Dave and Rufus’ lads week day 2 – Top of the mountain

Pen y Fan translates as top of the mountain. Rufus and I have been to the top many time over the years, but not for a while. In fact, the last time was at the end of January. (Compare the photo titled ‘Near the stream’ in that post with the one below – both take from the same view point). So it was time to go there again. An early night allowed us an early start and we set off from the Storey Arms car park around 8.10.

I hate the first part of that route – it takes us over ‘Y Gyrn’ which means a relatively steep climb followed by a drop down to a stream and then another, longer climb to Corn Du. But it is a good training route and once we cross the stream, it’s a better path than the tourist route from a little way up the road. Today, there were a lot of sheep on the lower slopes and Rufus stayed on the lead for longer than I would have liked. But soon we were through the sheep layer, and he was off. The trudge up Y Gyrn was soon over and ahead I could see Corn Du, swathed in cloud and with a sugar coating of frost. We slowly made our way up the side of the mountain, arriving at the edge of the ridge that signifies  the steeper end section of the climb. To the left, a sharp drop opened up the view to Brecon and beyond. Ahead, we were engulfed in the low cloud that made Corn Du look like a major summit. The last five minutes felt like I was summiting something much higher, too. Of course, Rufus took it in his stride and waited patiently for me at the top.

The wind at the top was much more fierce and it was colder too. Both had been predicted by the weather forecast so I was well prepared. Rufus carries his own permanent fleece so he wasn’t bothered. We crossed the windswept top of Corn Du and dropped down into the saddle before climbing again to Pen y Fan. By now it was freezing on the top, so we only stayed briefly but it was long enough for my gloves to blow away while I was giving Rufus a well earned treat. I finally managed to find them just before they were blown over the edge.

Coming down was a simple affair and I decided to take a diversion over to Pen Milan to lengthen the walk. We passed thwe Tommy Jones memorial – in 1900, a 5 year old boy got lost travelling between farms and his body was found here 29 days later. The local people erected a memorial to him. It’s a terribly lonely spot, hard enough for a fit walker to get to. I have no idea how Tommy Jones found his way there.

We crossed the common on Pen Milan and swung around to head back to the the car park. We came across a fence which had a ladder stile and Rufus struggle to get up it. So I lifted him, allowing him to jump from the top himself. He landed with an ‘oof!’ but I checked him over and he was fine. He earned his treat for that stile. The rest of the going was easy and we reached the car around 3 hours after setting out. I had a quick coffee from the van in the car park and Rufus and I had a short play fight on the hill opposite the Storey Arms. Then we made a detour down the main road, following the route of the old road to Brecon, where I knew there were some waterfalls. While Rufus chased sticks and paddled, I took some photos of the water cascading over the rocks.

Heading home, two tired boys. Back home, two tired boys on the sofa. A good day for all.

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Corn Du and Pen y Fan

I woke this morning to find a hairy Spaniel lying next to me, belly up and paws outstretched. It’s not what I’m used to. I’m sure Rufus isn’t used to waking up next to me either. We got over our initial embarassament and it wasn’t mentioned again.

The weather forecast, for sunshine and clear skies, was accurate and so we made an early start for the Storey Arms and the path to Corn Du and Pen y Fan. I have’t climbed to Pen y Fan for over a year. It was one of the last training days I had before the trek. I see from my geeky notes that I’ve climbed it 41 times before.

We set off on the Storey Arms path towards Corn Du. This one was a favourite when I was training because it challenged mentally as well as physically. The first climb to the top of Y Gyrn is followed by a drop down to a stream, which further down the valley becomes the Taf. Then, it seems, you have to do the whole climb all over again. (Actually, the drop and re-climb is only around 55m but it is very disheartening to lose those hard earned centimetres.) The whole climb is visible from just above the stream and it’s clear that it gets significantly steeper towards the end.

On the way down to the stream we met a walker who had been camping below Corn Du the previous night. Yesterday, we saw snow on Corn Du and he confirmed that yesterday, there had been a fall of about 3 inches, but it melted during the night. It had been warm where he camped, which was a small lake in Cwm Llwch.

When we got to the stream, Rufus dived in up to his tummy. He was clearly relieved to cool down a little as the sun had started to warm him up. By the time we left, he was soaked and the river had lost some of the pebbles from its bed.

The drag up to the ridge was long and it felt endless. But suddenly we were at the point where our path meest the one from Pen Milan. Over a hundred years ago, a little boy was lost on the mountains and died in atrocious weather near here. Little Tommy Jones’ body was found just down the ridge and a memorial stone commemorates the incident. It’s a sad place and when the weather is misty and rough, it’s a sobering reminder of how dangerous this place can be.

We set off up the steepest bit of the climb. I plodded along slowly; Rufus bounded back and forth. The last bit is particularly hard going and I put my head down and got on with it. I looked up just before cresting the summit to find the silhouette of Rufus looking down to see why I was taking so long. Corn Du was windy and cold but it was great to have finally got there.

After a short break, we set off for nearby Pen y Fan, 13m higher but a greater cimb as we had to drop down to the saddle between the two peaks. It’s not far, but it’s enough when you’ve spent an hour climbing. The top of Pen y Fan was deserted, the way we like it. We had breakfast on its southern edge, watching little dots become people as they made their way slowly up from Cribyn. Pen y Fan and Corn Du are outcrops of sandstone and on the flat rocks that make up their summits you can see ripples in the stones. They were once part of a beach and the ripples are the same as those seen on modern beaches where the tide sweeps in and out.

Next on our agenda was a walk along Craig Gwaun Taf. The ridge stretches away to the south from the slope of Corn Du. It reaches down to the reservoirs in the Gwaun Taf valley and is part of the route of the Beacons Horseshoe. We walked along it for just over a mile and took a break at a large cairn before heading back.

It was time to head home and we made our way quickly down the tourist path to Pont ar Daf. It’s an easy path, well made and maintained but very busy and I prefer not to use it if possible. But I had promised Rufus a treat in the form of a bathe in the river Taf (the same river that he had paddled in on the way up).  He had shown no interest in any sheep on the walk but I put him on the lead when we were approaching some ponies, as they had very young foals with them and several ponies were pregnant. One of the foals was tiny, and still a little unsteady on its feet. Rufus showed no interest and neither did the ponies, so I let him off the lead again.

As soon as he saw the water, Rufus was off, leaving me behind. By the time I was nearing the river, Rufus had been in and had come back to meet me. He paddled and I threw stones for him to catch and all the while we watched a bunch of students making some kind of video just down river from us. I expect some of their footage has the insistent barking of Rufus as yet again I wasn’t quick enough, or I threw the stones in the wrong place.

We got back to the car exhausted but happy. Rufus was soon asleep on the back seat and i didn’t hear a peep out of him until we got home.

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