At last some snow!!

As the A465 gave way to the icy back roads heading towards Pontsticill a glimmer of white caught my eye and the peaks of Pen-y-fan and Corn Du came into sight - covered in snow!!

Earlier that day (7:30am on Saturday 28th January 2012 to be exact) we headed off from Romsey towards the Brecon Beacons, our plan being the circular walk from the Neuadd Reservoir via the summit of Cribyn (795m), Pen-y-Fan (886m) and Corn Du (873m) and then a wild camp somewhere back near the reservoir - the prospect of a night in sub-zero temperatures and maybe a chance of snow had kept me going all week but unfortunately eagerness to get there had lead to a few slip up's on the packing and planning front that we'd later discover!

10:30am - we headed down the last, very icy, road towards the reservoirs and the car park that would be the start point for our walk.  It was here that the Sat Nav started to falter and we decided to pull over and get the map out - as always I'd packed an OS Explorer map for navigation around the walk, but this time I packed the wrong map!  In the haste to leave earlier that morning I'd picked up OL12 and not OL13 - which is still Brecon Beacons, just not the area that we needed!
Luckily the Garmin saved the day and guided us the last few miles to the car park, and to the snowy flanks of Pen-y-Fan.

It was around 11am by the time we'd kitted up, winter boots were decided on as well as crampons and ice axes (even though they weren't needed during the walk its safer to have them than to need them and be without), and we headed off along the long, fairly flat, track which follow the contours of Tor Glas, passing the Neuadd Reservoirs on our left with our sights set on the dip between Fan-y-big (to the right) and Cribyn - and the start of our climb.

Cribyn and the start of the snow
As the shadows of Cribyn and Fan-y-Big started to grow over us we swung to the left and headed up the side of Cribyn and the first flakes of snow crunched under our boots.
It was about halfway up Cribyn that I started to wonder why there were so many people walking both up and down the mountain with nothing more than approach shoes (or even trainers and jeans in some cases!), now I'm not for one minute saying that there should be anything like a dress code for hiking, walking or mountaineering but surely there is a line between any old clothes that will be fine in the summer and clothes that are up to dealing with the winter and changing conditions?

From the summit of Cribyn the wind started to pick up and although the sun was trying its hardest to warm us up the icy wind was doing more than a good job of cooling us down again.  For today's walk I'd opted for a Paramo Mountain Vent base layer coupled with my Paramo Aspira smock and Rab Vapour Rise Guide pants taking care of keeping my legs warm - so far so good!

It's at this point of the walk that your eyes wander to the steep sides of Pen-y-Fan and in the snow they don't look any less daunting, but the walk in the snow is actually easier than I have found it to be at the height of summer when the rocks are bare.

The summit of Pen-y-Fan was an achievement marred slightly by the plight of another walker who'd suffered a heart attack on the way up to the summit from the other side.  It also brought a twinge of annoyance to me as I had, for probably the first time in years, not packed my large first aid kit which contained aspirin.  We, along with everyone else on the summit, were asked if we had any aspirin and amazingly no-one had any in their packs.  Now admittedly aspirin is one of those things that really only has usefulness in the event of someone suffering a heart attack - and you don't often come across that - but then you always pack a waterproof, even on a sunny day.  From now one I will be taking my larger first aid kit (or at least some aspirin) on all walks, it may make a serious difference to someone..

After watching the air ambulance landing and paramedics attending to the walker on the side of Pen-y-Fan we started the brief descent down the side of the mountain before climbing back up again to the plateau of Corn Du.

The snow was still crisp and fairly deep here but not icy enough to warranty crampons or the use of axes - it was still good to know that we had them, and knew how to use them, in the event that conditions worsened.

The path from the top of Corn Du runs across the plateau before dropping down the steep side of the hill towards Tor y Bigwns and then on to the reservoir where we paused for a few photos before heading back along the track to the car and a welcome cup of coffee!

Now the plan from here was to head back into the wooded area and find a suitable site for the tent and then spend the night, wild camping, before heading back home early the next morning but due to the time (around 3pm) and the fact that there were still a lot of people in and around the woods we decided to change our plans and head back to home and forgo the camping for another time.

Looking over Neuadd Reservoir towards Fn-y-Big and Pen-y-Fan
The full route log from my Garmin Edge 605 is available here;


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