Handful of Beacons
by The English Alpinist » Sun Nov 13, 2016 12:58 am
Date walked: 31/10/2016
Time taken: 7.25
Distance: 28.6 km
Ascent: 1373m6 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
On a week's break, travelling around South Wales, I decided to re-visit the Brecon Beacons. I had not walked them since my student days in Cardiff, so with nostalgia coursing through my vains it was a must. What's more, it occurred to me, it was October 31st - the exact date I had begun my Wainwrights in Winter campaign last year - so what a neat way to re-engage with the Welsh mountains. What's even more, the idea occurred to me for the next major project. The sequel, so to speak: 'Wales in Winter.' Wales does not have Wainwrights as such, but it has lots of Hewitts: Hills in England, Wales and Ireland Two Thousand feet or above. This could be the challenge: all the Welsh Hewitts in one winter, from clocks going back to clocks going forward, a period of 5 months or so. This would also be part of an overall target to bag the full Hewitts (happily I already have 99 out of 114 English Hewitts done by virtue of my Wainwrights campaign). The Brecon Beacons would contribute the first 4 of my 137 Welsh Hewitts. My researches show there is 6 Beacons, technically, but only 4 of these are classed as Hewitts. On this day I thought I might as well bag all 6, as well as all 4. It's been a while since I've done a long walk.
The day began at the '3 Rivers Ride' car park shrouded in mist. I had barely glanced at the forecast, and I thought it said cloudy with light showers. With a stoic attitude to my new challenge, I set out, expecting a long eerie day with no visibility and much compass usage. However, after a preliminary walk around the lanes and climbing the foothills to Llyn Cwm Llwch, with with great awe I found myself to be emerging from the mist. I discovered it was all just a blanket of evaporation in the valleys and plains around the mountains, and I steadily rose above it, for the rest of the day gazing over it like a white ocean. This was right up there was my most amazing experiences on any mountain. From here on it was actually a glorious and mild summer's day, comparing very favourably to the wet wild day I had on Skiddaw this time last year. Shame about little Tommy Jones, a boy who got lost up there in 1900 (the obelisk)
On Corn Du, the first Beacon, suddenly I ran into lots of people. This was clearly the touristy part of the park, and we were even treated to a fly-past by an army helicopter, a crew member hanging out of the door and waving to us. This is of a course a famous place of military training, and a there were several out there practising their yomps. It was sobering to reflect on the news one SAS trainee had collapsed and died out there a couple of winters ago, lest I take my idea of Wales in Winter lightly. These parts would clearly be a different ballgame cometh the snows.
Peny Fan, the high point of the Brecons, quickly follows after Corn Du. Thereafter it was an excellent ridge-walk to take in the remaining 3 Hewitts - Cribyn, Fan y Big and Waun Rydd. The last was a bit of a nuisance, stuck out on its own a bit and not very interesting. It took some figuring out where the exact summit was, and just for good measure I walked half a mile out to the main cairn out there - Carn Pica - only to realise it was definitely not the high point. After studying the contours carefully, which I could have done in the first place to avoid the trouble, I realised the summit (such as is) was back and a little way off the path. A couple of workmen with little mechanised diggers were constructing a new path, which added to my confusion, as it was clearly not intended to lead to the actual summit.
As this was a long walk, naughtily I improvised a descent to chop off a bit of mileage for the return journey. This was probably a waste of time in terms of saving time, and especially energy, as the heather - which looks so inviting from a distance - was a nightmare to walk on. An excellent gorge, called Cwm Cwareli, was worth it for the spectacle though. One final hitch came when I misread the tricky little tangle of lanes around the foothills, and had to backtrack half a mile thus adding 1 mile to the whole venture. My legs were hurting by the end, but what a glorious day for the end of October.
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by Riverman » Sun Nov 13, 2016 11:29 am
I agree Waun Rydd is a bit of a disappointing summit. I bagged it from the East around this time last year in snowy conditions. The Beacons are some of my favourite hills in Britain and I still have the western end to complete.
Thanks again for sharing those amazing photos. I'd love to encounter conditions like that in the Beacons one day (every time I've been up there it's been rain or snow!)
by The English Alpinist » Sun Nov 13, 2016 11:01 pm
by dav2930 » Mon Nov 14, 2016 6:48 pm
That was a big walk you did, well done
Good luck with the Welsh Hewitts!
by poppiesrara » Mon Nov 14, 2016 9:11 pm
It took me just over a year of pretty single-minded effort to get through the same list (starting in the same place too) a few years' back, but after your Wainwrights feat I think that might get beaten pretty easily! I'll look forward to seeing your adventures unfold if you do go ahead - you'll have some wonderful days (and perhaps a few where you might wish you'd waited for more of a dry spell!). Go easy on some of the scramble-only tops if you're doing it in winter though.
by Alteknacker » Mon Nov 14, 2016 10:21 pm
by ChrisW » Wed Nov 16, 2016 10:47 pm
I improvised a descent to chop off a bit of mileage for the return journey. This was probably a waste of time in terms of saving time, and especially energy, as the heather - which looks so inviting from a distance - was a nightmare to walk on
It always seems to be the case that we find a 'shortcut' and wonder how on earth others haven't trodden it down by now....then about half way in we find out why
I've made so many of these 'short cuts' and swear I'll never do it again.....then a month or so later I do it again
Great write up mate, good to see you out there in the sunshine
by The English Alpinist » Thu Nov 17, 2016 5:45 pm
ChrisW wrote:good to see you out there in the sunshine
Thanks Chris. Looks like it's good that I grabbed it while I could!