Sometimes trips you take on the spur of the moment turn out to be one of the best. It’s often too easy to talk yourself out of doing something when you are on your own, I for one am guilty of this too.
Facebook can be very handy for updates on where snow lands first and if you are friends with people in the outdoor community you will soon hear about it when snow hits the mountains. I did, and was immediately on the Met Office Mountain Forecast looking for snow. A Monday morning isn’t normally the best day for a trip as others can rarely make it, but with heavy snow predicted onto an already lightly coated mountain range, but with rain predicted for the afternoon, I had a shot at getting a dose of snow in the mountains if I left early enough. The storm warning “Storm Angus” kind of added a bit more excitement to it.
I arrived at the car park at the bottom of Pen-Y-Fan in the Brecon Beacons just as the light was breaking, revealing a view of white mountains in the near distance. The snow was pelting it down and I was the only one in the car park. I did question my intentions for a second as the snow went sideways across my bonnet, but I had the right clothing, map and compass and phone incase of any issues and I also know the paths pretty well in this area. If I didn’t have all of this or missing one part of it, I wouldn’t have set off, remember the mountains can be very dangerous in these conditions.
I headed up the track head on into a blizzard which at first was ok, but after little while my eyes and face were feeling the onslaught. It was like being sandblasted!
But the scenery was white, moving, icy, dramatic and exciting too, so I carried on walking.
I bumped in to another brave soul called Damian who was also testing himself against the conditions and we decided to head up together for safety. It was probably the best decision I made all day.
Every now and then we would find ourselves knee-deep in snow and one of us would disappear down a hole to the amusement of the other, although the sudden gusts of freezing ice crystals in our faces wasn’t as much fun.
Sometimes taking on mother nature head-on can be a challenge, but often the most rewarding.
Weirdly as we nearer the top, the wind died down a little, making our walk across the tops a little more pleasant. Although it was almost a complete white-out, so seeing the edge of the mountain was tricky. We played it safe and a detoured away from it. In conditions like this you can often get a cornice of snow which is effectively an over-hang of snow which disappears over the edge if you stand on it. Something to look out for!
When the weather mixes ice, snow, high winds with clothing, a strange thing starts to happen, you begin to freeze up. I started to notice my zips and velcro fasteners were freezing over, my moustache was also getting a little heavier. In fact Damian’s bobble hat was the most impressive, you wouldn’t have wanted to catch that one in the face!
After visiting the summit of Pen-Y-Fan we turned around to head back thinking as we had the snow in our face on the way up it would be on out backs on the way down, but how wrong we were. A very fine type of icy-snow was being whipped about by the high winds which made things a little harder, still laughing at the stupidity of the weather we just kept to the paths as best we could, with only the odd disappearing act down a hole.
Although we were battling the tough conditions, our spirits were high all the way back to the car park, and although we had absolutely no view on the summit, the conditions will make this a very memorable walk in the mountains. All in all, worth the early start and not a bad way to spend a Monday morning!