The Welsh Three Peaks – done

On the weekend of 17th and 18th May, an outstanding weekend was had. Accompanied by 11 work colleagues, a trip to do the “Welsh Three Peaks” was undertaken, and a massive success all round it was too.

The Welsh Three Peaks are Pen Y Fan, Cadair Idris, and Snowdon. The name is due to the fact that they are the highest peaks in South Wales, Mid Wales, and North Wales respectively, at 2,907ft, 2,930ft and 3,560 ft respectively. It was part of event know as the Snowdon 500 Welsh Three Peaks Challenge, and was a charity event in aid of Prostate Cancer. About 650 people took part, 150 on the whole three peaks, and 500 for just Snowdon on the Sunday.

Leaving work at around 3pm on the Friday afternoon, we hired a minibus for our adventures, and arrived in South Wales that evening at around 7pm.

It was to be a very long weekend, and with the assembly point for Pen Y Fan being 4.30am on the Saturday, we left our hotel in Merthyr Tydfil at 4am, having had not enough sleep from the previous night (despite a remarkably sensible amount of alcohol being consumed), but everyone made it just fine.

The crew assembling - 4.20am :O

The crew assembling – 4.20am :O

By literally 4.30 or so, everyone was walking the ‘motorway route’ up from the Storey Arms car park up past Corn Ddu to the summit of Pen Y Fan at 2,907 feet. It is an easy path, and blessed by ridiculously fine weather for Wales in May, everyone strolled up to the summit very easily. Here we all are, assembled just after sunrise at about 5.45am:

On the summit of Pen Y Fan at sunrise

On the summit of Pen Y Fan at sunrise

So from left to right we have: (back row) Lyndsay, Carmen, Liz, Simon, Eifion, Sophie, Kuldeep and James, and (front row) yours truly, Neil, Khilna and Mark.

This shot was taken just after sunrise looking east towards Brecon:

Looking down from the summit of Pen Y Fan just after sunrise

Looking down from the summit of Pen Y Fan just after sunrise – I’ll never make a photographer will I?

There are not many more beautiful things on this planet than seeing the sun rise from the top of a mountain, no matter which mountain. It makes the effort of getting there in the first place so worthwhile, and blessed with weather like we had, I counted myself very lucky to be there.

With everyone back down and in the minibus by about 7am, we began the 2 and half hour journey up through Wales towards Cadair Idris, at the southern end of Snowdonia, and near the west coastline of Wales. Despite a lack of sleep, and no sausage sandwiches (a promised “burger van” never materialised), we had a good journey up and arrived just before 10am.

Suncream at the ready, and sandwiches packed, it is time to leave the van behind again...

Suncream at the ready, and sandwiches packed, it is time to leave the van behind again…

We took the “Minffordd Path” horseshoe route, the first time I had done this, and great route it is too. It is a ridge walk in the main, at about 7 or 8 miles, and tough going in places too, especially as hot as it was.

Beginning the climb up the Minffordd path at Cadair Idris

Beginning the climb up the Minffordd path at Cadair Idris

And the summit eventually comes into view....

And the summit eventually comes into view….just look at that sky – this is Wales!

The path up got fairly steep in places...

The path up got fairly steep in places…

...with some precipitous drops down from the ridge to the lake far below.

…with some precipitous drops down from the ridge to the lake far below.

Everyone made the summit at around 1.30pm or so, despite some false dawns (from me!) about how far, and around which corner, the summit actually was, and we earned a well deserved break for lunch.

At the summit of Cadair Idris, and a great spot it was too.

At the summit of Cadair Idris, and a great spot it was too.

Walking down from the summit, three of us (Neil, James and I) took a separate path to the summit of a subsidiary peak, Mynydd Moel, at 2,831 feet (well it would have been rude not to, as it was there in front of us), which was an easy walk, but afforded great views back to the summit of Cadair Idirs and the Barmouth Coast and the Irish Sea beyond.

Looking up to Cadair Idris from Mynydd Moel, the Irish Sea in the distance.

Looking up to Cadair Idris from Mynydd Moel, the Irish Sea in the distance.

The next shot puts in good perspective the ridge walk around the lake (Lyn Cau) and Cadair Idris itself:

Taken from just below the summit of Mynydd Moel, the horseshoe walk that we have just undertaken comes into view.

Taken from just below the summit of Mynydd Moel, the horseshoe walk that we have just undertaken comes into view.

And then the path down from here back towards the car park is pretty steep in places:

The steep path down to join the earlier path we came up on - hard going on the knees!

The steep path down to join the earlier path we came up on – hard going on the knees!

Having assembled all together again at about 5pm, we set out off up to our resting point for the evening in Caernafon, a further hour and a half drive, and about a 15 minute drive from Llanberis, from where we would start our ascent of Snowdon the next morning. After being well fed (for a Premier Inn anyway!) and after a couple of well deserved drinks, everyone hit the hay for a lie in until about 5.45am for the final leg of our journey.

