4th TRAINING HIKE – BRECON BEACONS – 15th AUGUST 2012
I thought we had bad weather on our last training trek but I was wrong. How could it be any worse than the last time we were in the Brecon Beacons? The day started, once again, with the alarm going off at 3:45am, about three hours after I had gone to bed. I opened the curtains to face a relatively cloudy but dry dawn.
I picked up my friend Tim, who lives locally, and together we drove three hours to the meeting point in the Brecon Beacons where we had breakfast whist we waited for Paul, his trusty dog Hercules, and Jai to meet us at 8am. The entire journey there had been overcast but there were no signs of any rain.
We set off at 8:30am and within 20 minutes the weather suddenly changed, the wind picked up and it started to rain. I insisted on stopping to put on my waterproof trousers; the other three had left theirs behind in the cars and did not want to return as they thought it would just be a passing shower – well, it wasn’t. The rain got heavier and heavier and as we climbed higher, the wind got a lot stronger as we walked into the low cloud.
Near the top of our first climb it was gusting at 60mph (around 100Km/hour), possibly higher, and none of us could stand upright. We had to stop moving and hang on tight otherwise we would have been blown over. Luckily we were quite close to the top and Hercules, who was always ahead of the group, took cover behind the cairn (a man-made pile of rocks) on top of the hill otherwise being so little he would surely have blown away.
With the wind came the rain, really heavy rain with big stinging drops that hit us so hard it felt like hail. My waterproof hood was insufficient to protect me from the battering on my head and it was quite a painful experience. As we climbed over the top and then down the lee side of the hill the wind died away to manageable levels but the rain continued unabated and we were now inside the low clouds.
This was pretty much the pattern of the day, strong winds and heavy rain with a few short weather breaks in between. Poor old Hercules had little protection from the weather except for his thick coat of fur but we could see that as much as he enjoyed being outdoors with his master, he was not a happy dog today. I had bought him some doggy treats to keep him going, which he enjoyed and I’m sure they cheered him up a bit.
Out of the 4 of us I was the only one who had kept my feet dry during the walk, mainly because I had put my waterproof trousers on in the morning when it first started to rain. The others, without waterproof trousers, had soaking feet as the constant rain had seeped under their gaiters and into their boots.
There were many small streams which we had to cross today. We either simply jumped across them or walked through them as the water levels were relatively low.
There was one slightly larger stream on our outward journey which we crossed by stepping over rocks but on our way back it was more of a small river swollen by fast flowing water. Wading through the deep water was not a problem for the others as their boot were already filled with water, whereas I, with my dry feet, wanted to stay dry so I insisted walking upstream to find a more suitable crossing point. About 100m upstream we discovered that there were actually two smaller streams which had converged into one.
The first one was narrow enough to be able to cross by taking a running jump but the second one was just too wide and the water flowing too fast to be able to leap across safely. In the end I had to accept that I would get wet feet so we walked a bit further upstream to find a safe & shallow crossing point and in we went. Poor old Hercules had to be carried over and the look of worry on his face was quite comical.
The final 6km was not pleasant with soaking, water filled boots. On this final leg we passed by a 4000 year old standing stone where we stopped for a quick snack. We also saw some hill ponies which were very tame and came quite close to us as we walked past.
The rain finally stopped and the sun came out, although briefly, about an hour before we reached our destination.
We got back to our cars, changed into dry clothes and drove three hours back to Tim’s house where his lovely wife Lyndsey had a very welcoming hot meal waiting for us.
Once again there are no aching muscles as I write this today and no blisters either. The downhill sections are much more difficult than the uphill ones but I took it really
easy going downhill this time, so no aching knees either.
The hike was 20km (12.5 miles) long and we climbed a cumulative total of around 1300m (approx 4200 ft) in about 8 hours.
This trek was certainly quite an unforgettable experience what with the extreme wind, heavy rain and of course the river crossing. (Some people do this for fun!!!!!!)
Many thanks once again to Paul for his unerring navigational skills through thick fog and atrocious weather conditions.