Anyone who knows me will have by now realised that I love snow. From November onwards I am constantly glued to various weather forecasting services in an attempt to work out when the first flurries will arrive. Of course we usually just end up with rain and sleet but having a commanding view over the Brecon Beacons from work does at least allow me to see some of the white stuff. On Saturday though I finally decided that looking was no longer enough and set off to climb Pen y Fan on what was to be my first ever mountain ascent in the snow.

29069 - Corn Du

My chosen route took me up what I consider to be the more difficult of the paths from Storey Arms and in no time at all I had the snowline in sight. Conditions couldn’t have been more perfect with a crystal clear sky and no wind to bring the already sub-zero temperature any lower. What I hadn’t anticipated were the sheets of ice that coated the path so I was forced to cut a new track up the slope on virgin territory. Each step was carefully chosen so as not to be caught unawares by hidden drifts or frozen streams, and in that manner I made good progress. Good progress that is until the final push up to Corn Du which had to be made on hands and knees to avoid a rather rapid descent back the way I’d come. Let me assure you that I’ve never felt so satisfied at seeing a summit cairn.

29071 - Corn Du
29070 - Corn Du
29079 - Corn Du
29075 - Corn Du

The small drop and climb up to Pen y Fan itself was completed in no time and I spent a good while soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the superb vistas splayed out before me. In every direction I looked I was confronted with yet more stunning beauty and it was only when I began to feel the cold seeping in that I finally moved on.

29096 - Pen y Fan
29081 - Pen y Fan
29098 - Pen y Fan
29082 - Corn Du
29090 - Pen y Fan

By now there were several more groups arriving on the mountain which seemed to be causing the resident Ravens a degree of frustration. They were continuously soaring along the ridges calling and would often come so close as to be able to hear the wind rushing through their feathers. One individual was particularly brave and walked right up to me before launching itself off into the abyss.

29088 - Raven, Pen y Fan

I briefly contemplated going for Cribyn but decided that the ascent looked a little too treacherous considering I didn’t have any spikes on my boots. Instead I turned for home along the more popular route down to Storey Arms. If anything the ice on that path was even worse and at one point I found myself sliding downhill with nothing to stop me. A small protruding rock provided the necessary purchase to halt my progress but I took things a lot slower after that.

29100 - Corn Du

From these photos and words I hope I’ve painted a picture of what conditions were like up there, so it may come as a surprise to learn that I saw a group heading up in canvas shoes, hoodies and with no visible supplies. That’s risky in the middle of summer let alone at this time of year and just goes to show the stupidity of some people. No wonder we hear of so many mountain rescues. The landscape in Wales is fantastic but take liberties and eventually it will bite back.


9 Comments

Bob Bushell · December 13, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Beautiful snowy Pen Y Fan, it's a dream. And there was a Raven looking over at the scene. Fantastic photos Adam.

J · December 14, 2012 at 1:19 am

Well worth climbing for the views and the lovely photos. The Raven was a bonus. Glad you got down safely!

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Dave · December 14, 2012 at 8:04 am

Stuinning scenary Adam, mind how youi go this winter when descending those peaks…lol

Stewart M · December 14, 2012 at 8:55 am

Great set of pictures – I loved walking in the hills in the snow. It feel like you are in a different world, and even well worn and familiar places took on a new feel.

Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

holdingmoments · December 14, 2012 at 11:34 am

Spectacular! Worth the effort, and I'm glad you shared these. Something I wish I could do.

Wise words at the end too. The stupidity of some people is unbelievable at times.

Sondra · December 15, 2012 at 12:52 am

WOW Adam, what an awesome hike…its such a beautiful landscape I can see why you wanted to hike up there..
Im like you, I often meet hikers wearing flip flops! Amazing.

FAB · December 19, 2012 at 12:06 am

Adam … this brought back some enjoyable memories of various ascents of Pen y Fan but never in the snow .. so many thanks for the interesting experience.

Adam Tilt · December 31, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Thanks everyone for your kind comments. It's hard to beat a walk up Pen y Fan on a clear day.

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