Leaving Caernafon shortly before 7am in the end, we parked up in Llanberis for a bus to take us along with a number of other walkers on the Snowdon 500 to Pen Y Pass for our ascent of Snowdon, Wales’ highest mountain at 3,560 feet. After some facing around for registration and the like, and a briefing on the bus, a somewhat colder and cloudier start to the day saw us start up the Pyg track at close to 8am.

Setting off up the Pyg Track, Crib Goch in the background.

Setting off up the Pyg Track, Crib Goch in the background.

Looking south over the Snowdonia National Park.

Looking south over the Snowdonia National Park.

As we got higher up the walk, the summit was unfortunately never to be seen, being shrouded in cloud the whole time.

Kuldeep tries to imagine how big or how far the summit is away....

Kuldeep tries to imagine how big or how far the summit is away….

The cloud just kept coming in....

But the cloud just kept coming in….

...until finally we made it to the top!

…until finally we made it to the top!

By the time we reached the top, the cloud was thick, and it was windy and cold. In fact for those of you who have stood on top of Snowdon before, the cloud was so dense that you couldn’t even see the cafe (a good thing, I hear most of you say :)).

After a refreshing cup of tea (well the cafe is there, so we might as well use it) and a regrouping, we set off back down the Llanberis path this time towards out minibus and the end of the journey. The Llanberis path is a 4 mile windy path that follows the train (yes, really) line, and so is neither steep or very spectacular.

The Lake at Llanberis, and our finishing point, come finally into view.

The Lake at Llanberis, and our finishing point, come finally into view.

Upon reaching our final destination, the Royal Victoria Hotel, we were presented with a certificate and managed a very refreshing drink before boarding the minibus for the five or so hour drive back to Milton Keynes.

At the finishing point, with our finishers T shirts.

At the finishing point, with our finishers T shirts.

All in all it was a fabulous weekend. I did manage to mar mine very slightly by walking into a sign in the car park shortly before we left, and cutting my head, but I have always been a bit of a klutz!

Altogether we climbed around 7,500 feet, and walked around 21 miles or so – the details are attached below from my Garmin.

http://www.strava.com/activities/142011475

http://www.strava.com/activities/142235311

http://www.strava.com/activities/142586565

And finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, we managed to raise in doing this over £3,000 for Prostate Cancer Research. The sponsorship page is still open at the time of writing, so if you can, please give us a little more if you can? Thank you 🙂

http://www.justgiving.com/Pinnacle3PeakChallenge

My next adventure is the “24 Peaks” in the Lake District in two weeks time – which I fear at 36 miles and 15,000 feet is going to hurt! Until then……

 

 

Brecon Four Peaks – done.

So I did it, as suggested in my previous post. The Brecon Four Peaks is ticked off the list, good and proper.

It nearly, I have to say, didn’t happen at all, due to nearly not being able to find the starting place. Having looked at the map the night before, I knew that I had to head through a place called Pant, just north of Merthry Tydfil, and then head north towards the Neuadd reservoir. However, if I hadn’t have known the name of the reservoir, I’d be lost altogether still. Pant is pants!

You would think, that with a place like the Brecon Beacons, that there’d be signposts somewhere wouldn’t you? Well, there aren’t – none at all in fact. I drove around all manner of housing estates in Pant and Merthyr Tydfil (not a pretty place I have to say, sorry :o) and just guessed in the end as to which road might head north.

After miles of twisty single track roads with virtually no passing places, I eventually found a sign at the side of the road saying “Neuadd”, and something else in Welsh, and so I pulled in. Thankfully there were a few other cars in there with people donning walking boots, otherwise I would have just thought I was lost in the woods. Maybe the people of Wales just don’t want people/tourists to find their nice mountain paths? It doesn’t make sense to me at all I’m afraid, so if anyone has any insight into this, I’d love to hear from you.

Anyway, after setting out with fullish daypack (my fairly recently acquired Osprey Talon 33 – which I am really pleased with) and equipped with food and drink aplenty, I followed the good folk of Wales (or wherever they had come from) up towards the hills in the distance. Seeing what I took to be Pen Y Fan in the distance (it wasn’t, but I wasn’t far off, it was Corn Ddu, it’s neighbour), I set off up to the nearest ridge line, a fairly good pull but not too long. It took me up to about 2,000 feet, from where I could walk towards the approaching hills and see all before me.

Start of the walk near the Neuadd reservoir, the Brecons in the distance.

Near to the start of the walk near the Neuadd reservoir, the Brecons in the distance.

