United Kingdom | Wales
March 3, 2009
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Brecon Beacons: Craig Cerrig-gleisiad and Fan Frynych

Walk blog

Craig Cerrig-gleisiad with Pen-y-Fan beyond

For the first time in what seems like decades, southern Britain is “enjoying” a proper, old-fashioned hard winter. It’s been the sort where schools haved closed for days at a stretch and the kids’ snowman has hung around long enough to get middle-age spread.

With seriously interesting Arctic conditions having moved temporarily south; there's been no need to head to the Scottish Highlands for winter walking - there's been more than enough drama within two or three hours drive.

So it was that on a snowy day last month I piled west down the M4 and crossed the Severn Bridge into South Wales. My destination was the Brecon Beacons - the great wave of moor-capped sandstone that separates Cardiff and the old coal and steel valleys from the pastoral somnolence of Mid Wales.

The Beacon range is an area I’ve walked many times. But try as I might I’ve never quite fallen in love. There’s just too much sodden sheep-walk and not enough adrenalin. True, on a sunlit day, the triple-crested north-facing escarpment of Pen-y-Fan and its neighbours is a sight to stir the soul, but I’ve always been left thinking “and what else….?” And then there’s the ugly dereliction of mine shafts and quarry works that creeps up from the south – never quite out of mind even if you devise a route that keeps it out of sight.

However, this time my hopes were high. The snow should have smoothed out the ugly corners and magnified whatever rock and crag might be around. With the tops in white, the landscape would step up a notch. I prepared to be wowed.

And I was. Scrappy moorland had grown into polar wilderness; dreary sedge-bound valley slopes now climbed pure and white. My route for the day was an easy round of Craig Cerrig-gleisiad and Fan Frynych. I’d visited both summits several years ago and remembered a squelchy day of moorland with a modest craggy cwm. Now, though, there was tundra, frozen waterfalls and an amphitheatre of Alpine rock; spindrift flecking against a clear blue sky and vistas of the ice-bound flanks of Pen-y-Fan bright enough to threaten snow-blindness.

Had I finally been smitten? Hand on heart, no. But for a one night stand, it hadn't been at all bad.

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