After almost a day in the car and a 12 month delay, we had reached the base of our objective. Pen Y Fan. We had tried to climb this peak in the Brecon Beacons the previous year and were met with torrential rain and gales so we ran away to find some waterfalls instead. This time, in the midst of a glorious summer, we had to be luckier with the weather, right?
We planned a rather ambitious route rather than a straight up and down from the nearest car park, after all it was a long way to come for one mountain. So for us it was to be 4 named summits, forests, a reservoir, a historic town and a canal tow path over 2 or 3 days and around 28 miles.
Traffic had hindered our journey and the drive which should take 3 and a bit hours, resulted in a 7 hour car ride. We managed to get to Talybont on Usk around 3 pm and decided to crack on, get up into the woods and find a spot near the reservoir to camp. Once along the tow path and up through some hedgerow lined trail, we joined the Taff Trail which would lead us around the reservoir. We made good progress for the next couple of hours along the wide, flat gravelled trail which I’m guessing is focussed on cyclists, dodging a couple of vans throwing up dust as they serviced the bunkhouse accommodating some Naval Cadets (who kindly refilled our bottles).
If you know our kids, however, there’s only so much wide, flat trail they can take before getting a little weary so we made a decision to leave the Taff Trail at the first opportunity, following a little track down the hillside to the back of the reservoir and onto the road for a mile or so where we found a lovely spot to have a little supper and a paddle in the stream.
We pressed on, along the road and picked up the Beacons Way on the south east side of the mountain. We started climbing steadily as the sun was dipping below the mountain, and the kids, Isaac especially, were getting thoroughly tired out. Considering they were up and about to catch a ferry at 6.30am and they were now on the side of a mountain at gone 10 at night, they had done really well. Fortunately we found a really good, flat spot to throw the tarp for the night, and while the long grass was a bit scratchy and tickley, it was fine for us.
Actually fine doesn’t really cut it. That was the most perfect night for wildcamping ever. Think about it, make a list of every thing you want for a wild sleep out. On a mountain, flat spot to sleep on, warm, dry, clear sky and stars, no dew and a super moon! Oh and Mars visible to the South (ish). We all fell asleep stargazing and by the morning we had all wriggled out of the tarp and were just sleeping in the grass, cowboy style. Perfect.
We woke up with the sun (about 4.30ish) and slowly packed everything away before starting to climb what turned out to be probably the steepest section of the trail (or it was morning legs) before stopping for a porridgey breakfast and some coffee. With our bellies full we started making our way to our first summit, Fan Y Big, going slightly wrong for a bit and recovering soon enough but now the early morning sunshine was disappearing behind a wall of unforecasted grey.
Tagging the top of Fan Y Big and dropping down into a bit of a saddle we decided to bypass Cribyn because of the impending downpour and to be honest, a cup of coffee felt much better than another fairly steep climb. We picked up the trail which took us around the back of Cribyn, dodging some ponies, and onto the climb of Pen Y Fan itself. Half way up this section we were buzzed by the helicopter practicing its landing on Cribyn before flying right by us, banking steeply and giving the kids a wave.
The kids really enjoyed this little section and before we knew it we on top of Pen Y Fan, albeit 12pm already, and looking at Corn Du for our 3rd summit of the hike. Then the clouds burst and visibility reduced to next to nothing so we decided to get out of Dodge and off the mountain. It was the lightning that made our minds up really. We dropped off the northern trail leading off the summit and headed downwards through the rain, which by now was persistent and would be for the rest of the day, and headed for Brecon.
Basically we decided to cut off an eight mile section of our planned route, back on the Taff Trail, and see what the weather decided to do. It would have been an uncomfortable night for the kids in the tarp, on wet ground and persistent rain so on arrival in Brecon, Hazel found them some hot chocolate and I jumped onto a bus back to the car. When I came back to pick them up they were soaking wet in the play park, but very very happy.
Ok, I know we didn’t do what we had planned but we still climbed 2 mountains, slept under the stars and a super moon and hiked some 21 miles in just over 24 hours and if that’s not an adventure, I don’t know what is!!