When the snow is around in the Brecon Beacons you can be sure of a couple of things…one; the scenery will be breathtaking, and two; it will be fairly busy around Pen y Fan. But as Louise Towler, a UK-active team member, had never been there before and with some decent snow-fall the night before, we decided to go for it, even though it was a Sunday and clear skies were predicted!
To try and avoid the crowds we decided to head for the southern side of the Pen y Fan circular route and start our walk from the filter house, just below the Upper Neuadd Reservoir. Well that was the plan but due to the snowy weather and freezing temperatures the night before the access roads were covered in black ice and we had to turn back. And after going off the road into bushes due to a Merc coming around the corner to fast (cheers wally!) we decided the day was getting far too exciting already and headed back down the valley and up to what we thought would be the busy car park of the Storey arms on the A470.
It turns out that it wasn’t so busy! So after a quick route change on the map we headed across the road and onto the track heading up towards Corn Du. The snow was fairly fresh in places on the path and with the sun rising quickly the mountains seemed to rise up. I think Louise was impressed as she was soon flying up the side of Corn Du to a very small scramble which although small is a great way to summit any mountain. Strong winds and driving snow from the previous night had created some very strange icy formations to rival modern art. And the views from the top across to the black mountains in the east were just stunning! Then you look to the west, south and north to see similar views and wonder why more people don’t make the most of these conditions! There are few other places that give you a sense of being than on top of a mountain looking across snow capped peaks.
One thing I was becoming aware of though was the icy wind blowing across the summit that after a short while started working its way into every small gap in clothing so after a cup of tea and a snack we headed across to the summit of Pen y Fan and to the highest point in south Wales at 886 metres. Stunning views met us once again but so did a noticeable increase in the strength of the wind coming from the north with some fairly strong gusts, enough to make my bag strap give me a sizable whack in the chops. We quickly headed east towards Cribyn which took us down a slippery icy track where snow flakes/crystals were firing across at quite a rate, whipping up in to a now cooler face! Although colder now, the scenery was looking even more dramatic and wild and gave us a new burst of energy.
Once on top Cribyn and after admiring the awesome view back across to Pen y Fan we headed down the valley to Bwich ar y Fan between Cribyn and Fan y Big for a rest break and to take a few more snaps looking south. I couldn’t imagine going with out the trusty camera.
As much fun as we were both having ticking off the highest summits in South Wales, it was becoming more apparent that more snow was heading directly for us and being helped along rather forcibly by the increasingly stronger winds we were experiencing. So a quick decision was made to head back before we were to far from the safety of and A-road!
We back-tracked almost all of the way until we got to the detour path around the southern side of Corn Du where we decided staying out of driving icy wind was a nicer option. This took us around the mountain and led back onto our original track heading back to the Storey Arms car park. Not a path I have walked along before but gave us a whole new angle of Corn Du.
Back at the car park there were plenty of happy walkers, chuffed at being rewarded for fighting the weather and strong winds by getting to see the stunning views, including Louise who had been given a great introduction to one of the most scenic and rugged spots in Wales. I have climbed these mountains numerous times over the years and I never get bored of them. I think the key is to pick different conditions!
Anyone can go to the Brecons and enjoy the wonders it has to offer with a little knowledge, the correct clothing (essential!) and planning.
For more information on this area get yourself an Ordnance Survey map, Explorer OL12. Don’t go up with out it!