Archive for March, 2012

I just watched a documentary on BBC4 (Prog Rock Britannia ) about progressive rock music.

King Crimson

King Crimson (Photo credit: Cletus Awreetus)

It awakened lots of memories from my time at university. This was well after prog rock was (accroding to the documentary) supposed to have died off into a set of sub-genres like “neo-prog”. My housemates and I were fascinated by the stories the music had to tell and the influences of the music of the time. I spent yesterday evening going through my music collection and realised that I no longer owned most of the classic prog rock that I did in uni. This was largely because the cheapest way to buy music was on vinyl from second hand shops and record fairs. Not sure where the “record collection” is now and I don’t have kit to play it. I suppose that to rediscover King Crimson, Yes and Jethro Tull, I’ll have to go and buy them on a more modern format.

I have never bought MP3s but have digitised my collection of CDs. I suppose I like the feeling of owning something, not just the right to listen to something. Those old vinyl records are another example of this – the gate fold sleeves were works of art. It’s difficult to capture that in a CD booklet, let alone a downloaded bitmap of the front cover!

So last night I listened to a whole bunch of stuff I did have on CD – Pink Floyd, Wishbone Ash, Rainbow, Jefferson Airplane, Led Zepplin and Cream. It was great, accompanied with some scotch and a bag of peanuts.


I went for a walk today in the Brecon Beacons National Park. I started at Pencelli and quickly found a sign marked “To the hill” which sounded promising. The footpath was not marked on my map, but it was clearly signposted as a permitted route. I climbed up a steep incline surrounded by sheep and lambs. Soon I was out of the farm and carried on up a steep track which wound up into some forestry. I emerged in rough pastureland which was hot and dry underfoot. I checked the compass to get my bearings as there were limited land marks visible and its very easy to disorient yourself in tree cover. I started up towards a little lump in the ground know as “Bryn” (or hill in Welsh). I have walked a lot in the Beacons, but not had never tried this route. I had heard that it was a hard slog up but it didn’t look so bad on the map…

Langorse Lake seen from the foot of the Bryn
The approach to the Bryn (560m) and Pen-y-Fan in the back ground (886m)

After a little while I arrived at the foot of the Bryn and started ascending. I paused to look at the view – there were plenty of land marks now! Llangorse Lake, Sugarloaf, Brecon town were all spread out in a wide panorama. Part of the plan was to visit the geocache on the Bryn, so after ascending further I checked the GPS for its location. This proved an easy find with the main challenge being keeping the content in one place on the windy top. I set out dressed in a wicking tee-shirt and quickly pulled out a wind shirt while I was on the exposed top.After signing the log book, I continued on up the path known as Gist Wen. 

Pen-y-Fan and Cribyn viewed from Gist Wen

The main ascent to the Bwlch stretch out before me. I could see the ascending path spiralling up in the distance. Around three-quarters of the way up I came across a youth group having lunch. I stopped to have a quick chat with them before continuing on. I had visited the bwlch area a few times in the past. It’s like a cross roads between the tracks that wun from from Pencelli in the North to Craig y Fan Ddu in the south and from from the main central beacons ridge to the West, over the formidable Carn Pica to Aber Village in the East.

I decided to visit a WW2 crash site on Waun Rhydd. The wreckage of the Canadian Wellington Bomber is clearly visible in two piles. There is a cairn, memorial and an arch built from stones in the area. I ate some lunch nearby.

Retracing my steps to the bwlch, I followed the path around towards Fan y Big. I met several other youth groups all doing Duke of Edinburgh practise expeditions or training. The weather was glorious and there were exceptional views of the surrounding area.

Unfortunately, due to other commitments, I had started late (at about 11:30) and needed to finish earlier than the fantastic daylight would let me stop out, so at about 16:15, I decided to head back to my start point. I made excellent time even though I often find downhill walks more of a strain on my legs then up-hill. I was a little concerned about finding the entry point to the forestry from the open hill. I had logged the point on the GPS and was soon heading down the forest tracks. Near the end of the walk, a group of about 20 emerged from a public right of way to my right. Another outward bound youth group.

I reached the start point and reflected on my walk. There is much to gain with an “Alpine Start”. Can’t wait until the next opportunity!

“Someone told me there’s a grace that leads you straight from place to place; And you always leave the road behind you; You don’t need your horses shod, just a dowser and his rod”, The Journeyman’s Grace, TraditionalI called up a friend of mine and asked if he wanted to go for a walk. We hadn’t been out for a walk together in about 10 years but had originally done our expedition leadership training together. He said he was up for it and suggested the route. We met up for a pint, discussed it and set the date. The weekend before he said we would have a couple of others along for the walk too, which was fine by me.

On the morning of the allotted day, he picked me up as arranged and we drove to the start point at the Upper Neuadd Reservoir which is south of the Brecon Beacons central ridge. I checked the weather before we left and the forecast was “patches of dense hill fog below 600m with clear summits and a temperature of 5 degrees above 600m”. I prepared and for this by wearing a long wicking shirt and a Buffalo insulated Pertex top.

We were then joined by our two companions for the walk, who were experienced and fit so we set off. The day was outstanding in terms of clarity and weather, despite the weather warning that was in place for hill fog.  The mountains around us were reflected wonderfully in the still waters of the reservoir.

The central ridge viewed from Upper Neuadd Reservoir
Craig Gwaun Taf and Pen-y-Fan viewed from Upper Neuadd Reservoir

We started the first ascent from about 450m to the western ridge crest called Graig Fan Ddu (640m). This got everybody warmed up, and included the obligatory false summit with a scramble at the end before we made the top. Once at the top, we stopped for a couple of minutes to admire the view out over the eastern ridge (Tor Glass) and could see a thick bank of the afore mentioned hill fog almost obscuring Sugar Loaf in the distance.

View from Grag Fan Ddu over to Tor Glas and Sugar Loaf in the distance peaking through the fog

I had planned to bag a couple of Geocaches on route and explained this to my companions. They showed polite interest, but I could tell they were not too bothered! On a couple of occasions I announced “Just going to take a look over here…”. bagging “BBC6 Fire and Ice”, SWMCC 3 and Tommy Jones before we reached Corn Ddu (at 873m). We didn;t follow the route to Y Garn and Tommy Jones’ Obelisk, but headed to the main event – Pen-y-Fan (866m). Picked up another cache (SWMCC4) before heading off to Cribyn (795m). Descending from Cribyn towards the Bwlch ar y Fan (599m) we came across two identically dressed people coming the other way at high speed. One carried a large antenna and the other an array of radio equipment. The “squelched” their way past us with a nod before ascending Cribyn and proceeding to set up their kit. On arriving at the Bwlch, we faced a choice of heading up to the diving board on Fan-y-Big (719m), or heading back to the start point via the drovers track along Tor Glas. Looking to the North, there was a huge cloud covering Brecon.

Looking North towards Brecon from the Bwlch ar y fan

The team decided that discretion was the better part of valour and headed down of the hill. I then started kicking myself that I had missed a few “Virtual Caches” that required measurement, picture taking, etc. Still, that’s another excuse to return…