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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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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Day of Reckoning

Yesterday, Rufus and I climbed Fan Brecheiniog. It’s one of my favourite mountains for a number of reasons; the views, the terrain, the airy ridge walk. It’s quiet, too. But yesterday was about testing my knee on a proper mountain, both up and down again. The steep final uphill sections were ideal for that. Going up was a test of fitness. Coming down checked out the strength of the knee itself.

The weather was pretty awful with heavy rain on the drive to the start of the walk, and drizzle when we set off. But then the sun tried to break through and I saw little breaks of blue sky.  When we started to climb up to the lake, we walked into cloud and more damp conditions. Underfoot, the ground was soaked by the recent heavy rain and everywhere there were new streams and rivulets forming waterfalls. Rufus was spoilt for choice over where to paddle.

At the lake, the mist swirled and cleared before blanketing us again as the wind took it. After a short stone throwing break, we started on the path up the side of the mountain. The rocks were slippery underfoot and the wind and rain started again. Not the most enjoyable time I’ve had climbing this route. Even Rufus, normally racing ahead, took it easy. I could feel my lack of fitness as we neared the top of the first bit. I was out of breath and ready for a rest. A minute or so took care of that and soon we were on our way again towards the second steep bit.

Although short, this bit is very steep and the rocks that form the path are always slippery. In the cold or wet, they become worse and today was no exception. There is usually a wind from the south east through the bwlch and that didn’t disappoint either. It took less that 5 minutes of careful footfall to get over the worst of the slope and to reach the welcome stone slabs that form the path to the summit and trig point. The mist was thick here and the wind blew heavy drizzle into our faces but we carried on (this makes us sound like Arctic adventurers – there is no comparison, of course). The trig point has recently been painted white so it was invisible in the mist until we nearly bumped into it.

We carried on northwards to the end of the ridge. There were no views this time but I wanted to get the extra distance in. With little more than a pause to get our bearings, we headed back along the ridge to the descents. I was using my walking pole this time and took it easy. I was very conscious of my knee but tried not to favour it – I wanted this to be a fair test. The first descent, slippery and steep, was over quickly and Rufus decided to leave me behind as I was clearly slowing him up. By the time I got to the second, longer descent he was no where to be seen and I spent a few anxious moments looking for him. He appeared over the crest of a low hill, charging towards me and wondering why I was making a fuss of him.

The second, longer descent was going to be the real tester, and I started off a little nervous of what would happen. As I went down, it became clear that my knee was fine; there was no pain and not even the burning sensation i sometimes get on descents.  Of course, the walking pole helped and I’ll be using this all the time now. But I was pleased that there were no unexpected creaks and groans from the joint.

By the time I’d got to the bottom of the path, Rufus was already at the lake waiting for stones to be thrown, so we spent 15 minutes of so splashing about in the water. Neither of us were going to get any wetter than we already were.  Then we headed down, out of the cloud and into the occasional drizzle as we followed the many new streams down to the young River Tawe, and eventually the car.

There was lots of snowing on the sofa as I watched TV that evening.

Today, we went for a shorter stroll on Cefn Bryn. The weather was completely different to yesterday and the sun was warm on the hillside was we wandered through the undergrowth. This was the second part of my knee test – how would it feel on the day after a mountain? The answer was fine! The slight ache that I woke up with soon disappeared as we walked along and although the going wasn’t as harsh and testing as yesterday, we still climbed the best part of 100m and walked more than 5km.

I think I’ll be booking the trek to climb Kilimanjaro tomorrow.

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Lookin’ good (by Rufus)

One tries one’s best. I have to look good for all the appearances I make in the media (mostly on here) so every now and then I visit my stylist. We discuss the latest look and what we can do to improve on it. I like to be a trend setter rather than a trend follower. Today, I made such a visit.

Dave was all excited at the prospect, even though he wouldn’t be there for the important stuff (and it goes without saying that I wouldn’t let him have a say in any styling issues – have you seen his hair?) He was good enough to drive me there, though. We stopped off at White Rock on the way so he could get a few minutes exercise. He wittered on about historic significance, industrial revolution and navigable waterways. Sometimes he can be a little boring but I’m polite and say nothing.

