Saturday, 16 June 2012

Pen Y Fan (x 4) – (Brecon Beacons) – 10-11-12-14/06/12 – National Trust Working Holiday

Back in 2003 it was my first National Trust (conservation) Working Holiday that got me into walking, so periodically I have liked to keep my hand in, by doing the occasional one. However for various reasons I haven’t been able to do any for over two and a half years. Now they can be very hard work, and especially so in this case. Because this one involved walking all the way up to Pen Y Fan from the National Trust car park (not the Storey Arms one), then starting a day’s work lugging rocks about, before walking back down from the summit at the end of said day. The relevance of the work for the purposes of this blog, was that we were doing an ancient stone laying procedure known as ‘pitching’, designed to restore the pathways and gulleys leading from Pen Y Fan, that have been eroded in the main by (yes you’ve guessed it) us walkers. So beyond the point that it’s great to give something back, I won’t go into that aspect much further here, as this is primarily a walking blog. Instead I will make a few brief notes on those four climbs. Sunday 10th – Our first day found a group of 10 volunteers and a couple of Nat. Trust wardens set off from their car park. The idea being that we should be up to the work site in under an hour. However a combination of general faffing about, giving the slower ones a chance to get their breath, and admiring the views (which included a Red Kite), meant it was about an hour and three quarters before we got to the point where we started any work. The fact that it was such a clear day (forecasters wrong again) meant that things were being pointed out to us by the head warden, that may not have been visible on another occasion. Also if we were going to be working on Pan Y Fan, we all needed to get some pictures at the summit, which delayed proceedings as well. Naturally we all found the ascent at the end of the day a dam site easier. Monday 11th – When it came to the start of the second day I felt completely wasted. A combination of the previous day’s climb, carrying rocks about, and just the general effort of working on a slope, meant I felt weak in both legs and arms. Now our group was slightly smaller as three of the more enthusiastic types were taking an alternative route from the Storey Arms car park. We were also missing our leader who had returned to pick up someones lunch, but had given me her awkward and progressively heavier cake bag to carry up with me. Thus when our group went up the ‘standard’ route, I felt my best bet was to push on ahead of them, in case I ended up being left behind by the slower pace (finding as normal for me, a faster pace easier uphill)........................................................................................ For this morning however, a dense fog had descended on the mountain from a very low level, which meant I was able to keep ahead of the group, constantly stopping to take breathers, whilst making them think I was much further ahead than I actually was. The fact however that I couldn’t see anything other than the fog and the path about 10 feet in front of me, was mega-demoralising making me feel I wasn’t getting anywhere and that I would soon be caught. In desperation I eventually asked a guy coming the other way how far was I from the summit, to be told about 30 metres. Anyway when I reached the plateau at the base of Corn Du and Pen Y Fan, I decided to wait there for the others to catch up (pretending I wasn’t sure which way to go in the fog), whilst taking a few munchies out of the cake bag in order to make it lighter. Presently I was joined by the main group, closely followed by the other three from the alternative route who had encountered their own problems in the fog. By the early part of the afternoon the fog had completely lifted which made for a clear descent.............................................................................. Tuesday 12th – There was no mist on this bright clear day, which was reflected in my general well being, as my energy levels had risen considerably from the previous day. Now a number of our group were taking advantage of a lift from the warden in some sort of off road vehicle, about half way up, leaving six of us to make the actual ascent from the bottom. We were not alone however as the army were also coming up behind us, with two of their fitter types just in front of us. They could not have been amused however when the female running fanatic in our group, jogged past them as if they were standing still. For the rest of us, three of us got to the Corn Du/Pen Y Fan plateau before the rest of the army group, with them only just swallowing up the two slower members of our party. They all proceeded to collapse in a heap in front of us, giving us a grudging acknowledgement before setting off again (although to be fair they were carrying full kit, some heavy guns, and were no doubt just starting their workout for the day). For our part timewise, we had got to the plateau in about 45 minutes. Thursday 14th – Having done 14.5 miles of the Brecon horseshoe on the previous (rest) day (see next blog entry), I was concerned as to how my legs would feel. In the event they felt great and I flew up the hill for our last day of work on Pen Y Fan (the weather was too atrocious to work up there for the next and final day of the holiday). However having done a full days work, both the rain and especially the wind closed in with a vengeance. Thus coming down from the edge of Pen Y Fan (which was the standard route to our work site), one could barely keep ones feet as the wind tried to blow us all off the mountain. However once we had finally got below the plateau things eased considerably. With the Warden already forewarned as to the weather conditions arriving the next day, we all knew that this was our last day on Pen Y Fan, which everyone seemed a little sad about. However in my next blog instalment, you can read about my trek on the Brecon Horseshow which I did on the previous day (which was our day off).............................(ALSO APOLOGIES - BUT THE NEW FANGLED BLOGGER IS BEING A PAIN IN THE BUTT, WHEN IT COMES TO BREAKING TEXT INTO PARAGRAPHS)


  1. Nice work, just been on WH last week and managed 20 metres of pitching, great fun! What took you getting up the mount, only 45 minutes to get to summit!

  2. Getting older by the day I am afraid.

    Anyway glad to see you are carrying on the good work.