Monday, April 23, 2012

A Little Welsh Weather

Proud summiteer: Pen y Fan

I climbed a mountain. And not just any old mountain, but the tallest in South Wales. Or, to put it as one brochure so eloquently did, the tallest in Wales (except for Snowdonia); or the tallest in Britain (except for Snowdonia and Cumbria). I also climbed the second-tallest in South Wales, because it is in the way of the tallest one, and the path goes over it. I know you need their names and stats:

Pen y Fan - 886 m
Corn Du - 873 m

Approaching Pen y Fan...notice the lovely sunny weather

When I set out on this enterprise, the sun was shining and the Welsh hills looked green and inviting. By the time I’d completed the ascent, a wild hailstorm was blistering across the mountain tops, driven by a blustery wind. Then the sun would appear again and peace would reign; only to have the hail come driving on back. It was nothing if not interesting.


Nevertheless, I had a splendid time. It was a great walk with stupendous views at the top. Who knew that South Wales was so beautiful? The hills drop away dramatically, and little lakes glisten here and there in the folds. It was charming, though unfortunately not the day for lingering.

The summit
A three hour hike.

In the Brecon Beacons.
Yes, there was a little bit of snow still about.

The locals seem very redoubtable - the trails were thronged with other hikers, most with small children and/or dogs in tow. But there is a memorial up there to one small hiker who never made it back...

Tommy Jones was a five-year-old miner’s son. In August 1900, he visited the area with his father to see his grandfather, who lived on a farm below the peaks. They walked from the old railway station in Brecon and stopped for a rest at a local army camp, where they were met by his grandfather and also his 13-year-old cousin, Willie. The two older men were enjoying the company of the soldiers so decided to stay at the camp for a while. They sent the two boys on ahead to tell Tommy’s grandmother of their impending arrival. It was getting quite late and, as it started to get dark, Tommy was scared and decided to return to his father. Willie continued to the farm to tell his grandmother as arranged. Tragically, however, Tommy never made it back to the camp. 
A huge search ensued. The army became involved and so did the daily newspapers - one actually offering a reward for information. Sadly, weeks went by without any sight of him and then as local woman dreamed of the boy and led her husband straight up onto a ridge, where she’d never been before, and where they discovered the small boy’s body. He had died of exhaustion and exposure. An obelisk now stands close to the spot where his body was found.
Tommy's Memorial is 300 metres down this ridge.
886m. But whose counting?

The story comes courtesy of my small guide book, “Brecon Beacons - great short walks for all the family” by Tom Hutton. Tom does mention that

The hills, mountains and moorlands of britain, though of modest height compared with those in many other countries, need to be treated with respect. friendly and inviting in good wether, then can quickly be transformed into wet, misty, windswept and potentially dangerous areas of wilderness in and weather. Even on an outwardly fine and settled summer day, conditions can rapidly deteriorate...

Tom is quite right.

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