Monday, November 01, 2021

to pen y fan, and dam the consequences

As previously advertised here, I had plans to do a walk up Pen y Fan with Nia on Friday. There were only two things which could have stood in our way: firstly disastrous ankle consequences from my walk on Monday, and secondly some sort of disastrous weather forecast which suggested that we would be imperilling our lives by even stepping outside the front door. Well, while the ankle was more painful than I'd hoped it would be, that certainly wasn't going to be allowed to stand in the way, and while the weather forecast wasn't great - persistent rain, intermittent low cloud and brisk winds - I'd describe it as fairly typical October Beacons weather, so off we went. 

It was immediately apparent that whatever the weather on the day, there had been a lot of rain recently, as there were a couple of spots where the minor road that leads up the side of Pontsticill Reservoir was completely covered in water. It looked (and mercifully was) pretty shallow in both spots, but the prospect of stranding myself and Nia in the middle of nowhere with pretty patchy mobile phone coverage and a broken-down car like, say, one of these idiots was not an appealing one. Anyway, we got through to the car park we were aiming for, just down the road from the Neuadd reservoirs. 

My plan was to go across the lower reservoir dam and straight up the steep ascent onto the Graig Fan Ddu ridge, thus getting the difficult bit of the day knocked off early doors, and then walk along to Corn Du and Pen y Fan and come back down the major path that runs from Bwlch ar y Fan back down to the dam. While we were getting booted and coated a man in a high-vis jacket with a National Park logo came up and engaged us in some chat about what our plans were for the day. He was evidently doing commendable humanitarian work ensuring that people weren't just about to swan off to the top in flip-flops and vests with carrier bags full of Stella, but I confess I bristled slightly at his gentle questioning and had to suppress an urge to say I KNOW WHAT I'M DOING THANK YOU VERY MUCH GOOD DAY TO YOU SIR. He did, to be fair, make the suggestion that given the weather forecast it might be more prudent to do the walk in reverse and take the more gradual route on the way up, thereby making it easier to abandon and come back down if the weather proved too horrible. I stubbornly declined to commit myself to any particular route during our conversation but privately conceded shortly afterwards that he was probably right.

So the upshot of all that was that the route we ended up taking was almost the same one as I'd done with Hazel and Robin way back in early 2009 (photos here) - the differences being that on the earlier walk we parked in the lower car park about half a mile back down the road at Pont Cwmyfedwen and also took in the extra peak of Cribyn on the way round. Route map and summit shot from Friday's walk are below.

Anyway, the main two things to say about the walk are firstly that in complete defiance of the weather forecast it was almost completely dry throughout (aside from some brief light drizzle on the way up and a brief but intense and stinging sleet/hail shower during the final descent) and for our lunch stop on the lower slopes of Cribyn and the ascent and summit of Pen y Fan itself it was positively sunny. Secondly, despite it being a fairly robust 8.7 mile round trip Nia gave every indication of thoroughly enjoying herself and certainly didn't seem to be nearing the limits of her physical capabilities. As for the limits of my physical capabilities the pain from my ankle was noticeable but not disabling, though there is as always a price to pay for the next 48 hours or so. 

One interesting thing that you can see from the small set of photos I took is the current state of the two Neuadd reservoirs. The pair of images below are from 2008 and 2021 and show that both upper and lower reservoirs are currently empty. In the case of the upper one that's because it's been drained because of concerns about the integrity of the dam. As I understand it the intention is that the reservoir be refilled once some sort of remedial action has been taken, but that there isn't currently a timescale for that. 

The situation with the lower reservoir is somewhat different, in that it's been conclusively decommissioned - the way they've done this is to take a big shallow V-shaped wedge out of the dam (unlike the rather ornate stone dam on the upper reservoir the lower one is/was just a big earth bank) to lower the water level and create a new spillway. To retain public access across the dam (which you used to be able to just walk across the top of) they've also built a footbridge across the new spillway. It's all been very nicely landscaped, as you can see from the pictures below - the older picture showing the intact dam is from that 2009 walk.

A final note while we're talking about reservoirs - the larger Pontsticill reservoir has a glory hole spillway which featured in the opening scenes of the BBC drama The Pact, which I cannot offer an opinion on one way or the other except to commend the splendid drone shot of the spillway featured about two minutes into the first episode and captured below.

No comments: