had caused my knee problems, so I’d brought along a walking pole and I was relying on it to take a lot of the impact on the joints. Sure enough, although I was slower going down, the burning sensation from the last time I descended here did flare up and I got to the bottom feeling pretty good. Then it was an easy walk alongside the river and back to the car.

Now all I have to do is figure out a longer 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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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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