38. Walk up Pen-y-fan

Today was definitely a ‘Carpe Diem’ day. I was up early, the sun was out, and mindful of the fact that there are only 8 weeks of this year left (and 13 challenges to go), Pen-y-fan was beckoning. I put out a call on Facebook for anyone who might want to keep me company, but when it became clear that that wasn’t going to happen I took the decision that I would go on my own. There might not be another suitable day between now and the end of the year, and I had no intention of rueing this day…

Suitable clothing, walking boots, water and snacks; into the car and up the A470 I went. As I started on the road between Merthyr and Brecon, the tops of the Beacons had a distinctly cloudy look to them. I hoped I wouldn’t suffer the same visibility issues that we’d encountered at the top of Snowdon! I parked at Storey Arms, laced up my boots, put on my fleece and I was ready for the off.

Apart from I didn’t actually know where the path was!

Luckily a nice lady from Mountain Rescue had parked her truck a few cars along. “Excuse me, which is the best path up Pen-y-fan?” I hoped I didn’t sound like too much of an idiot. And it was just as well I asked, as it turned out I was looking in totally the wrong direction. (Note to self – download route plan before leaving the house and finding yourself out of mobile data signal range…).

Anyway. Off I set, up the path. It was steep, but not *too* difficult to walk… for a fit person.  If ‘Carpe Diem’ had been the motto for the beginning of the day, after (I’m guessing) 20-30 minutes of walking it became clear that my mind was in need of a new mantra.

‘How do you eat an elephant? – One mouthful at a time’.

Small steps. No turning back. You’ve got this. I tried not to look back too often, and to set myself ‘bite-sized’ sections to ascend. I ignored the show-offs running down, and the hardy souls (and kids) who overtook me. This was my challenge and I would achieve it at my own pace. But achieve it I would.

Being on my own allowed for lots of positive self-talk, until I reached what the guide books call ‘Windy Ridge’. Actually it had already been windy, but as the ground levelled out on ‘Windy Ridge’, a gust nearly blew me over! I remembered from the route plan that I needed the path at 11 o’clock, which looked as if it was fairly flat as it wound round the edge of Corn Du before the final climb to the top of Pen-y-fan at 886m / 2906 ft. It was nice to gain respite from the wind and to give my legs a rest from hauling me uphill for a while, and by the time I reached the last upward pull, my motivation surged as it became clear that I was really almost there!

And then suddenly I could see the National Trust marker at the summit. Not too many people up there either. I headed straight for the marker for the obligatory photo (or two). What a feeling!

Boy it was cold up there. My hands were deep in my pockets and my ears well covered, but the wind howled round my neck. There was thick frost on the grass down the sides of the mountain. Too cold to hang around for long, so photos taken I started the descent. Down from the summit, along the flattish path, out on to ‘Windy Ridge’… at which point it became clear that when the route guides say that the weather can change in an instant, they’re not wrong –  it started to snow! The snow continued to fall for about 10 minutes, and I continued to descend. My hips were beginning to scream, but this was the last leg… keep going Justine!

It took me 1 hour 30 to go up, and 50 minutes to walk back down – not too shabby in my opinion. And I have to tell you, I felt damn proud! I almost fell into the car, and was mighty relieved to get my feet out of those boots. Some oaty cookies and some water, and it was time to head for home.

‘Walk up Pen-y-fan’ was actually the number 1 challenge on my list of 50. It’s taken a while to get round to it, but it’s done. And it feels good 🙂


[38 down, 12 to go]


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