“I see a mountain at my gates. I see it more and more each day. What I give, it takes away. Whether I go or when I stay” Foals ‘Mountain At My Gates”
After a bit of discussion myself and my supervisor Bracken (yes he’s named after a fern, pretty appropriate for a bushcrafter hey?) decide it’s time to get out on some mountains instead of standing in our shop talking to people about them.
We start near the lower Neuadd reservoir, which is a nice spot, however the upper Nueadd has been drained as the Grade 2 listed dam is being repaired. The upper Nueadd was a favourite of photographers due to it’s mirror-like reflection of the surrounding peaks on still days and as I’m writing this I’m hoping I’ll get to see it full again one day as it clearly added to the breathtaking scenery here. Leaving the side of the lower Nueadd we take the trail up the side and onto Craig Fan Ddu at a decent pace then head towards the summit of Corn Du. We have a pretty decent 40mph westerly wind hitting us and in places icicles hang from the frosty peat like fangs.
It’s about -12 wind chill up here according to the MWIS and for some reason me and Bracken are thinking of wild camping in the forest tonight. I keep telling Andy we are going to build a wicker man and burn it when we get there. Bracken’s concerned look is accompanied by a reminder that he practices bushcraft and not witchcraft. I argue they share a lot of transferable skills…
The snow makes a sudden appearance as we head onto the summit of Corn Du whipping across the scene in little white blurry trails. Snow dusted frozen rocks frame the valley and you can almost imagine a creaking, groaning titanic glacier grinding away the rock like a file made of ice as it slides down the valley. Corn Du at 873m is the second highest peak in South Wales and for me it’s mountain number seventeen in my own list.
Pen Y Fan And Cribyn
As we cross to Pen Y Fan we grab a standard tourist shot of us at the summit marker and me and Andy finally manually correct the altimeters on our Garmin watches for future accuracy. Which is pretty much the moment the snow decides to kick in properly as if the mountain itself is annoyed we just climbed it. Pen Y Fan is interestingly flat topped due to the geology around here and sits at 886m. It is the highest peak of the Brecon Beacons and it’s got a bronze age burial cairn in the top of it. You can see how the landscape would have fitted even with an ancient cultures spiritual beliefs as it is pretty impressive. There’s a school of thought that these burial cairns were used as territorial markers which sounds a little creepy. Almost like using the dead as some sort of guardian or maybe even slightly macabre fence posts…
Cribyn And In Comes the Weather
As we descend briefly to begin the ascent of Cribyn, the wind driven snow swirls up the re-entrant (that’s like a small valley up the side of a mountain) which separates the two mountain peaks and across us whipping dry snowflakes into our faces like a thousand tiny needles. The wind howls in my hood as the snow bounces off my soft-shell with the sound of thrown sand on paper. I am glad it’s dry snow otherwise I’d be soaked through and pretty cold by this point, and dry snow in the UK is as you can probably imagine pretty rare! There’s another burial cairn on Cribyn but I don’t spot this, probably because of the snow flurries. You have to admit however being buried on a mountain probably took a lot of effort. So either they had great respect for these people or they were terrified of them.
Fan Y Big is no longer quite as big
Heading over the steep rise to Cribyn we set off and then over Fan Y Big heading down to finish the loop.I was a bit gutted to find out that Fan Y Big has been declassified as a mountain because it didn’t meet requirements. So today only brings me up to a grand total of nineteen mountains as far as I’m aware.
Off To The Cold Dark Forest
After a quick stop in a nice warm pub full of welsh people I can’t understand and trying to explain why we do what we do to a local, Andy heads off back off home to get warm and comfortable.
I’m partly excited about the first wild camp of the year. I’m also wondering when they will find our lifeless frozen bodies, as we head along the side of the muddy side of a river bank. It’s pretty cold around here right now and it’s not even that late yet. As we check the map to confirm if Bracken’s choice of site is going to work the rain suddenly lashes down on us. After a quick visual check it turns out Bracken’s choice is actually a fairly steep and muddy river bank. Taking a quick look over the map I try and save the situation by suggesting whats marked as the ruin of an old chapel.
I can see from the expression on Bracken’s partly darkness shrouded face that this suggestion sounds like the beginning of a horror film and I might have well made the suggestion in a creepy voice with a torch under my chin. We decide to stay at a bunkhouse instead therefore avoiding the cold, rain, mud, ghosts and ritual murder. Maybe it was all the talk of wicker men earlier…..
More pictures at https://www.instagram.com/deathlistmarktwo