Monday, February 15, 2016

looks like I've peaked too early again

A couple of brief additions to the previous post: firstly you'll notice that there appear to be two summit shots in the photo gallery, one at a low cairn and one at a trig point. This is because Fan Fawr is relatively unusual in having a trig point on its summit ridge, but not at the highest point - the trig point is located half a kilometre or so south-west of the summit and about 20 metres lower.

It's easy to get into the mindset of thinking that trig points are there solely for the walker's navigational and photo-compositional convenience, and simply denote the highest point of a mountain, but of course their original purpose was nothing of the sort. The vast majority of the time if there'a a trig point on top of a mountain it'll be at the summit, but there's no guarantee. In this case the idea presumably was to allow a line of sight off the south-western end of the ridge. The nearest obvious trig points that you might want to be able to see are on the nearby tops of Fan Frynych and Fan Nedd; all three of these seem to have been subjected to a fairly recent smartening-up regime comprising a nice coat of white paint and a stencilled-on red dragon.

While fretting over the slightly unsatisfactory end to the walk route, it occurred to me that you could of course do the walk the other way round, unless you had some quasi-mystical fear of travelling widdershins. At least that way you'd get the scrambling around to get across the ridge, down the steep slope to the Dringarth and down to the footbridge (unless it was high summer and you could just stepping-stone across the river) out of the way while you were still fresh.

The only trouble with that is that it would put the high point of the day (Fan Fawr) no more than a third of the way round the walk, which seems unsatisfactory to me. This is one of those things that you don't realise you have an opinion about until you stop and think about it, but I reckon the ideal arrangement is to have the day's main summit about two-thirds of the way round your route. You don't want it so late in the day that you're too knackered to get up it, but equally you don't want to knock it off too early and have the rest of the day be an anti-climax. Something like four distinct peaks of which the third is the big one would be about perfect, I reckon. Obviously the first rule of having a rule is that you get to break it all the time, as a look back at the high points of some previous walks reveals:
  • a smidgen over half-way into the Sugar Loaf walk;
  • just over a third of the way round the Table Mountain walk;
  • almost exactly halfway round the Pen Y Fan trip (but something like 75% of the way in terms of effort, given the severity of the conditions);
  • a textbook two-thirds of the way round the Radnor walk;
  • halfway round my epic Black Mountains round-trip (but that walk has a longish low-altitude tail on it);
  • about 60% of the way round the stag-weekend Black Mountain walk;
  • just over halfway round my Llangorse royal-wedding-avoidance trip;
  • two-thirds of the way round our Exmoor walk.
I suppose I'd qualify the rule by saying: it applies best to classic ridge walks taking in a few summits - if you're just bagging a single stand-alone peak (the Sugar Loaf, say) then it's inevitably going to be at roughly the halfway point.

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