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

 

Peaks, peaks, peaks, and more peaks……

Well I thought I’d update on my plans for which peaks I am attempting this year, as it is ever changing and increasing!

As of the date of my last post, I’d just signed up for the Welsh Three Peaks, the (GB) Three Peaks, Mont Blanc and Aconcagua, as well as Elbrus. So as my training seems to be going ok so far (touch wood), and as I know I have a long long way to go before I’m in good enough shape to do the latter three of the above, then I thought I’d sign up for a few more. So now we also have……

The Yorkshire Three Peaks, and, The 24 Peaks!

The Yorkshire Three Peaks consists of the (hills really I suppose) following:

1. Pen-Y-Ghent – 691m, 2,267 feet.

Pen-Y-Ghent - doesn't sound like it belongs in Yorkshire to me...

Pen-Y-Ghent – doesn’t sound like it belongs in Yorkshire to me…

2. Whernside – 736m, or 2,415 feet.

Whernside, North Yorkshire's highest point.

Whernside, North Yorkshire’s highest point.

3. Ingleborough – 723m, or 2.372 feet.

And Ingleborough, the last of there three, traditionally done.

So whilst none of these places will exactly install fear into the most intrepid mountaineer, (or even me), they do represent a really good challenge. The challenge itself is to complete the three within 12 hours, and this involves a trek of over 25 miles, plus the three ascents, which are about 1,600m (5,250 feet) in total. It is very doable, but depends upon conditions and the like too. I’ve decided to go next weekend in fact, so am sure the weather will throw at me all sorts of exciting stuff.

Then I happened to be googling away the other night and came across this:

The 24 Peaks Challenge

Now this sounds almost mad!

The schedule goes something like this – day one:

1. Bowfell – 902 m / 2959ft
2. Esk Pike – 885 m / 2903ft
3. Great End – 910 m / 2985ft
4. Ill Crag – 935 m / 3067ft
5. Broad Crag – 934 m / 3064ft
6. Scafell Pike – 978 m / 3208ft
7. Lingmell – 807 m / 2647ft
8. Great Gable – 899 m / 2949ft
9. Green Gable – 801 m / 2627ft

Day two is as follows:

10. Red Screes – 776 m / 2545ft
11. Dove Crag – 792 m / 2598ft
12. Hart Crag – 822 m / 2696ft
13. Fairfield – 873 m / 2864ft
14. Seat Sandal – 736 m / 2414ft
15. Dollywaggon Pike – 858 m / 2414ft
16. Nethermost Pike – 891 m / 2923ft
17. Helvellyn – 950 m / 3116ft
18. Lower Man – 925 m / 3034ft
19. Browncove Crags – 800 m / 2624ft
20. Whiteside – 863 m / 2831ft
21. Raise – 883 m / 2896ft
22. Stybarrow Dodd – 843 m / 2765ft
23. Watson’s Dodd – 789 m / 2588ft
24. Great Dodd – 857 m / 2811ft

Altogether to first day covers 28km and about 6,000 of ascent. The second day covers 25km and over 7,000 feet of ascent. So 53km (about 33 miles) and >13,000 feet of ascent should be incredible, if I make it. The appeal is severalfold for me, being firstly that it has got to be outstanding training for Mont Blanc (this will be in June, the month before Mont Blanc), and secondly that all of these hills are in the Lake District, which is just about my favourite place on this planet. I’ll be so glad to just be there, and give it a damn good go. Both days start at about 5am in the morning and involve 12-14 hour days.

 

I’ve been walking most weekends for the past five or six weeks now, and have notched up about 100 miles of walking, and about 10,000 feet of ascent. When you consider that the 24 Peaks alone has over 13,000 feet of ascent, it just shows you what I am up against. Well, faint heart never won fair lady, or something like that! I have my work cut out, I know, but am giving this my best shot. I’ll keep you posted re next weekend’s Yorkshire attempt – watch this space 🙂

 

 

More mountains are a coming :)

In my last post I mentioned that I was looking to try to get a few more trips booked into my calendar, and as I’ve done just that, I thought I should say so right here, so here I am :).

In May I have the Welsh Three Peaks already arranged. This consists of Pen Y Fan, Cadair Idris, and Snowdon – the former two being done on the Saturday, and Snowdon on the Sunday morning, bright and early, or 5.30am for those of you like me will not be very bright by that time of the morning. I haven’t actually been up Pen Y Fan or Cadair Idris before, so it will be nice to tick off two of Wales’ most iconic climbs, even if neither of them are exactly giant peaks. The whole challenge does however involve some 19,000 feet of ascent and descent, and about 20 miles of distance covered, so it should be a really good challenge.

But the news now, is that I have booked THREE more very exciting adventures, all firsts in their own right…..

First in June, I will be doing the Three Peaks (not to be confused with the Welsh Three Peaks). The Three Peaks involves the highest mountains in each of Scotland, England and Wales, done traditionally in that order, being Ben Nevis, Scafell Plike, and Snowdon. There is this time over 20,000 feet of ascent and descent, and 27 miles of distance to cover, and all within 24 hours. Add to this somewhat exhausting schedule the fact that there is about 600 miles of distance to drive between the mountains (about 13 hours on the road, these are not motorways in the main), and you have a brutal schedule ahead of you. Oh and just to add to all that, you need to do Scafell Pike in the dark :O. Should be a fantastic adventure, of which I will tell more as the time draws near….