He dropped me off at the stylist and headed off do do some stuff. (He told me later that he had coffee, went shopping for bathroom tiles and food, then headed off to Scott’s Pit in Birchgrove, which is some sort of… thing, before picking me up again). Meanwhile, I decided on a sleek, modern look given that the weather has been so mild of late. It’s also quick to dry and now the rain has arrived, that’s as important as looking good.

The plan for tomorrow is to walk a proper mountain. If Dave’s knee doesn’t fall off and the weather isn’t too wet for him.

Dave has supplied the photos below, and the captions. I apologise.

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Dodging the rain

Dave:  A day off! Wake up late. Well, wake up at the usual time because it’s become a habit. Then doze and have strange dreams about being lost in the car park of a fictional out of town shopping centre. Then get up late. Breakfast. Grab a camera and head off to call for Rufus so we can explore the river before the rain comes. The weather forecast said we had until about 12.30.

Rufus: I am told Dave is coming over this morning. I’m trying to remain cool but it’s hard to concentrate on things like breakfast when I know I will have the responsibility of making sure he doesn’t fall in the water or make a fool of himself some other way.

Dave: The traffic isn’t as bad as I expected until I hit the lane, when it becomes like a London street. Nevertheless, I make it on time to avoid disappointing Rufus.

Rufus: Dave is all excited when he arrives, and to make him feel at home, I make a fuss of him. Then he starts gossiping with my house mate, and fussing over the cat. I start to push him towards the door. He’s quite heavy since he’s stopped taking me for long walks, so it’s hard work. Eventually, I get him to the door. We leave. He’s parked the car miles from the house and it’s raining, so we get wet. I don’t care, I plan to get soaked before the morning is out. 

Dave: The rain is quite heavy as we drive to the river, although the forecast says it will stop soon. In the distance, I can see the clouds getting brighter, which means they are thinning. There is hope. We park up by the side of the road and, with Rufus’ sighs reminding me I’m too slow in getting out of the car, I unleash him on the river.

Rufus: As Dave gets older, he gets slower. It’s sad but a fact of life. We were wasting precious paddling time while he tried to remember where he was and what he was doing. I tried politely to remind him.  

Dave: Rufus was in the water before I could close the door. As I walked along the riverbank, he waded along the middle of the river. After a few minutes the rain stopped and the sun came out. There was even a bit of blue sky peeping through the cloud cover. Although I wasn’t there to take photos, I couldn’t help but snap a few shots. I crossed the river and made my way up the other side to the stone circle. Rufus had a sniff around and made sure he featured in a few of my snaps.

Rufus: I had to stifle a laugh as I watched Dave try to cross the river. He tip-toed, wobbled, slipped and finally scrambled across. But he kept throwing stones for me so I did make an effort not to tease him. On the hill there were a lot of little stones arranged in a circle and they all needed investigating but Dave seemed to a little frustrated and didn’t want to take my portrait.

Dave: We made our way up the hill a little before joining a sheep trail and walking above the river. Sheep parted as we progressed and Rufus was well behaved; they didn’t distract him from his mission to find more water. It may have been because they were sprayed various bright colours. I’d seen this before on the mountain. Red (although it faded to pink) green and blue sheep all mixed up and spread across the slopes. Today we only saw pink sheep.

Rufus: The sheep were all different psychedelic colours, man. I wonder what was in the treats Dave gave me? I tried to ignore them but they were everywhere. In the end I pretended I hadn’t seen them and concentrated on finding the river.

Dave: Rufus weaved and wandered as we made our way along the path., But then he spotted a dip in the ground, quite far ahead. He immediately recognised it as the course of the river. although no water was visible. Without hesitating, he ran off towards it. It took me five minutes to walk to the river, during which time he’d popped his head up to make sure I was following.

Rufus: I’ve been studying geography recently and can now spot the signs of rivers and streams quite easily. I led the way so Dave knew where we needed to go to find stones, but as usual he was slow so I checked up on him to see that he wasn’t lost. 

