Monday, February 24, 2020

getting blown off at the weekend

Two motivational celebrity quotes for you today. The first is from the great Bill Hicks, whose views on the desirability of exciting and diverse weather I wholeheartedly share (the bit quoted here was talking about the prevailing weather in Los Angeles):

Secondly, dear, dear Larry Olivier was apparently once quoted as saying something like: if you really want to be an actor, you will; if you end up not being one, you just didn't want it enough. Now this may very possibly be one of those motivational quotes that some Californian loony cooked up in order to sell his latest bullshit "life coaching" course to rich gullible people, and then decided it would acquire some unearned gravitas if he attached some famous person's name to it. Winston Churchill is the name people usually attach to these things, and indeed some people I know have this "quote" prominently displayed in their house despite its being pretty clearly late-20th-century psychobabble and not something Churchill would ever have said. CRITICAL THINKING, people.

I digress. The point of those two quotes, and their relevance to what follows, is to celebrate varied and exciting weather conditions, even those which are intermittently inconvenient, and to venture the theory that when conditions are a bit arduous and some on-the-hoof re-planning and re-prioritising may be required, a bit of mental fortitude may also be required to push through and achieve your objective, whatever it may be.

No doubt this is wisdom applicable to various situations, but here I specifically have in mind the walk I and my friend Alex did on Saturday. I had been granted a childcare-obligation-free day as a sort of birthday present to go and do a walk of my own devising, so I'd devised a new route up Pen y Fan, a mountain I have been up more times than I can remember, but even restricting myself to trips recorded on this blog ascended in 2008, 2009 (a post which includes a couple of summit pics from older, pre-blog, ascents), 2010, 2013 and 2018 plus an abortive attempt in 2007.

Those trips encompassed a variety of different routes in an attempt to keep things fresh and interesting - Saturday's route was meant to involve ascending via the Cefn Cyff ridge to Fan y Big, skirting round the south side of Cribyn to bag Pen y Fan, and then heading back to the summit of Cribyn and down via the Bryn Teg ridge. Both of those ridges were unexplored territory for me.

So we parked up at Cwmgwdi, the main car park for assaults on the eastern Beacons from the northern side, and set off. When we reached the farm at Cwmcynwyn, though, it soon became clear that the innocuous word "Ford" on the OS map hid a world of raging watery terror in the wake of Storm Dennis, and that the Nant Cynwyn brook, which you could probably step over in summer, was not going to be passable without full-body immersion and possibly death. So we devised plan B, which was to head up Bryn Teg instead, do Cribyn and Pen y Fan and head back down the Cefn Cwm Llwch ridge which takes you straight back to the car park.

Once we got onto the ridge, though, another problem presented itself. Not the usual rain or low cloud (visibility was actually pretty good most of the day), but being battered flat by high winds. An inconvenience you can laugh off when on a wide whale-backed ridge, but the last section up to Cribyn is a steep scramble up a narrow ridge with steep drop-offs on either side, and we reluctantly concluded that it probably wasn't a good idea. This presented a problem, though, as Cribyn had to be got over or round if we were going to get to Pen y Fan. So we adopted the time-honoured approach to crisis management and real-time route adjustment: sit down and have a pork pie and devise Plan C.

Having dropped off the eastern side of the ridge to facilitate wind-free pie consumption it became apparent that a bit of pathless but uncomplicated descent would enable us to intersect with the major path which crosses the east-west ridge at Bwlch ar y Fan. From here we skirted round the south side of Cribyn and up onto the Pen y Fan summit plateau, where we were once again exposed to the wind, and (as you can see below) barely able to stand for the summit picture - luckily there were some other nutters up there who were happy to do photo duty, as I wouldn't have fancied trying to wield a selfie stick. From there it was a straightforward but wind-battered descent back to the car park. A very respectable 9 miles in extremely challenging conditions, rather than the 12-13 miles the original walk would have been, but I was delighted just to get something meaningful done in the circumstances. Route map, altitude profile and summit shot are below. You'll note that the red-lined route forms the shape of a boot with Pen y Fan at the heel, appropriately given the amount of ASS that was KICKED by our efforts. A small number of photos can be found here.

1 comment:

Emma said...

Great pics. Like the one facing up to a chicken.