If you’re anything like me then you’re probably wondering where on earth the last two months have gone. March is already flashing by and with reports of Wheatears and Sand Martins now turning up in the UK, things aren’t going to slow down any time soon. On the one hand this is great as we finally wave goodbye to the drab winter months, whilst on the other it also reminds me that I am just three months away from taking part in the Welsh Three Peaks Challenge. As part of a four man team (plus one driver) we shall be climbing the peaks of Snowdon, Cadair Idris and Pen y Fan in the space of just fifteen hours with the aim of raising at least £1000 for Ty Hafan children’s hospice. That’s a distance of 20.35 miles and a climb of 9,397 ft! I consider myself to be pretty fit already but that’s going to be one hell of an undertaking at both the longest and highest I have ever walked in a single day. As a result some serious training is needed and that’s exactly what I got up to on Saturday. My chosen route was the so-called Pen y Fan horseshoe which at a comparatively modest 12 miles and 2,250ft was still going to test my mettle. I mapped the route below and under a clearing sky set out to discover just what I’d let myself in for.
Anyone who has climbed Pen y Fan recently will know that due to its popularity you’re rarely alone on the way up. For many this is no doubt perfectly fine but personally I can’t help getting involved in pointless races with whoever is nearest. Can I keep ahead of this group? Can I catch and overtake the couple ahead? Utter madness and a guaranteed way to lose your rhythm and enjoyment. To avoid this I’d picked a more unusual route which looped out northwards from my start at Storey Arms. The only issue was that it was almost impossible to find. In the end I just cut across from the main path until eventually stumbling upon a grassy track. This was more like it and in no time at all I’d already reached my first ‘peak’ of the day, Y Gyrn.
Pushing higher I soon came to Tommy Jones’ obelisk sitting beneath the steep climb up to Corn Du. It marks the spot where in 1900 the body of five year old Tommy Jones was found and reads:
“This obelisk marks the spot where the body of Tommy Jones aged 5 was found. He lost his way between Cwm Llwch Farm and the Login on the night of August 4, 1900. After an anxious search of 29 days his remains were discovered Sept. Erected by voluntary subscriptions W Powell Price Mayor of Brecon 1901.”
On such a cold day, overlooking the frozen pool below, it’s not hard to imagine how such a young child could succumb to the conditions.
Down to Tommy’s Obolisk
The final climb up to Corn Du was as tough as I remembered but once there the views were fantastic.
The climb up to Corn Du
Looking down from Corn Du
Across to Pen y Fan
A small drop and ascent to the neighbouring peak of Pen y Fan was dispatched with little effort, taking me to the highest point in South Wales. As usual the summit was a jovial affair with various groups having their photograph taken against the cairn and lunches being consumed, though the playing of a cricket match in full kit was definitely a new one on me. Apparently it was the start of a new season and this was their teams way of welcoming it in. And before you ask, yes, they did lose a ball over the edge!
Cricket on Pen y Fan
Neuadd Reservoirs – I’d be heading there later
Normally this is the point at which I retrace my steps but in the name of charity I instead turned my attention to the ridge heading west. Stretched out before me were the peaks of Cribyn and Fan y Big, both featuring ascents that seemed even steeper than those already behind me. It was with some relief therefore that I found the climb up Cribyn a bit of a doddle, enjoying the beautiful scenery as I went.
View back up to Pen y Fan
Cribyn summit cairn with Pen y Fan and Corn Du
Another steep descent brought me to the old Roman road that cuts like a knife through the landscape from Brecon to Coed-y-Garreg. It’s an absolute testament to the ingenuity and technical skill of our ancestors that the track has endured for as long as it has, and indeed looks to have many years of life left in it yet.
Roman road from Cribyn
Roman road from Fan y Big
I’d be returning to walk some of its length later but for now another climb took me to the top of Fan y Big, home of the famous ‘diving board’. This is a rock that juts out over an almost sheer drop and is the perfect photographic opportunity for those with a healthy life insurance policy. I unfortunately couldn’t join them as being on my own, who’d have held the camera? Well that’s my excuse anyway and I’m sticking to it.
The Diving Board
With four famous peaks behind me there was still well over half the distance to cover including one near vertical climb that I wasn’t particularly looking forward to. That can wait until tomorrow however before this post becomes the longest in my bloggng history. All I’d ask is that if you fancy sponsoring our madcap team for the Welsh Three Peaks, please head to my JustGiving page and leave a donation. Any amount, no matter how small, will be gratefully received and will only serve to motivate Team Cheese even more. Thanks.