Dave: We walked on a little, following the river up to a couple of pools where I knew Rufus would be able to swim. Sure enough, with a little encouragement, he paddled, bobbed and was swimming around.

Rufus: The river was a welcome sight as I needed to cool my paws. And then I got to have a dip and a swim. Nothing beats wild swimming on a warm Autumn afternoon.

Dave: We made our way back to the car by following the river all the way. Rufus only left the water to deposit stones on the riverbank before immediately heading back into the river. I threw some little stones for Rufus to catch, which he is getting good at now. But the ones he liked best were the ones he could find and bring back out of the water. We found another long stretch of deep water and he spent a few minutes swimming lengths for the sheer joy – no stones were involved.

Rufus: I like the challenge of finding a route through water. I like to give Dave something to occupy him so I make a big fuss of catching stones he throws, even if some of them go a little off target. But then we found a big pool and I had a swim back and forth to get the cobwebs out of the muscles. And t was a nice way to wash off the dirt of the walk.

Dave: In the car, Rufus cleaned himself then settled back for a snooze.

Rufus: You never know who you’re going to meet so I think it pays to look good at all times. When Dave drives, it’s boring unless he has to stop suddenly, so I tend to doze.

Dave: Rufus is staying over this evening so when we got home, we had brunch and settled down to dry off and watch a movie on the TV.

Rufus: Dave’s lap is an efficient means to dry my fur.

Dave: I think there’ll be another early morning tomorrow.

Rufus: You think? I know!

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Take it easy

Day off today and while I would normally be out on a walk somewhere, even if I wasn’t actively training, I can’t at the moment because of my swelling!

Ha! That got your attention. Don’t try to back out of it now, you’re reading because you want to know what my swelling is. Unless you’ve been following the blog, when you’d know that it’s my bursa. Stop giggling at the back. Too much activity and my bursa swells up. I said STOP GIGGLING!

On a serious note, I have gone from a high level of exercise to next to nothing in the space of a week. On one level, that means I have to drastically adjust my diet, because I was eating to fuel the exercise and if I continue that diet, I’ll be adding weight in all the wrong places. So I have to find some other way of exercising and I’ve picked on weights at home as my calorie consumer of choice. That and a reduction in portion size.

On another level there’s the mental change. I’d been building up to the challenge in my mind too. It was about attitude – getting up early on a rainy morning to go on the hills, going out after work, selecting routes that ended on an ascent, going the extra mile. That’s gone and I have to try and find a substitute goal to keep me occupied or I risk making an even bigger dent in the sofa.

The third level is the spare energy I have right now. Although this will diminish as my body adjusts, right now I feel I want to go charging off and doing stuff. I don’t even know what. It’s hard not to overdo things. Last night I cut the lawn then went out to Broadpool. I couldn’t just sit still.

I went out to the River Tawe with Rufus this morning. I was careful not to go too far or do any climbing, but it was hard looking up at Fan Brecheiniog where I’ve been doing a lot of my training and knowing it was out of bounds for a long while. Grrr.

Grrr, was also the noise Rufus made when I picked up the first stone. It was closely followed by a bark and then several more barks. As fats as I could throw the stones into the water, Rufus was bringing them out again. The banks of the Tawe, just above the twin waterfall, are lined with stones now. These days, dredging stones is not enough. I have to carefully select smaller stones to throw for Rufus to catch. He’s very good at it now and I love watching the absolute concentration on his face as he waits for the stone to be thrown. One good thing about throwing stones for Rufus is that i can sit down to do it, and I took advantage of this to rest the knee.

We were following wagtails along the river. they hopped from rock to rock, just keeping ahead of Rufus as he splashed and waded along the riverbed. It was like a game to them and once they realised Rufus wasn’t interested, they started playing it with me. I’m sure they knew I was trying to get a photograph; they’d wait until I’d stopped and raised the camera to my eye before flying away again.

Back home, I can feel my knee aching, which means I’ve probably done a little too much, so as I sit and type this, I have the ice pack on again.

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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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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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