Then comes even more excitement in July, with, wait for it, Mont Blanc! Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in western Europe, at 15,781 feet, and is a brute.

e7849ce6f900fec4e10368a8b7f553eb_large

Here is just one of the ridges that I get to face:

The Bosses ridge on Mont Blanc.

The Bosses ridge on Mont Blanc.

I’ve never been up Mont Blanc, and never had the chance to even try it, so this is massive for me. It is not to be taken lightly at all, and has a high fatality rate. In fact around 100 people a year sadly lose their lives trying each year. Alan Arnette has a great FAQ on Mont Blanc which I will post below:

http://www.alanarnette.com/7summits/montblancfaq.php

There is so much more to say here, but again I will leave that for another time, as it deserves a good few posts of its own. I’m more excited about this than I am Elbrus actually, as it is just one of the most talked about mountains in the world. One of the amazing things about Mont Blanc is that is has a massive prominence from the surrounding valleys – something like 4,000m in fact. To put that into perspective, Mount Everest has a prominence of 3,500m from Base Camp! I have also seen it many times, from many angles, but the main angle I wish to see it from is potentially there in July………:)

So whilst I had a busy week in booking up these two lovely trips, I thought to myself – why stop there? I therefore contacted International Mountain Guides and booked up for Aconcagua! Now as you may know I have had Aconcagua booked for each of the last two years, but had to cancel it on both occasions. So without tempting fate, I am hoping for third time lucky :). I was originally going to wait to see if I made it up Elbrus (booked for August) before attempting Aconcagua, but then I decided that if I can’t make it up Elbrus then I shouldn’t be doing this whole thing, plus I really need something to aim for at the end of the year.

This is my year of the mountains – the one to really test myself and see if I am up for maybe 6 of the Seven Summits…….if I do what I have just booked for then that’ll be three out of the way by the end of the year, or almost – Aconcagua will start in December and end in January. More, much more, on that to follow too. Nearly 7,000m more, in fact……..better get training, and hard.

Aconcagua - so far away still......but getting nearer.

Aconcagua – so far away still……but getting nearer.

A March Update…

I thought it (well beyond) time that I updated my blog, so here goes:

The year so far for me didn’t get off to a good start. In fact it was awful. In January, four days before my 50th birthday, my Dad passed away. He had been ill, as I think I’d said in a previous post, for some 6 months or so, with cancer. He (only at the end, at least) was in pain, and so I should to some extent be grateful that he is now in a better place, or something like that. But that doesn’t help at all really. Fact is that I’ve watched both of my parents die of cancer now, and it took them both from (far far better) places of apparently otherwise fitness and good health, to being dead in a matter of months both times. I therefore hate cancer, and in this case, hate is by no means a strong enough word. I shall dwell no more on this, and put it away now :(.

I haven’t had the appetite for cycling much so far this year, and let’s face it, the weather has been woeful. I think we’ve had three weekends where winds topped 50mph, and also the wettest start to the year since records began. For this admittedly fair weather rider, and coupled with all else that has been going on, that was too much of an excuse for the bike to stay locked in the garage. Oh and I did also suffer a broken toe, but I shan’t dwell on that one either – it’s healing now!

I have been out in fact, only on four occasions altogether. Once on a brief ride in January, twice (although only about 35 miles each) on a short trip to Northern California, where the riding was fabulous, and then last weekend, when I did my first sportive of the year. The sportive was the aptly named “No Excuses” around Huntingdon, so called because as long as you turn up, they refund your ÂŁ35 entry fee, and if you don’t, they give the money to a worthy charity, in this case prostate cancer. They apparently raised ÂŁ22,000 for the charity, which means a whopping 630 people didn’t show up having entered. The stats are copied below in case anyone wants to take a look, but suffice to say I was absolutely knackered by about two thirds of the way through. Over 80 miles had me cramping and not really having fun, but I was very glad to be out there, cold as it was.

http://www.strava.com/activities/116934691

I have cycled only 200 miles this year though, and it is scarily almost a quarter of the way through. I must get out more now….

The weekend that is now just ending (9th March as I write) has seen me decide to get my walking legs back, having done basically none of that either. I did join a gym a few weeks ago, but the attractiveness of a stair climbing machine has and probably always will be lost on me I’m afraid. So blessed with some rather fine sunshine at last, I went and put some good old miles in, with a smallish (10lb or so) pack on my back for good measure. Yesterday (Saturday) I got in about 12 pretty flat miles around Milton Keynes, and today I headed out to Woburn, just about 6 or 7 miles away.

Blessed with totally beautiful weather (and frankly if we get days like today in the summer I won’t be complaining) I put in just over 14 miles, making 26.2 for the weekend. Although that is not exactly a huge number, I cannot actually remember the last time I walked 26 miles in two days, so that has to be a good thing. I also saw so many deer it made my head spin – witness this shot below for example:

The deer at Woburn Abbey

The deer at Woburn Abbey

Here are some a little closer with part of Woburn Abbey in the background:

Deer in front of the Abbey

Deer in front of the Abbey

So with me planning to be back to full fitness as soon as I can, I am now starting to look forward with relish to the rest of the year. I have planned the Welsh Three Peaks in May http://www.thethreepeakschallenge.co.uk/welsh-three-peaks-challenge/, am trying to get a full Three Peaks http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Three_Peaks_Challenge trip in June , and am also looking to try to get a Mont Blanch trip in in July, prior to Elbrus in August. I have also contacted International Mountain Guides to see if they can’t get me that Aconcagua trip back on for the end of the year. Third time lucky, all being well……….

More soon, I promise.