Archive for February 2018

The Beast from the East meets the Brecon Beacons   16 comments

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Nicking a blog title from the cold weather media frenzy is cheap and lazy I know but its 9pm and I can’t be bothered with trying to come up with anything original.

Another classic route. The round of the Brecon Beacons Four Peaks (Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn, Fan y Big) from the south, a circuit of the Neuadd Valley and its reservoirs. It was cold when we set off but we had no idea how cold it was going to get

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The sky was a sensational deep blue and the few clouds hugging the eastern slopes were soon burnt off. The approach road was glacial

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The walk across the dam of the lower reservoir is always a pleasure

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The path up to the western edges is steep and I found it surprisingly hard work after my bout of flu. When we hit the ridge we felt the full blast of the beast

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The wind was ferocious and staggeringly cold. Its rare on a dry day, even in winter, that I don full fleeces and jacket with the hood up but it was essential. Even then my face was burning with cold

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Luckily the views were spectacular and at least the wind was kind of behind us

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We’d made an early start and I was anxious where we would stop for lunch. I figured we could get out of the wind behind Corn Du as I thought the lower cols would be windier, funnelling the wind

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I was wrong. Even directly behind the summit the wind was just blowing, over and around the summit. We hid behind a couple of rock outcrops, stuffed our faces quickly and moved on

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The walk between Corn Du and Pen y Fan was straight into the wind. The cold was almost unbearable, one of the coldest 10 minutes I can remember in the mountains. I was starting to think that carrying on with this for the next few hours wasn’t all that sensible but as we reached the summit of Pen y Fan the wind abated quite significantly. For the rest of the day the wind only blew in gusts and at times it was relatively pleasant, almost warm. There was of course the usual crowd of seriously under-equipped people on the summit. Some people just have no idea how much difference there is between a sunny sheltered car park and a 3,000 foot summit exposed to an easterly winter wind. Trainers, jeans, exposed ankles, people carrying babies, they were all there. I walked away shaking my head

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90% of people climb Pen y Fan from the Storey Arms. Head off the summit in the other direction and calm and quiet is restored. The view back to Pen y Fan and over to Cribyn’s pointed summit and dark shadowed northern face were majestic

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I took the path along the edge of the cliffs to the summit of Cribyn. This flat grassy spot halfway up has been earmarked for a wild camp some day – just on a less windy and cold day

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A brief rest on the summit and the off along the edge towards the col ahead of Fan y Big

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Another of my favourite sections of the Beacons edges

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The col rather than being wild and windy as I thought was calm and benign so we stopped for a cuppa and second lunch. I was feeling pretty tired but I was convinced that Fan y Big needed an ascent and the views from its summit are exceedingly fine so the convincing wasn’t that hard

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In addition, the walk back from its summit above the reservoirs is far more pleasant than the long drag down the bumpy path to the car park

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The view back to the Four Peaks

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Back to the car to warm up (heated seats were very welcome) and back for a very one-sided cup final to finish off a damned fine day. The beast was tamed for now.

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I’m off to Scotland at the weekend to take it on again – if I can get there!

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Slow Return to Outdoor Life   18 comments

That nasty bout of flu stuck with me for three weeks and really hit me for six (I still have a nagging cough four weeks on). Last weekend I tentatively ventured out for a day outdoors for the first time since I got back from my ski trip. A short trip that I’ve done may times before but one of my favourite local walks

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A decent weather forecast and the cold weather had been replaced by almost spring-like conditions

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Through Cwmyoy village and my favourite wonky church

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Ysgyryd Fawr as always dominates the view to the south

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Wild ponies on the summit

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And the beautiful Vale of Ewyas to the north

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We found a relatively sheltered spot on the summit for a bite to eat and a chat about TJS impending choice of University. When we set off the fickle British weather delivered a punch. The skies had gone very dark and within minutes it was raining, a cold slanting rain that replaced the spring conditions of earlier with a taste of winter. After a soaking, the skies cleared and all was sunny again

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The late afternoon views were rather fine

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The Sugar Loaf

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And a dark looking Ysgyryd Fawr

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I particularly like the light in this shot

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Only 6 miles but I was completely wiped out when I got back to the car. Hopefully I can recover some of my lost fitness over the coming weeks now I seem to be over the bug. Always good to use an old favourite to start over

Almost a week’s skiing in the Alps   14 comments

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January brings my little treat of a week-long trip to the Alps for some skiing.

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After a couple of years of less than perfect snow conditions this year was set to be a good one. Tonnes of snow right down to the lowest levels, cold sunny days with a top up of snow forecast for midweek. What could be better

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Not having the flu for the entire time I was out there would have been better. Instead of being out every day I had to try to catch a few hours when I felt well enough to crawl out of bed. For the first few days this was pretty much all the skiing I saw – the view from the apartment balcony

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It probably wasn’t the best idea to head out into -19C cold dry air with flu but I had to try

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I managed a few half days in the first half of the week.

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My friends were the best, they never complained about sharing a flat with a seriously sad and ill-looking mate and were saintly in the way they encouraged me to head out, kept my spirits up and did all the shopping and cooking

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There are worse places to be ill I suppose and many, many people worse off than me so I put a brave face on things, savoured the great skiing that I did manage and accepted the long lay ups in bed to recover. Good company and many laughs still made it a great week

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On the last two days I managed to summon enough energy to ski all day. I paid for it in the evenings but the conditions were superb and as you can see the views magnificent

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The classic view of Mont Blanc to the north, showing just how much bigger than the rest of the Alps it is

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Some wonderful cloud inversions in the Isere valley

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And over towards the Ecrins

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I normally take videos but this year it was as much as I could manage just to get out.

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As I was trying to keep my exertion to a minimum I was skiing much more in control and strangely felt I was skiing better than I ever have done

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It would be easy to look back and be frustrated at how things turned out. seeing the photos now, makes me think of all the good days and half days I enjoyed rather than any regret for the days I missed.

I think I paid a hefty price with my health though. One week after coming back and I’m still not fully recovered although I’m hoping I’ve now seen the back of it. Today has been my first day without painkillers, headaches and a hacking cough. Time to plan some summer holidays in the sun

 

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