Saturday, 24 May 2014

Post Exam Procrastination, a story from south wales...


I didn’t take any pictures, so I drew some and tried to paint the rest with my words.

Picture the scene, Monday last week (the sunny week), exams finish and the doors of Lizard Lounge creak limply in the wind due to everyone else’s continued revision. The solution to my disappointment: head to the Breacons; so I packed my bag and jumped on the train. Now, sat bored inside while grey showers patter on windows, I reminisce on the care-free scene….

The hills were seas of grass and moss, the valleys were bright with late spring flowers, and the lambs bleated shouts of joy. From the charming little station of Abergaveny I took the bus to Crickhowl and by early afternoon had set up over the hill of Mynydd Llangatwg. I crossed the plateau and then skirted a small valley to the larger valley of Dyffryn. The evening closed early, since I had started late and the top of the valley seemed the best place to set up camp.  The rough mountain flora created the perfect patched quilt to set up my tent and a ready stream ran by waiting for my sauce pan.

A sneaky pulse of logic hit my tired brain, to set up the stove and boil the water as I set up the tent. Congratulating myself for this foresight I dipped my hand inside the pan for my lighter, sadly however there is a lesson for us all here: don’t store lighters in places where camels might leak on to them (particularly in a pan where water pools and soaks the poor thing through). The lighter obviously didn’t work I settled for breakfast (muesli) instead of dinner.

The morning light woke me early and the cool dewy grass promised another bright day. Happily, the lighter had dried nicely in my sleeping bag and I enjoyed nutritious noodles before setting off through the forest of the Dyffryn valley. The valley was eerily quiet but even in the very early hours, the sun burst through the leaves and set all the little birds tweeting about their morning business. My spirits were high too, and I merrily rounded the valley to come to Tallybont, an even larger valley which would lead to the bigger hills around Pen y Fan.

From Tallybont there is an initial, unyielding steep assent of 200m. From the bottom it is tempting to make a mountain out of a mole hill, particularly with my 14kg of water, tent, stove ect., but step by step the top is overcome quite easily. From here there is a flat stretch to reach the ridge of three summits, the finale being Pen y Fan. The stretch over plateau is simple but, stepping off the path is treacherous and following loose ends of dry tufts could lead in circles around the marsh. Despite my giddy spring spirits I had another blast of clear cut logic; I took a bearing, which to my great delight worked first time and lead me on a dry path safely across to the first summit of Fan y Big.

Here I caught the first sightings of other people, and to my great surprise the population of the ridge grew towards the summit of Pen y Fan which I reached just after midday. It all became clear when on my decent to the road on the western side I saw how truly accessible it was. Not an hour from the top two car parks with burger and ice-cream vans made a lovely day out for visitors. My isolated journey could have been mocked by the gaggle of day walkers in jeans and trainers at my destination. However I ignored the funny looks at my back packer’s plod and descended hill like a (slow) king.

Feeling rather triumphant at my first solo back pack I reached the bus stop and sat on the grassy verge. I was joined by a small, grey bearded man who, I noticed by the size of his bag, had also been camping out. Hoping to share pleasantries and perhaps slip in one or two of my achievements I asked him where he’d been. It turned out he had been out for seven nights and had covered a considerable number of miles. I kept my now worthless boasts to myself and enjoyed the windy bus journey down through the pretty valley back to Cardiff for the train home.