The day was a very dull one as far as weather was concerned, and around five or six degrees C at the start I’d say. I started with a heavy fleece on in fact, unusual for me, but I soon got warmed up when walking, as I always do.

Looking back down towards the Neuadd Reservoir....

Looking back down towards the Neuadd Reservoir….

And then towards the peaks - Corn Ddu on the left, Pen Y Fan in the middle, and Cribyn on the right.

And then towards the peaks – Corn Ddu on the left, Pen Y Fan in the middle, and Cribyn on the right.

From the ridge the walk was all very straightforward. The path eventually led right to Corn Ddu and Pen Y Fan, separated by a very short and well trodden path, and both summits were a simple short climb to rocky flat tops.

A closer view of Corn Ddu and Pen Y Fan (right).

A closer view of Corn Ddu and Pen Y Fan (right).

On the top of Pen Y Fan, the highest point in South Wales.

On the top of Pen Y Fan, the highest point in South Wales.

The view from Pen Y Fan towards Cribyn (foreground) and Fan Y Big (just over and beyond from Cribyn).

The view from Pen Y Fan towards Cribyn (foreground) and Fan Y Big (just over and beyond from Cribyn).

The two summits both duly done in short order, I thought I would get some ascent and descent in by heading down to the ‘motorway’ path. This is the path down from Pen Y Fan to the Story Arms Outdoor Centre, the path most frequently used up the mountain. This took about 45 minutes down and precisely 56 minutes back up again.

The path back up Pen Y Fan from the Storey Arms centre.

The path back up Pen Y Fan from the Storey Arms centre.

From Pen Y Fan I went down and up to both Cribyn, and Fan Y Big. Whilst neither are as high as Pen Y Fan, both have steep ascents, if not overly long, but both make you pause to ‘admire the view’ whilst you are on your way up!

Pen Y Fan and Corn Ddu as seen from the top of Cribyn.

Pen Y Fan and Corn Ddu as seen from the top of Cribyn.

And finally Cribyn, Pen Y Fan, and Corn Ddu, as seen from the top of Fan Y Big.

And finally Cribyn, Pen Y Fan, and Corn Ddu, as seen from the top of Fan Y Big.

At the top of Fan Y Big, perched out onto a ledge with what appears to be a 1,000 foot drop immediately below it, is the so called ‘diving board’ (pictured above). No-one will know whether I was brave enough to stand on top of it or not, except for me 🙂

With my limbs and faculties all happily in one piece, I then headed back down the other side of the valley back towards the reservoir and my car.

It was a really good walk, and I’d love to go back there again. I covered about 15 miles altogether, and did about 4,400 feet of ascent. Details are here:

http://www.strava.com/activities/136895580

And so finally, this weekend, I’m off to Wales again! This time it is for the Welsh Three Peaks Challenge. We will do Pen Y Fan early on the Saturday (like 4.30am early), and then drive to mid Wales to do Cadair Idris (which is about a six hour romp). We will then drive to Snowdon, Wales’ highest mountain, which we will do at about 7am the next morning. Altogether it is just shy of 3,000m of ascent (9,900 feet) and about 21 miles. I’m taking 12 work colleagues with me in a minibus, so it should be a great adventure, and hopefully a lot of fun. We are also raising money for a cause close to my heart (Prostate Cancer), and so if you are able to, please sponsor us at the link below. Many thanks!

http://www.justgiving.com/Pinnacle3PeakChallenge

 

The Brecon Four Peaks

Well this could be my shortest blog post ever, if only as I don’t have time to write it up. This is because, having just got home from work (it’s 8.20pm on a Friday evening), I’ve decided to do the ‘Brecon Four Peaks’ tomorrow.

I decided to do this because a.) I’m looking for somewhere to go over the weekend and I need some proper hills, b.) there are proper hills there, c.) they are about the closest proper hills (about three hours away) to where I live, and d.) I’ve never been there before. Oh, and e.) I’d like a recce of Pen Y Fan before I go and attempt the Welsh Three Peaks in two weeks time. Finally f.) Pen Y Fan itself is only about a three hour walk, and so I thought I’d combine it with something a bit longer 🙂

I’d never, until about 12 minutes ago, heard of the ‘Brecon Four Peaks’ before (I suppose that should have been point g.) above), and having just google the Brecons, it came up with this as a suggestion.

http://www.walkingbritain.co.uk/walks/walks/walk_b/2074/

It is 11 miles, and consists of Pen Y Fan, Corn Du, Fan Y Big, and Cribyn. Doesn’t sound too taxing, but “why not” is all I can say. I’ll be off at about 6 in the morning, probably.

Oh and there is a place near the top of Fan Y Big called “The Diving Board”. Best not get too close to the edge :O

The Diving Board, Fan Y Big..

The Diving Board, Fan Y Big..

That’s all 🙂

Have a great Bank Holiday Weekend.